Stories, Travel Ideas and Visitor Information for Your Next Trip to Buena Vista, Colorado

Top 5 Color Destinations in Buena Vista, Colorado

It’s that time of year, when there really is gold in them hills… it’s fall color season in the Arkansas Valley. For many of us locals, this is our favorite season in Buena Vista. The temperatures are crisp for hiking, climbing and biking, summer chaos has slowed down, and it’s time to head for the hills and enjoy the colors while they last. Here’s a quick guide of some of the best fall color destinations around Buena Vista, Colorado. You’re right on time to enjoy the colors, but don’t delay- some of the highest-elevation aspens are already peaking, while many of the larger groves will peak in the next week or two. To finish it all off, the cottonwoods along the Arkansas river and all over Buena Vista will turn from late September to Early October.

5. Whipple Trail, Midland Mountain and the River Park TrailWhipple Trail Looking Towards South Main and Mount Princeton.  Buena Vista Colorado

Beginning in late September and continuing for a week or two, the valley floor itself lights up with incredible color as the Cottonwoods along the riparian corridors change. This is an incredible time to get on the river or hike/bike the Whipple Trail system on Midland Mountain across the river from Buena Vista. From the vantage of Midland, you will get stunning views of the South Main neighborhood and historic downtown Buena Vista against the stunning backdrop of the Collegiate Peaks. For photographers, morning hikes offer the best clarity and sharpness, especially of the mountains. But afternoon and evening light offer backlighting of the cottonwoods which creates an incredible, illuminated effect.

4. Twin Lakes (Late September Peak?)Twin Lakes Fall Color

There are some gorgeous and massive aspen groves in the vicinity of Twin Lakes, 20 minutes north of Buena Vista. Some of the most dramatic lie on the eastern flanks of Mt. Elbert, just uphill from the Mt. Elbert Forebay. Link to Directions.
Another great option is to hike or mountain bike the trail to Interlaken, along the southern shore of Twin Lakes (link to Interlaken article).

3. St. Elmo (Mid- to Late-September)

If you drive further into the mountains past Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, there are lots of great aspen groves along the road, and you will eventually arrive at the ghost town of St. Elmo. This is an interesting historical destination in its own right, and it’s especially interesting to check it out during fall colors. From St. Elmo you can venture even further into the mountains with a high clearance vehicle to destinations like Pomeroy Lakes and Tincup Pass. Photo gallery of this drive.

2. Aspen Ridge (Mid-September thru early October)

A very popular fall color destination near Buena Vista. If you go during peak (mid to late-September), especially on a weekend, expect a dusty traffic jam, including plenty of ATVs. A 2-wheel drive will get you to some nice groves, but a high-clearance vehicle is needed to delve deeper. It’s over an hour drive to the best groves. Driving Directions 

1. Cottonwood Pass (Mid-September thru early October… September 30th peak?)Colorado Trail Cottonwood Creek in the Fall Buena Vista Colorado

This is probably the closest, easiest access to turning Aspens from Buena Vista. You’ll find great colors all along the pass, but if you want to hike, I recommend an easy section of the Colorado Trail which crosses and follows Cottonwood Creek. Driving Directions.  From the trailhead pullout, hike east for a short, moderate outing with quick access to some nice aspens. If you want to continue in that direction, you will cross County Road 343 and begin climbing the flank of Mt. Princeton. Your efforts will be rewarded by a great overlook of the aspens you just hiked through. If you hike West there is some elevation gain, but you will get a nice vista of Rainbow Lake and the surrounding aspen groves. Continue driving from the trailhead to Cottonwood Lake for more nice colors in a beautiful valley.

This Colorado getaway is brought to you by the South Main Neighborhood in Downtown Buena Vista. Find your new home or a place to stay the night steps away from shops, galleries, the brewpub and whitewater park on the banks of the Arkansas River.  More infomation about South Main can be found on the excellent Live From South Main blog and on Facebook.