Colorado is one of our favorite places in the world to explore. Though Colorado has plenty to do outdoors all year round, if I had to pick the absolute time to visit it would be September.
In September in Colorado, the crowds die down, the weather is perfect, and amazing fall colors begin to bloom across the state! Check out this blog to discover the top things to do in Colorado in September, plus best hikes and top spots to see fall colors in September.
Things To Know About Visiting Colorado in September?
September in Colorado is the best time to visit! Crowds die down, the weather is still great, and fall colors are blooming. Keep in mind that the weather does vary quite a bit between the Front Range, the high Rockies, and the San Juans. Read on for more info on Colorado weather in September.
Absolutely! Fall colors in Colorado generally peak between the 2nd and 4th week of September. Note that leaves change colors sooner when it is colder. Typically the foliage of the high Rockies (like Breckenridge) changes colors sooner than the San Juans, and the San Juans change colors sooner than the Front Range near Denver/Boulder.
If I had to pick the top things to do in Colorado in September, I’d say explore Boreas Pass, hike the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop, see fall colors at Kenosha Pass, drive the Million Dollar Highway, and visit Crested Butte!
Weather in Colorado in September
September in Colorado is prime time in my opinion. The nights are colder but the temperature during the day is wonderful. Plus, there’s usually there’s less of a chance of afternoon thunderstorms in Colorado in September.
The weather in Colorado does vary a lot between the Front Range, the high Rockies, and the San Juans so here’s an outlook for the average high and lows for the key areas I’ll be covering in this blog:
- Denver/Boulder: Avg low 50°F; Avg high 79°F
- Breckenridge: Avg low 29°F; Avg high 64°F
- Steamboat Springs: Avg low 34°F; Avg high 71°F
- Aspen/Crested Butte: Avg low 39°F; Avg high 69°F
- Telluride/Ouray: Avg low 30°F; Avg high 65°F
Crowds in Colorado in September
While September is generally a time when crowds die down, Colorado can get very excited about fall colors which means that weekends near the Front Range can be chaotic.
Luckily, most of the top hikes, towns, and things to do in Colorado in September are farther west than the crowded trails near Denver.
Fall Colors in Colorado in September
Generally speaking, September is the best time to see fall colors in Colorado. Usually, fall colors peak between the 2nd and 4th week of September.
The colors change sooner or later depending on cold fronts that come through the Rockies so it varies by year. The sooner that the nightly low reaches a freezing point, the sooner the Aspens will begin to change colors in any given area.
So for example, in Breckenridge and the high elevation Rocky Mountain towns, colors change closer to the 2nd week of September. Denver and the Front Range are warmer so the colors change there much later. In the San Juans, the colors generally peak around the 1st to 2nd week of October.
Related – Colorado Road Trip: From Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verde National Park
Scenic Drives to See Fall Colors in Colorado in September
Kebler Pass is a 30-mile dirt road west of Crested Butte. Even though it’s a dirt road, it’s accessible to almost any vehicle (even RVs). Kebler Pass is an unforgettable place to see fall colors in September because it is home to one of the largest Aspen Groves in the US.
The Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway is by far one of the most beautiful drives in the world. As a part of the larger San Juan Skyway, the Million Dollar Highway is a 25-mile stretch of utterly stunning scenic byway between Silverton and Ouray. The entire San Juan Skyway from Durango to Ouray is full of incredible aspen groves and mountains making it great to visit in September.
Related – Ultimate Guide to the Million Dollar Highway
As you drive the scenic road to Telluride, just 10 miles southwest of Ridgeway you’ll reach the Dallas Divide overlook. This overlook is beautiful year round but it is particularly breathtaking when the fall foliage begins to bloom beneath the mountains.
Boreas Pass is a 20-mile dirt road near Breckenridge Colorado and it’s full of spectacular aspen groves. You can opt to explore this road on foot as a hike or as a drive.
Lizard Head Pass
Heading southbound from Telluride will bring you over the beautiful, winding road of Lizard Head Pass. This mountain pass is full of panoramic mountain and valley views and fall colors scatter the hillsides.
Kenosha Pass is ridden with lush groves of aspen trees on either side of the highway. Though it is a beautiful drive, be sure to stop and explore one of the hikes on either side of Highway 285 to go immerse yourself in the fall colors.
Best Colorado Hikes in September for Fall Colors
Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop
The Maroon Bells are one of the most spectacular hikes and views in all of Colorado and September is the best time of year to visit and explore. It can get viciously crowded here in the summer months but September is pleasant and the weather is still great.
Though you can just enjoy the Maroon bells viewpoint, the Bells are best explored via the Four Pass Loop, a 26-mile backpacking circuit.
Click here for more info on how to hike the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop.
Boreas Pass is a great Colorado hike to do in September. This hike is not technically a trail. You’ll park at Baker’s Tank trailhead and to really enjoy fall colors, you’ll actually just want to walk back on the road for tons of glowing orange aspen trees. We recommend you go early so there is less traffic on the dirt road. And of course, you can also opt to skip the hike and just drive the 20-mile Boreas Pass road.
