During the month of September, summer comes to a close and fall ramps up in Colorado with the changing of the leaves, cooler temperatures, and the first snow to hit the high country. Fall is one of the most magnificent times of year in the Centennial State as we hurry to hike or take a drive amongst the colorful foliage, spend a day picking apples, sampling ciders, and spot bugling elk.
Kick off the fall season, with these fun things to do in Colorado in September.
See the fall colors
In September, Colorado becomes transformed into a palette of yellows, oranges, and a little bit of red with the state’s shining star, the golden aspens as the main attraction. Coupled with snow-capped mountain peaks and mountainsides filled with swaths of color, Colorado in the fall is truly magical.
In higher elevations, the leaves begin to change as early as late August, setting the stage for mid to late September to be the peak leaf-peeping season in the mountains. Plus, with temperatures still enjoyable, it’s the perfect time to get out and hike or drive amongst the gold. Below are a few of our favorite places to see fall colors in Colorado:
Kebler Pass – Probably the favorite amongst photographers, Kebler Pass near Crested Butte, is a popular mountain pass that boasts the largest aspen grove in the U.S. Feel as though you are covered in gold as you drive through the towering aspens along the 33-mile unpaved road.
Kenosha Pass – Along HWY 285, northeast of Fairplay, Kenosha Pass intersects a section of the Colorado Trail and provides one of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado. The moderate trail guides hikers amongst shades of yellow aspens before delivering them to the overlook of South Park Valley.
San Juan Skyway – Make a trip out of it and drive the 236-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains for some spectacular fall colors. The crown jewel of this route is the 70-mile section known as the Million Dollar Highway.
Telluride – Resting within a box canyon, Telluride is surrounded by colors that come every fall that can be seen from almost anywhere in town. But the best way to view the change of seasons is via the Gondola ride to the ski resort.
Boreas Pass – Connecting the towns of Breckenridge and Como, Boreas Pass is known for its historic landmarks and the aspen groves that hug the winding road, creating a beautiful tunnel of yellow, orange, and red.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park – Along the Front Range, near Denver, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is filled with golden aspens, mountain meadows, and panoramic views of snow-capped mountain peaks and all easily accessed via the park’s extensive trail system.
Other notable places to seek gold this fall include:
- Maroon Bells near Aspen
- the whole Western Slope (just drive west)
- Buffalo Pass near Steamboat Springs
- Le Veta Pass near La Veta
- Dallas Divide near Ridgway
Drink a cider and go apple picking
Peak apple-picking season nears the end of September and is a fun activity to do during the fall in Colorado. There are several farms and orchards throughout the state that encourage people to pick their own apples, making this a great family activity.
- Near Denver, check out Happy Apple Farm, Berry Patch Farms, Nelms Farm, and Ya Ya Farm and Orchard.
- Near Grand Junction, visit Fruit Basket Orchards and Delicious Orchards in Hotchkiss.
But don’t just pick the apples, drink them too. September is also the perfect time to grab a cider at one of the many cideries in the state.
- Stem Ciders in Denver is a great place to start and the Colorado Cider Company, who plant their own orchard on the Western Slope with a tasting room in the city.
- Further north along the Front Range, check out: Wild Cider in Firestone, Summit Hard Cider in Fort Collins, St. Vrain Cidery in Longmont.
- In the North Fork Valley, sample some ciders at: Jack Rabbit Hill and Big B’s Juices and Hard Cider in Hotchkiss.
- And along the Western Plateau, savor every sip at Talbott’s Cider Company in Palisade.
Pueblo vs. hatch chiles
Settle the never-ending debate between pueblo and hatch chiles by visiting Pueblo, CO to taste for yourself. September is the peak harvest season for the Pueblo chiles and when grocery stores and farmers’ markets are flooded with your choice of mild, medium, or hot. The long-standing battle between Colorado and New Mexico chiles is one that has even gone political when the Colorado governor challenged the New Mexico governor to a chili taste-off.
The claim is that the Pueblo chile is thicker, meatier, and roasts better, but the only way to know is to taste for yourself. The spicy crop has even garnered an annual festival every year in Pueblo, the Chile & Frijoles Fest. Sample different kinds of chiles from Pueblo, from roasted to raw and too hot to handle.
See Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
In late August and into September, the mating season for the Colorado elk begins. The town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are some of the best places in the state to take witness to this truly magnificent display of Mother Nature. The ritual begins with the male elk shedding their velvet to make their antlers nice and sharp to battle other male elk in the quest for a female companion.
The male elk can also be heard bugling for miles away as they make their call for a mate. Herds of elk can be seen in large grassy meadows within the park and even in downtown Estes Park. During “elktober,” it is almost impossible to not see an elk.
The four-legged residents are so popular that Estes Park hosts an annual event, Elk Fest, to celebrate this special time of year. The event is typically held the last weekend in September.
Note: the 2020 Elk Fest has been canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Visit a pumpkin patch
Harvest season in Colorado isn’t just about apples, it’s also about pumpkins. Colorado farms open to the public for some old fashion harvest fun including, pumpkin picking, corn mazes, and farmers’ markets. Pick your perfect pumpkin at popular farms including:
- Cottonwood Farm in Boulder
- Anderson Farms in Erie
- Miller Farms in Platteville
- Long Neck Pumpkin Farm in Colorado Springs
See Norman Rockwell at the Denver Art Museum
Through September 7th, art lovers can see the Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom. The coveted exhibit explores the themes of freedom, civil rights, and contemporary art in American history, all of which we can agree are still relevant in today’s society. Norman Rockwell was most famous for his reflection on American culture and the work he did for The Saturday Evening Post magazine.
While you’re at the Denver Art Museum stop in at the Natural Forces exhibit of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington and their visual representations of the American West.
Drive-in movies at Red Rocks Amphitheater
Replacing the ever-popular film on the rocks, Red Rocks Amphitheater is now hosting 2020 Film on the Rocks – The Drive-in. Each film is projected on an LED screen in the Red Rocks Lower South Lot 2 parking lot. Audio will be provided by FM radio, and guests will be asked to remain inside their vehicles during the event.
See classics like To Wong Fu, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Fight Club, and Bridesmaids. Your $59 ticket (per car) gets you access to the movie, coke, popcorn, and candy.
September is a lovely time of year in Colorado, with a remarkable changing of seasons highlighted by an amazing display of colors. Make the most of final days of summer as you welcome in fall!