Five drives for finding fall colors around Aspen
1. Ask anyone in the know about where to go for fall colors in the Aspen area and the first thing you’re mostly likely to hear is: “Check out the Castle Creek Valley.” And this is good for everyone because Castle Creek, located just outside town on the west side of Aspen Mountain, is good for walking, hiking, biking and riding in the car.
To get there, follow Highway 82 west out of town until you hit the roundabout, then follow the signs. Note that you’ll pass the entrance to the Maroon Creek Valley on your way. We’ll come back to the treasures contained therein.
The Castle Creek Valley’s winding, two-lane blacktop ensures your driver won’t log much gawking time, but passengers will reap the benefits of the approximately 12 miles to the ghost town of Ashcroft. As the road climbs deeper into the hills, every turn yields new and changing views of hillsides painted yellow and orange.
The ghost town of Ashcroft is a good place to stop and stretch your legs while on your leaf-peeping excursion.
2. The Maroon Creek Valley — home to the famous Maroon Bells, reportedly the most photographed place in all of Colorado — is next door to the Castle Creek Valley and well worth braving the crowds to visit. There’s never a bad time to look at the Bells, though fall may be the best.
The road to the Bells is equally as ridable as Castle Creek, but not as drivable. The Bells’ popularity means you must park at Aspen Highlands and take a shuttle, though you can drive up early in the morning or after the last shuttle in the evening.
3. For another beautiful fall drive or ride, head up Highway 82 toward Independence Pass. If the dramatic twisting, two-lane road doesn’t make you gasp, the colors that line the highway and the sweeping few of the Rocky Mountain landscape from the top will definitely do the trick. As you head up the Pass, keep an eye to the right just before the narrow turns for one of the area’s most explosive stands of Aspen trees.
4. Closer to town, a drive up Red Mountain is a good colors bet for soaking in the blanket of color on the valley floor. (You can also hike Sunnyside Trail or Smugger and trek through Hunter Creek Valley for a different vantage point).
5. And don’t forget Snowmass Village. Just winding your way up Owl Creek Road and on to the top of the Villlage offers views of Snowmass ski area and the surrounding hills — all of which are spectacular in fall. The town also offers many hiking and mountain biking trails that put you underneath the glittering trees.