The gold rush is still going strong in Colorado, it’s just not a quest of the mineral kind. We may not have the red/orange/gold color explosion of the east coast, but they don’t have our back drop. There’s something that drives locals and visitors alike to the mountains to cavort through the many veins of golden aspens every single year. Maybe it’s the welcome clear chill in the air after the long fire fueled summer, or maybe it’s just the way residents celebrate the evolving beauty of their state, but in any case it’s an annual gold rush everyone can take part in, no pan or pick required.
I know there are as many opinions about which spot is the best as there are individuals to ask. I’m not even trying to claim that knowledge, rather, I’m throwing out a list of places that hopefully each have a different appeal and maybe you’ll find you want to change it up a little this year. The fortune in memories you find will last much longer than some sparkly rocks anyway.
FOR A SUNDAY DRIVE… Peak to Peak scenic and historic byway
Estes Park to Blackhawk
A staple for the city crowds, the Peak to Peak Highway has some of the best views to be had from behind a windshield with plenty of real estate to share. Ubiquitous fields of aspens line almost the entire length of it from Estes Park to Blackhawk.
Bring along the last of your summer visitors, roll the windows down for a sniff of the mountain air and watch fall roll on by.
For directions and more information: http://byways.org/explore/byways/2114/travel.html
FOR A QUICK LEISURELY STROLL… Pella Crossing
With a wide flat trail meandering around a series of ponds, Pella Crossing is perfect for a Saturday afternoon amble. On a still day, the ponds reflect back the peaks and sky on their mirror glass surface. The trees here are more cottonwood than aspen, but the scene is stunning nonetheless.
If you want to just pick a spot and drink it all in, fishing might be just the thing. Small boats and tubes are allowed.
For directions and more information: bouldercounty.org/os/parks/pages/pellacrossing.aspx
FROM A BIKE…Meyers Homestead Trail
Wide and gently graded, this trail (also known as the Meyers Gulch Trail) is easy enough to bring the family along, though maybe a bit challenging in spots for younger or beginner cyclists. As more than just a nature trail, Myer’s Homestead is a historical site with the remnants of building, informative signs and stopping points along the way. The in and out trail completes at 5.2 miles total.
For directions and more information: http://www.everytrail.com/guide/meyers-homestead-trail
FOR A CHALLENGE…Hell’s Hole Trail
near Idaho Springs
If you’re the type that wants to earn your views or at least feel like you’re the only one seeing them, Hell’s Hole Trail clocks in at a hefty 8.2 miles round trip with a 1600 foot elevation gain. Trek through the colorful aspen groves and reward yourself with a picnic lunch in the open basin meadow at the end.
It’s recommended that you start early if you want to have leisure time as it can take the better part of the day to hike in and back out.
For directions and more information: http://tinyurl.com/HellsHoleHike.
FOR A DAY HIKE CLOSE TO HOME…Hessie trailhead to Lost Lake
Hessie Trailhead to Lost Lake, is a beautiful hike year round and short enough, at 2.7 miles round trip, to accommodate even inexperienced hikers. Not only does it pass waterfalls and beaver dams, it also climbs through aspens and other color-changing foliage to a lovely alpine lake.
Due to its accessibility and ease, the trail can be fairly populated, but the scenery is worth putting up with the extra foot traffic.
For directions and more information: nederlandchamber.org/rec_dayhikes.html
FOR A FAMILY PICNIC…Caribou Ranch Open Space
There are picnic tables, restrooms and plenty of wide open trail space that allow a family to relax, spread out and enjoy the scenery for the day. The bright red DeLonde barn and open meadow make for some breathtaking photo ops and you might just catch a glimpse of the local wildlife.
Easy walking loops wind around through the trees and to nearby Mud Lake. Bring your horses but leave the bikes and dogs at home.
For directions and more information: http://www.bouldercounty.org/os/parks/pages/caribouranch.aspx
Timing things just right can be tricky but different places changing at different times gives us ample opportunity to enjoy them all. Just be sure to check The Forest Service Fall Foliage Hotline at 800-354-4595 if you want to catch your particular destination at its peak.
By Misty Kaiser