Posted on 03 Aug 2023

Scenic fall drives in Colorado

In Colorado, the turning of the seasons from summer to fall is a treasured display of Mother Nature’s magnificence. Hiking among the golden aspens is an amazing experience, yet to cover even more distance and get out and see the mountains turn every shade of yellow and orange you can imagine, hop in the car. Many of these drives that have earned the coveted “scenic byway” designation, so you’ve got a backstage pass to the best fall leaf peeping in Colorado.


1. Independence Pass 

Elevation 12,095 feet


Accessible from both Breckenridge and the Vail Valley through the historic town of Leadville, Independence Pass is an incredible drive to see fall colors and aspens at their peak. Not for the faint of heart, this pass has single lane areas and winds along the side of the mountain with places to stop along the way. The road goes through the San Isabel National forest and is covered in aspen groves and boasts incredible views. Climb to the top of the pass to reach an elevation of 12,095 feet. To make a loop out of the drive, keep going into the town of Aspen. Continue on to see Maroon Bells before heading back through Glenwood Springs.

2. Boreas Pass

Elevation 11,496 feet


Boreas Pass is one of the best drives out of Breckenridge to experience the changing aspen trees and incredible scenery. This gravel road twists through aspen groves that takes you up to the continental divide above tree line for a breathtaking view. Connect Boreas Pass to Hoosier Pass for a longer adventure. 

3. Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway

Elevation: 11,319 feet

The Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway starts at Copper Mountain and travels over Fremont Pass to Leadville, where travelers can take one route to Granite or, loop back over Tennessee Pass through Camp Hale, Red Cliff and Minturn and dropping into the Vail Valley. A gorgeous drive, this route offers lots of aspens and wide-open spaces where you get expansive views of Colorado’s famous 14ers and fall colors.  

4. The West Elk Loop over Kebler Pass

Elevation: 10,007 feet


Kebler Pass between Crested Butte and Paonia has the largest aspen grove in Colorado and is one of the state’s most iconic scenic fall drives. The West Elk Loop Scenic & Historic Byway includes the 30-mile Kebler Pass road and travels through the towns of Crested Butte, Gunnison, Montrose and Carbondale. The route also runs through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park between Montrose and Gunnison.  

The entire historic byway loop is 205 miles and takes about six to eight hours. Although a decent drive from either Breckenridge or the Vail Valley, it's well worth it if you hit the peak colors.

5. Guanella Pass

Elevation: 11,670 feet

Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway is a paved 23-mile route through Pike and Arapaho national forest land that links Georgetown and Grant. Along the byway, catch views of Grays and Torreys peaks, both Colorado 14ers.

6. Rabbit Ears Pass via Cache la Poudre-North Park

Elevation: 9,426 feet

Rabbit Ears is not your average mountain pass. Instead of climbing to a high point and quickly descending, Rabbit Ears Pass climbs to around 10,000 feet and stays there for several miles. The Aspens and views of the Flattop Mountains and Catamount Lake below are spectacular, with many pull-outs to stop and take photos. Open year-round, Rabbit Ears pass is one of the snowiest roads in Colorado in winter, but the fall scenery makes the drive a must, while conditions are safer. 

The pass was named by the earliest trappers because of a rock formation that looks like rabbit ears. It has always been a historic marker for Steamboat's Yampa Valley. 

The drive up to Rabbit Ears Pass from Fort Collins through Walden on Highway 14 is spectacular when the fall colors are at their peak. It's a beautiful 3-plus hour drive that includes the Cache la Poudre River Canyon and Cameron Pass to the secluded valley of North Park where deer, elk and moose graze and quaking aspen mingle with massive forests. 

Our year-round beautiful views are simply accentuated by the fall foliage. If you haven’t visited Colorado in the fall, what are you waiting for? 





Previous Scenic fall drives in Breckenridge Everything You Ever Needed to Know about the Epic Pass Next