The Ultimate Fall Leaf-Peeping Guide to Breckenridge, Colorado

The Ultimate Fall Leaf Peeping Guide to Breckenridge

Fall in Breckenridge is an incredible time to enjoy cooler weather and gorgeous views. The high peaks of Breckenridge become peppered with groves of brilliant changing aspens, and the fall colors range from golden yellows to bright oranges and reds.

No matter the mode of transportation – bus, car, ATV, horseback, foot or bicycle – fall leaf seekers will uncover golden foliage around town and on the surrounding mountains, contrasted by the Colorado blue sky and snow-capped Ten Mile mountain range. Here is your ultimate guide to autumn leaf peeping- check out the best of the best this fall in Breckenridge, and explore a few of our favorite places to see the fall colors this season.

 

 

When To Go

Fall begins around Labor Day and continues on through the end of October or early November. Due to our high elevation, Breckenridge is one of the first places in the country where the leaves begin to change color. Early to mid-September is when you’ll start to see the fall colors turn, and visitors and locals alike flock to the trails and embark on scenic drives to see the vibrant colors of green, orange and yellow come together on hillsides, valleys and around town. Not only is Breckenridge great for leaf peeping, events and festivals fill the calendar and there are tons of outdoor activities to fill your itinerary.

 

Stop 1: French Gulch Area east of Town

Breckenridge trees changing color on a hillside during fall.
Red, Yellow, Green. This natural rainbow of colors is a common sight each fall.

Colorado’s aspen trees are renowned for their distinctive golden yellow color that contrasts so vividly with our deep blue skies. Oranges and reds are uncommon in the autumnal aspen forest, except in French Gulch east of Breckenridge. Here the minerals in the soil create burnished reds and coppery orange leaves among the forests of yellow creating fun diversity in the fall colors.

The trails of French Gulch pass through Breckenridge’s “Golden Horseshoe,” one of Colorado’s most fertile mining regions. The initial strikes here in 1859 are what eventually led to the birth of Breckenridge as a town. For most of the next century, the town’s fortunes were largely driven by the Golden Horseshoe’s output. Dozens of mines were active here at one time or another. Most amounted to nothing; a few yielded huge fortunes.

The groves of changing aspens make this area a beautiful hike or bike during autumn to see the fall colors. History buffs can opt for a guided hike with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance.

Drive:

A short drive up French Gulch Road rewards with dazzling displays of fiery colors surrounding historic mines and abandoned town sites. The dirt road is graded and passable by most vehicles. In addition to profuse aspen forests, you’ll pass many old mines, including the Country Boy Mine, which is available for tours and open year-round, the Reiling Dredge and the Lincoln Townsite. At the end of the maintained road at the marked trailhead, about 5 miles from town, park and hike up Sallie Barber or French Gulch Road. If you have high clearance 4WD and a lot of fortitude, you can explore the Humbug Hill jeep road. Turn around at the trailhead and enjoy the views of the Breckenridge Ski Area as you journey westward back to town.

Directions: Take Wellington Road east from Main Street to the three-way intersection with Reiling Road and French Gulch Road. Continue east on French Gulch Road. The pavement ends just after the Wellington Neighborhood. No Car? Take the free bus to the end of the Wellington community and just hike along the road from there.

Hike/Bike:

The first trailhead along French Gulch Road is B&B trail on the south side of the road. Park or walk here to access a network of hiking and easy biking trails offering loop and out-and-back options. Check out the posted map for trail options in the area.

X10U8 (Extenuate) and Minnie Mine loop:  Across from the B&B Trailhead is the X10U8 Trail. In the afternoon, travel counter-clockwise so you are high on the hill facing the backlit aspens as you circle west along the Minnie Mine trail to complete the loop. Mine sites, interpretive signs and interesting diversions add local flavor to the trail.

B&B Trail: The shady side of the valley means spruce and pine forests, but the views across to the aspen groves make this a worthwhile hike or bike. Loop over to the Minnie Mine trail from the Reiling Dredge.

 

Stop 2: Boreas Pass Area

Boreas Pass Road in Fall with aspen foliage
Boreas Pass is a stunning hour-long drive through filled with fall colors and mountain views.

Cinders flying from the old narrow gauge railroad that chugged over Boreas Pass 100 years ago created forest fires that cleared the slopes and made way for vast groves of aspen trees. Walk, drive or bike through this tunnel of trees, creating a canopy of yellow as you make your way up the dirt road heading east from town.

Boreas Pass Road ascends from downtown Breckenridge to over 11,400 feet at the top of the Continental Divide. It’s a popular fall route that offers numerous views looking down on the town and surrounding mountains. Trails parallel the upper dirt portion of Boreas, where golden aspens are plentiful in autumn.

Drive:

From the end of pavement to the summit of Boreas Pass is about 6.5 miles of dirt road, passable by most vehicles except in muddy or wet conditions. Some sections are single-lane through narrow rock passages; uphill traffic has the right-of-way in the mountains.  Be on the lookout for hikers, bikers and foilage photographers as you drive the pass. Allow 30-60 minutes of leisurely driving to reach the summit where you’ll find Continental Divide. The historic Section House at the pass is a ski hut in the winter, available for overnight reservations.

