Red, orange, yellow—the colors of fall. They never fail to inspire awe or create a little bit of happiness. And while they can be enjoyed from your kitchen window or as you drive down the streets of Colorado Springs, their full splendor can only truly be enjoyed a little bit further outside of town. To help you find that splendor, here is a list of the top ten Colorado Springs fall color destinations—all of them are under two hours away, making them a perfect mini-vacation for you and your family.
1. Russell Tutt Scenic Highway
This highway, which is also called Cheyenne Mountain Highway, leads up to and over Cheyenne Mountain. The drive is brief—only 1.4 miles from the base of the mountain to the top—and it is only about 20 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. The view from the top is spectacular, allowing visitors to look out over the entirety of Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods, and The Broadmoor. To enhance viewing ability, there is a five-story observation tower—the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun.
2. Pikes Peak Highway
Pikes Peak is known as America’s mountain, which is one reason to make your way up Pikes Peak Highway. Another is that the scenic drive offers the quintessential fall views. The highway is less than a 30-minute drive from Colorado Springs. Once you reach the highway, you can take it for 19 miles as it winds up to the top of Pikes Peak, at an astounding 14,115 feet. Once there, you’ll get an ideal view of the Colorado Springs, as well as miles of trees, lakes, and mountains.
3. Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area
These 2,228 acres of protected land are just 30 minutes south of Colorado Springs. And while there are plenty of meadows and even desert habitats, the forests are the reason to visit in autumn. Once at the park entrance, there is only a short road in. The rest of the park is covered in trails, allowing you to get both a driving view and a hiking view.
4. Skyline Drive
This scenic route is just outside of Cañon City, a little less than an hour southwest of Colorado Springs. Skyline Drive itself is only four miles long, climbing and stretching across a razorback ridge that looks out on Cañon City. The road is one-way and has a steep drop-off on both sides, providing an unobstructed view of the city, as well as the surrounding tree-covered mountains and valleys.
For those who want to spend the night in the area, Cañon City has multiple accommodation options, as well as plenty of other attractions. The biggest attraction that the city offers is the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park—360 acres of amusement park fun built around a massive gorge and suspension bridge.
5. Gold Belt Scenic Byway
This scenic route takes you through some of the other areas on the list, including Cripple Creek and Cañon City, but it is an alternate route. It travels through much more of the mining towns that are only an hour outside of Colorado Springs. And each of these towns offers you a unique experience to stop and explore. But it is the drive that is the most engaging part. You can stay on the byway for up to eight hours and each hour will provide gorgeous overlooks of the fall scenery, as well as the historic railroad and stagecoach routes.
6. The 303 To Ormes Peak
This highway drive will take you about an hour there and an hour back. It will guide you through the Rocky Mountains in a very round-about-way to Ormes Peak, which winds up through Green Mountain Falls Cascade-Chipita Park and Woodland Park. Every curve and corner will offer breathtaking scenery throughout the fall, with mountains covered in brightly colored trees and plenty of spots to stop for a snack, a run-around, and a few family selfies–a perfect Colorado Springs fall color destination.
7. Golden Loop Historic Parkway
This drive is stunning due to the distance of land that is visible from your car window. The drive also has historic significance, as it was a big draw during the 1890s gold rush.
The parkway winds up, down, and around hills, which are covered in bright colors during the fall months. Additionally, the fact that the parkway is only about an hour west of Colorado Springs makes it an easy day trip—or you can stay the night in Cripple Creek and get a tour of a gold mine.
8. Royal Arch Trail
The Royal Arch Trail is located in Chautauqua Park, just outside of Boulder, making it roughly an hour and a half drive from Colorado Springs. And while this trail requires hiking, it is short and worth the exercise. This scenic option is also unique compared to the rest of the list because it offers a more immersive experience. During your hike up to the red arch, you will walk through the red, orange, and yellow leaves, while also getting views of hills covered in the bright colors and flatiron rock formations. Just make sure to either go early or on a weekday, as this is one of the most popular trails in the area.
9. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
This scenic area is slightly further, at an hour and 45 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, but the fall views make it well worth the drive. The state park is massive, at an astounding 12,000 acres, and from every angle aspen and pine trees go as far as the eye can see. For the best view, though, you should make your way to the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, which provides visitors with a 100-mile view of the Continental Divide and the aspen trees that are scattered across it.
10. La Veta Pass
This scenic area is one of the longer drives on this list, at roughly an hour and 45 minutes south of Colorado Springs. The trip does not need to be a single day affair, though. You can find plenty of accommodation in the neighboring towns of La Veta or Walsenburg.
The scenic drive itself, across part of U.S. Route 160, is arguably the most beautiful autumn drive in the state. It offers a mix of pines and aspens across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Spanish Peaks.