Related – Best Fall Hikes in Breckenridge
McCullough Gulch is accessed just south of the town of Breckenridge and is filled with gorgeous patches of aspen trees. This moderate hike takes you out to an alpine lake basin that is amazing for how easy the hike is.
Kenosha Pass is the intersection between highway 285 and the Colorado Trail which runs from Denver to Durango. When you hike Kenosha Pass, you can either hike eastbound or westbound on the Colorado Trail.
If you hike east, you’ll start among aspen trees then you’ll reach a great view at mile 1.5 which makes for a great easy 3-mile roundtrip hike
If you hike west, you’ll also begin in aspen forest but you will stay in the crested fall colors much longer. The general turnaround point when you hike this way is at mile 3 when you reach Guernsey Creek.
The colors on the way up were incredible but pale in comparison to the insane views you get of the surrounding mountainsides when you reach the peak. Looking down on Frisco, Copper, and Silverthorne was the highlight of all the fall hikes we did this year.
Pro tip: We hiked Mount Royal as a part of the epic Tenmile Peaks Traverse (See the YouTube video of this crazy hike here). If you’re an adventure junkie with route-finding experience, it may be worth tackling.
Related: 24 Things to Do Near Silverthorne, Colorado
Three Lakes Loop
Three Lakes Loop is a beautiful and easy hike that’s accessed from Kebler Pass west of Crested Butte. The hike brings you past 3 lakes and many parts of the trail are surrounded by a grove of Aspens.
Related: Things to Do in Crested Butte in Fall
September is the best time of year for hiking the mountains of Colorado, particularly big 14er mountains. Mount Sneffels is an iconic 14er hike/climb located near Ouray and the Million Dollar Highway. Sneffels summit is surrounded by the best towns to see in September so you will surely be greeted with amazing views of aspen groves from above.
Sprague Lake Loop RMNP
Sprague Lake is one of the best spots in Rocky Mountain National Park to see fall colors. When you arrive at the lake, you can see beautiful groves across the lake and reflected in the water.
Three Islands Lake
Near Steamboat Springs, vast hiking opportunities lie in the Mt Zirkel Wilderness. Three Islands Lake is one of the best moderate hikes in Colorado in September. The hike takes you through evergreen and aspen forest and eventually brings you to a beautiful lake basin.
Right beside the popular 14er hike, Gray’s Peak, Herman Gulch is a hike up the Continental Divide to a wonderful alpine lake. This region of Arapaho National Forest is full of pretty aspen groves along the way.
Related – Rocky Mountain to Grand Teton National Park Road Trip
Best Colorado Towns to Visit in September
Telluride is a stunning town to visit in Colorado in September. Fall colors typically don’t blossom here until the last week of October or the first week of September but this is still prime time to explore Telluride. Telluride is a haven for adventure and exploration. Tackle the Telluride Via Ferrata, go downhill Mountain Biking, check out the Telluride Film Festival, or stay for the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival.
Related – 7 Things To Do in Telluride in October
Ouray to Durango
Just one highway east of Telluride is the stunning, scenic route from Ridgeway to Ouray to Durango known as the Million Dollar Highway. There are endless things to do on this stretch of highway.
Don’t miss the RAT mountain biking trail network in Ridgeway on the way to Ouray. In Ouray, you can hike the Perimeter Trail for fall colors, go to the county fair hosted in September or go off-roading and explore one of the wilderness mountain passes like Imogene Pass, Ophir Pass, or Black Bear Pass.
Related – 8 Things to do in Ouray, Colorado
In Durango, ride the historic railroad past groves of fall colors, check out the best fall hike up Castle Rock, mountain bike, visit a hot spring, and more! Durango is also full of unique events in September like the Durango Autumn Arts Festival and the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Related – Things to Do On The Million Dollar Highway
Crested Butte is another major hub for fall colors in Colorado in September. Much like Telluride, the leaves usually don’t begin to change until late September and early October. Kebler Pass, the scenic drive just west of Crested Butte, is one of the best spots in Colorado for fall colors.
In the town of Crested Butte, don’t miss mountain biking the iconic 401 trail which passes among stunning groves of Aspens. Or, for highly experienced mountain bikers, check out the very challenging 403 trail which crosses a pass and delivers beautiful views of a mountain valley with aspens below.
Related – 7 Things to Do in Crested Butte in October
While Breckenridge is a great place to visit year-round, Breck can be insanely crowded during the summer months. By September, the crowds start to die down and it’s a great time to visit.
Breck is full of so many great fall hikes. Click here to check out the best fall hikes near Breckenridge.
Outside of changing colors, you can also visit the Breckenridge Film Festival and Keystone Oktoberfest just 1 town south of Breckenridge.
Last but not least, visit Steamboat Springs in September. Go on an adventure in Mt Zirkel Wilderness holds endless adventures, soak in the hot springs, or go to the Steamboat OktoberWest brew fest.
- 7 Things to Do in Crested Butte in October
- 7 Things to do in Telluride in October
- Best Fall Hikes in Breckenridge
- Colorado Road Trip: From Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verde National Park
- Ultimate Guide to the Million Dollar Highway
- 30 Epic Things to do in Durango CO
- Guide to Mountain Biking Breckenridge
- Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park Entry Permits
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