It’s no secret that fall in the Rockies is beautiful. What seems to still be a secret however, is how much there is to do in these quieter, cool months. Here are the top ten ways to admire the golden foliage and first snows of autumn in Winter Park:
1. Take a Scenic Drive
If you have a high clearance vehicle and are prepared to navigate a few bumps, Corona Pass offers must-see views of the valley in fall. The road winds through numerous enormous aspen groves and climbs to over 11,600 feet! On the way up, you’ll see the still-green ski runs at Winter Park Resort and sweeping views of the entire Fraser Valley.
Once you reach the top, lace up your hiking shoes and take the short hike (less than 2 miles round trip) to Corona Lake. You can also hike down to the lake right off the road, if you’re looking for something even shorter. The drive is about one hour each way.
Scenic Drive for Any Vehicle
No all-terrain vehicle? No problem! Hop on County Highway 55 connecting Granby to Hot Sulphur Springs. This picturesque gravel road is something that any car can manage with views of yellow, orange and red mountainsides the entire way.
2. Go for a Colorful Hike
Yankee Doodle + Serenity
Get right to the sights without the long drive! Start this scenic hike from the heart of Downtown Winter Park. Follow Ski Idlewild Road around the Rendezvous Event Center and park just beyond Confluence Park, where you’ll find Yankee Doodle off to the right. You’re in for a 1.3 mile uphill to the top of this trail, but the views are worth it! Make it an out-and-back or loop around on Serendipity, which connects to Crosstrails then Meadow, before linking up to your starting point. Check out more trails in the Idlewild Trail System here.
Hike to the Cirque at 12,060 Feet
Squeeze in one more high alpine hike before the peaks are buried in snow! Our guided hikes give you a shuttle ride up to Lunch Rock (a helpful boost to ease your ascent), then you continue on foot up to North Twin Cone at 12,060 feet. Maybe that’s the summit you needed and you’re ready to find a nice spot for a picnic lunch. Maybe you want to keep trekking all the way to the Cirque—well known among Winter Park’s skiers for it’s scenery and steeps. Either way, enjoy panoramic views the whole way up! Guided hikes run every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, starting at 8am.
3. Mountain Oktoberfest
Take in the views with a brew in your hand! Winter Park Resort is hosting its first ever Mountain Oktoberfest on September 8th. Our spectacular mountain setting offers the perfect atmosphere for enjoying live music, unlimited beer sampling, games and food. Let’s cheers to that!
Make a night of it by staying in the Village so that you can imbibe responsibly! Zephyr Mountain Lodge, Fraser Crossing/Founders Point, and the Vintage Hotel are all within walking distance; and so are a variety of dinner and brunch options.
4. Wildlife Spotting
One of the coolest things about the Rocky Mountains is the wildlife that call our forests home. Fall is one of the best times to catch our four-legged locals in action. Mid-September to mid-October is the peak of elk rut in Rocky Mountain National Park. Take the scenic drive up to Grand Lake and enter Rocky Mountain National Park for a glimpse of dozens of elk meandering and bugling their way through the mountain valleys. The rut is when male elk (bulls) compete for the attention of the females (cows). You might see some bulls butt heads a bit, but don’t worry, typically no elk are hurt during these scuffles. Let’s not forget that the animals in the park are indeed wild (and can be dangerous). Be sure to keep your distance and photograph from afar, no close-up selfies, please!
5. Sight-see by Bike
Mountain E-Bike Tour
Covering more miles and seeing more sights is easy on an e-bike! This 3-hour tour gets you cruising the trails without breaking a sweat. Leave it to your guide to take you to the best lookouts and colorful aspen groves. Get more info and book ahead here!
If you’re looking for a bike ride that’s a bit more remote, check out Strawberry Lake. This 7.6 mile out and back ride is accessed just outside of Tabernash. Be sure to pack a lunch so that you can enjoy a picnic on the dock and take in the stellar views of the Indian Peaks once you reach the lake.
6. Run a High-Alpine Race
Can you conquer Mary Jane Mountain? Run, jog, or hike your way from the base of Winter Park Resort to the top of Mary Jane during the Summit Assault 6 mile trail running race on Saturday, Sept. 8! Pick your own pace to overcome natural obstacles and plenty of switchbacks for tons of awesome views. Celebrate with a cold beer and a summit photo at the top before taking a ride back down to the base on the chairlift. Register in advance here. Stick around for the Mountain Oktoberfest at the base of Winter Park Resort, starting at noon!
Can’t make it up for the Summit Assault race? Check out the Snow Mountain Ranch Trail Running Festival on September 22-23! On Saturday participate in the 50K, 10K , or Twilight 5K Followed by live music, a BBQ dinner, beer garden, and raffle drawings. Sunday wraps up the weekend with a half marathon and 5K.
7. Check out a Fall Festival
This festival at the Rendezvous Event Center in downtown Winter Park features family fun, inflatables, games, adult fall beverage tasting, a bake sale, silent auction, and live music. Stop by the park from 12-5pm on September 15th to check out the festivities!
Fall Fest at Snow Mountain Ranch
Stop by the Programs lawn for fall family fun September 28-30 and October 5-7. Check out the calendar of events here!
8. Explore on a 4×4
Take in panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and Fraser Valley on the Continental Divide Tour. You get to drive your own side by side ATV, but a knowledgeable guide will be with you to lead the way up Corona Pass. Grand Adventures is conveniently located in the Village Winter Park, so you can get to exploring in no time!
9. Go for a Paddle
Take to the water by SUP, canoe, kayak, or motor boat! Bring your own or rent your floating vessel of choice on Grand Lake. Grand Lake Marina offers all rentals through September 30th, and Trail Ridge Marina on Shadow Mountain Reservoir rents boats and kayaks through October 7th. The lakes are typically very chilly, so be sure to come prepared with layers and a wetsuit, if possible (otherwise you may want to stick to a motorized boat)!
10. Over the Divide HikeDid you know that you can hike from Nederland to Winter Park? That’s right. Start on one side of the Continental Divide, and trek up and over to our little corner of the Rockies just on the other side. It’s about 12 miles, but the views are unbeatable. What’s even better… we’ll pick you up from the trail head and transport you to the hiking happy hour and a cozy night’s stay. In the morning, you can catch the shuttle back to the trail head and make your way back to Nederland. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime thru hike… without quite so much gear.
There are countless other ways to explore and enjoy Winter Park and the Fraser Valley in the fall… come discover for yourself!