Those seeking a longer scenic drive (be sure to fill up on gas!) can make it a loop by continuing on Boreas Pass Road all the way to Como and Fairplay, and then on to highway 9 over the top of Hoosier Pass and back into Breckenridge. Be sure to hop out at the top of each pass and take in the views or do a quick hike to stretch out the legs.

Directions: At the south end of Breckenridge, take Boreas Pass Road east. About 4 miles from town, the pavement ends at the Boreas Pass Trailhead. Park here to walk or bike along the road or to Bakers Tank Trail, or continue driving on to Como.

Hike/Bike:

Bakers Tank Trail: Continue driving eastward up Boreas Pass Road past Argentine Meadow to Bakers Tank, where the old steam engine took on water to continue its uphill journey. At this higher elevation, spruce and fir trees take over, but you can hike or bike westward on the Bakers Tank Trail through the highest aspen grove. Once the trail turns to the north side of the hill, hikers may want to turn back to the Tank. Bikers have the option of continuing along the Bakers Tank Trail to connect to the Argentine Meadow or all the way back to the Boreas Pass Trailhead at the end of the pavement.

Gold Dust Trail: Continue along Boreas Pass Road, over the summit, and proceed down to the Park County side of the pass. In a short distance, you will come to the Gold Dust Trail, a single track that winds its way through spruce forests then aspen groves as it descends to the historic railroad town of Como.  Arrange to have a vehicle pick you up, return the way you came, or loop back on Boreas Pass Road. About 10 miles one way.

Aspen Alley: This one takes the cake as one of the best fall trails in Breckenridge, and it’s not hard to tell why. This short yet stunning hike is located between Boreas Pass Road and the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, and features some of the biggest groves of aspen trees in Summit County. If you’re planning to drive on Boreas Pass Road for the autumn foliage, be sure to also throw this trail into your leaf peeping plans along the way.

 

Make a Loop of It: Boreas Pass to Fairplay to Hoosier Pass

Fall trees changing colors in Breckenridge.
Fall in the high country is short and sweet. While it’s impossible to determine exactly when the leaves will change, historically, mid-September is the most vibrant.

Following the abandoned railroad grade, Boreas Pass road terminates in Como, but not before traversing miles of golden aspen forests with distant views across the open grazing lands of South Park. From Como, drive US Highway 285 south toward Fairplay, with sunny yellow aspen forests all along the route. In Fairplay, take a break at the South Park City Museum where you’ll learn more about early railroading and life in a western mining camp. From Fairplay, follow Colorado Highway 9 north to Alma where the valley of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River is lined with extensive aspen forests. Complete the journey back to Breckenridge by heading up and over Hoosier Pass where you can stand again on the Continental Divide and take in the views of the Blue River valley. Allow several hours for this 55 mile loop.

 

Aspen Viewing around Town

Cheers group and dog walking Main Street fall Breckenridge
Main Street is surrounded by beauty from its mountain backdrop to the tranquil Blue River lined by Aspen trees.

Hike/Bike:

Pence Miller Ditch from Town Overlook:  The miners moved a lot of water around the mountains for their mining endeavors, leaving a web of ditch trails for our aspen-viewing enjoyment. The Pence Miller Ditch circles Shock Hill, offering a variety of views and micro-climates as it meanders through an aspen forest. Park at the Town Overlook on Ski Hill Road, and look for the trailhead sign across the road underneath the Gondola. The trail switchbacks steeply before reaching the mostly-flat ditch. Proceed north for the best views of fall colors.

Carter Park to Jacks Cruel Joke: From Carter Park on High Street, climb the sledding hill to the ditch trail at the top, then proceed south to find massive spruce trees and aspen canopies over the trail. Jacks Cruel Joke is a steep hiking and biking trail that switchbacks down through the aspen forest with outstanding views of the Ten Mile Range and the Breckenridge Ski Area, before looping back to Carter Park on the Sunbeam Trail.

 

If You Go:

  • For more trail ideas on where to find fall colors in Breckenridge, visit Breckenridge’s Open Space and Trail Page or stop by the Welcome Center and pick up a trail or town map.
  • As always, remember to Leave No Trace and always practice responsible tourism to care for Colorado so other can enjoy it too. Learn more about Leave No Trace ethics and how to care for Colorado.
  • No car? No Problem. With several base areas for skiing, a gondola from town and a trail network accessible just blocks from Main Street, most activities–including skiing, hiking, biking, shopping, eating, live music and more–are just a short stroll away once you reach downtown Breckenridge. Take advantage of our free bus system, free hotel shuttles, bike rentals and ride-share apps.
  • Want more fall fun? Start checking off activities from our list of 100 Things to do in Fall in Breckenridge!

By Breck Editorial

The Breckenridge Tourism Office works to enhance and promote the unique character and experience of Breckenridge as a world-renowned destination resort and to represent, serve and perpetuate the common interest and character of its membership and community.

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