Best Hikes to Do This Fall in Colorado
Colorado is full of incredible hiking trails that take you to breathtaking views and scenic lakes. Fall is the best time to hike in Colorado since the weather is comfortable and you can enjoy the Aspen foliage. It can be hard to narrow down which hikes to do while planning a trip to Colorado because there are so many beautiful destinations to see and hikes to choose from. To help you decide we have curated this list with the six best hikes to do this fall in Colorado.
Recommended Gear for Hiking in Colorado
- Hiking Boots: A must for hiking in Colorado is a good pair of hiking boots.
- Hiking Poles: Hiking poles are very helpful on steeper hikes to reduce pressure on your knees on the way up and down and also prevent you from slipping on the way down.
- Water Bottle: Bring a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the hike.
- Day Pack: Make sure to bring a good hiking day pack with you to carry your water, camera gear, and layers.
- Warm Coat: It can get cold at higher elevations in the fall in Colorado so make sure you bring layers.
- Flashlight: I always have a flashlight with me while hiking just in case we get stuck or the hike takes longer than expected.
Maroon Bells: Maroon Lake, Crater Lake, and West Maroon Trail
Length: Crater Lake is 3.6 miles round trip, can continue longer
Elevation Gain: Crater Lake is 700 ft up, more if continue longer
Note: Reservations are required ahead of time to drive into Maroon Bells area or take the RFTA shuttle.
Maroon Bells is a beautiful area in Aspen featuring the 14,000 ft Maroon Peak, Maroon Lake, and Crater Lake. The hike to Crater Lake is one of the best hikes to do this fall in Colorado, with beautiful yellow aspens along the trail. When you first arrive at Maroon Bells you will see Maroon Lake at 9,580 feet with Maroon Peak towering above. From Maroon Lake you can hike to Crater Lake which is a nice hike to a smaller lake with beautiful views. The best time to enjoy the Aspen foliage is mid-September to early October. If you have more time and energy to hike here, you can continue hiking on West Maroon Trail for more incredible views of Maroon Bells area.
Ice Lake Trail to Ice Lake and Island Lake
Length: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,700 ft
Trail Elevation (Start – Highest): 9,843 ft – 12,445 ft
Ice Lake Trail features two breathtaking lakes and is one of the best hikes to do this fall in Colorado. The trail starts with switchbacks that feature great views and a waterfall. In the fall you can enjoy the fall foliage in the beginning of the trail before reaching the alpine layer.
The hike is 3.3 miles to Ice Lake which is located at 12,300 feet. From Ice Lake you should take a left to continue up to Island Lake. This part of the trail is extremely steep and dangerous, and there are parts where you have to hold on with your hands. In about half a mile with 100 ft elevation gain you will make it to the beautiful Island Lake. There aren’t as many people that continue to Island Lake, but after making the trek all the way to Ice Lake it is worth the extra climb up. When you are finished admiring this beautiful lake, continue up past the lake and then take a right to loop back to the trail. This part is steep and narrow and hiking boots and hiking poles are highly recommended so you don’t slip.
Blue Lakes Trail
Length: 8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2,404 ft
Trail Elevation (Start – Highest): 9,342 ft – 11,746 ft
Blue Lakes Trail is a difficult hike to three amazing lakes located near Ouray. The first lake on this trail is Lower Blue Lake, a clear bright blue lake within the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area at 10,952 ft elevation. The hike to lower blue lake is 6 miles round trip with 1,610 ft elevation gain. The first couple miles of the hike are extremely steep and difficult but have great views.
If you make it to lower blue lake you already completed the hardest part of the hike, so it is worth continuing up to Middle Blue Lake. The hike to Middle Blue Lake is an additional 0.7 miles from Lower Blue Lake but is very steep, with about 664 ft elevation gain. Make sure to wear hiking boots and bring trekking poles as they will be critical for these steeper parts. Next, continue a short 0.2 mile walk from Middle Blue Lake to Upper Blue Lake. This lake is located in the alpine layer at 11,746 ft and as you get closer to the lake it can get significantly colder and more windy.
American Lake Trail
Length: 6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2,020 ft
Trail Elevation (Start – Highest): 9,410 ft – 11,378 ft
American Lake Trail is located 30 min southwest of downtown Aspen. The trail starts with switchbacks in an Aspen forest which is beautiful in the fall. As the elevation increases you end up in a pine tree forest. American lake is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Colorado, with mountains reflecting in the clear blue water. If you are up for it you could go for a swim, but it will be very cold!
Six Lakes Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Length: 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,660 ft
This trail in Rocky Mountain National Park brings you to six lakes and a waterfall. You can start hiking it from either Bear Lake Trailhead or Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Make sure to look out for signs along the route to lead you in the right direction.
- Start at Bear Lake and do the short loop around the lake (0.6 miles)
- Hike to Emerald Lake passing Nymph Lake and Dream Lake on the way (1.8 miles)
- On the way back from Emerald Lake turn right to continue to Lake Haiyaha (1.8 miles)
- – If you are tired this is the last point where it still makes sense to turn back to the Bear Lake Trailhead instead of continuing to The Loch lake-
- As you return from Lake Haiyah turn right to continue towards The Loch (2.1 miles)
- Take another right and hike uphill to rest of the way to The Loch (0.9 miles)
- Return from The Loch and turn right to continue to Alberta Falls (2.3 miles)
- Continue to Glacier Gorge Trailhead (0.8 miles) or Bear Lake Trailhead (About 1 mile) depending on where you parked
High Dune Trail, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Length: 3 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 699 ft
If you are looking for a unique hike to do this fall in Colorado, you should check out High Dune Trail. This trail is located in Great Sand Dunes National Park which is best to visit in the fall when it starts to cool down. The High Dune Trail takes you to one of the highest dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park.
The trail starts from the dunes parking lot and takes you to the highest dune that you can see from the lot. You will walk about half a mile across the Medano Creek Bed, and then find the best ridge to walk up to get to the highest dune that you spotted from the parking lot. The closest ridge is usually the busiest so it is better to walk a little further along the creek bed to find a less crowded route.
The hike up is difficult since the sand is very thick and the bottom of the dunes is already at 8,000 ft elevation. After you reach High Dune and enjoy the view, I recommend spending more time exploring the sand dunes. As you walk south further away from high dune you will get to experience the sand dunes all to yourself, and after even just 10 minutes walking south you won’t see anyone else. Once you are done exploring, the easiest way to get back is to go down to the Medano Creek bed and hike along the creek to the parking lot.
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