Capture spectacular colors in enchanting locales.
Have you ever stood amid a grove of aspens? With white bark and delicate leaves fluttering in the breeze, golden aspen trees are a sight to behold, from the majestic Rockies to the vast wilderness of Alberta, Canada. In the cooler months of September and October, these beauties turn into shimmering wonders and their leaves become a brilliant yellow. If you're yearning to take in amazing aspens this autumn, head to these 10 outstanding places for spectacular foliage displays.
Set in southwest Colorado, Telluride is a challenge to reach, but is well worth the effort, especially come fall. Take a quick and free gondola ride from the town of Mountain Village to Telluride's box canyon, which is surrounded by mountains on all sides and showcases golden trees in every direction. A hike to Bridal Veil Falls, the tallest free-falling waterfall in the state, offers spectacular views of the town, the mountains and abundant aspens. Enjoy views of the changing leaves from your spacious room at The Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Klammer Lodge at the top of the mountain or at The Hotel Telluride, a charming ski lodge.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If you're a foliage fan, head to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons in September to catch an unforgettable display. Autumn is a lovely time of year to visit, with dry weather, inexpensive accommodations and uncrowded national parks. Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, just a half-mile from Grand Teton National Park, offers a National Parks Explorer package that lets guests get out and see the golden aspens and wildlife at both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. The package includes passes to both parks, a field guide to the parks written by the hotel's on-site naturalist and a $100 resort credit for a post-hike massage or meal.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Located to the west of Vail, Beaver Creek's resort village offers a quiet yet upscale mountain retreat. Admire the changing aspens with a horseback ride to Beano's Cabin, a gourmet restaurant set high in the mountains. Or enjoy a 6-mile roundtrip hike up Beaver Lake Trail or some mountain biking with rentals from Beaver Creek Sports. For a memorable dinner with striking vistas, head to the Beaver Creek Chophouse at the base of the mountain or check out the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain's restaurant Maya, which offers a modern take on Mexican cuisine and an outdoor patio, for excellent mountain viewing opportunities.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The southwestern city of Santa Fe makes a great base for leaf-peeping, especially at the tail end of September into mid-October. "One night in a few weeks the entire mountainside of the Sangre de Cristo Range above town will turn gold, transmuting the entire mountainside into an aspen wonderland," says John Feins, a public relations manager with Tourism Santa Fe. The Ski Santa Fe chairlift is a convenient way to catch a panoramic view, as is a hike up the Aspen Vista Trail. You can also take a casual stroll through town along Alameda Street and the Santa Fe River Trail to see a rich palette of colors.
Part of the Aspen ski area, Snowmass Village offers a secluded place to enjoy the autumn's ever-changing leaves. Set in Aspen's beautiful backcountry, Snowmass Village offers shopping, dining, a free gondola and the upscale and modern hotel Viceroy Snowmass. This property, which offers a contemporary take on western design, has a special package to let guests enjoy an iconic 10-mile, one-way hike from Aspen to the town of Crested Butte for superlative alpine views, including the iconic Maroon Bells. Guests arrive by private transport at the trailhead, enjoy a prepared gourmet picnic lunch and then are returned to the resort at the end of the hike by helicopter or private car.
Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies transitions into a golden wonderland dappled with aspens come fall. Visit from mid-September to mid-October for peak colors and sublime larch trees. These needled trees turn a stunning yellowy-green hue throughout September. Standout viewing points with stunning backdrops include Vermillion Lakes, Larch Valley, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, along with the Hoodoos Trail on Tunnel Mountain looking down the valley. But you'll find a colorful, postcard-worthy landscape at nearly every turn.
Keystone, which is conveniently just about 80 miles west of Denver, is known for its outstanding skiing and outdoor sports. The fun begins in fall with weekend gondola rides up to the top of Dercum Mountain for breathtaking views of the aspens and valley below. The Keystone Adventure Center in Lakeside Village offers stand-up paddleboards, bike and boat rentals and the chance to enjoy rounds of golf at area courses surrounded by golden aspen-fringed meadows.
Kings Hill Scenic Byway, Montana
For picturesque displays of brightly hued yellow aspens against the snow-dusted peaks of Big Sky Country, head out on one of several iconic drives to capture endless wide open spaces and fall landscapes. The Kings Hill Scenic Byway winds through 10 miles of mountains, lakes and streams, as well as the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Roll down your windows to breathe in the fresh alpine air, or grab a mountain bike for a challenging workout (and incredible 360-degree views). Don't skip the half-mile hike to two scenic falls along the Memorial Falls Trail.
Estes Park, Colorado
Located outside of Rocky Mountain National Park and just 76 miles from Denver International Airport, Estes Park enchants visitors with brilliant changing leaves and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities. Visit during the Elk Fest, Oct. 1-2, when you can look at dawn and dusk to catch sight of tens to hundreds of elk gathered beneath a picturesque backdrop. Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the U.S., makes for a wonderful fall drive with sweeping vistas. For a more extreme leaf-peeping experience, you can actually camp on the side of a cliff with Kent Mountain Adventure Center.
Park City, Utah
In the heart of Park City's Deer Valley sits Montage Deer Valley, a ski resort that's only a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake International Airport. At 8,100 feet above sea level, it's the perfect spot to watch the aspens pop alongside the red maples through mid- to late-September. Soar over the canyons on a hot air balloon ride or take a short trip up Empire Pass and Guardsman Pass for spectacular mountain vistas.