Because of a wet September, the leaves are changing colors late this fall. But, this week is the chance to see them at their peak. With the Maroon Bells closed because of the government shutdown, there are still plenty of options when it comes to leaf-peeping.
Drive 11 miles up the Castle Creek Valley to Ashcroft. Here, swathes of aspen trees blanket the surrounding hillsides. Snow-covered peaks tower over the ghost town of Ashcroft, where hundreds of miners lived before the turn of the 20th century. It’s possible to take a self-guided tour of the ghost town, while enjoying the landscape at the same time. Bundle up, at 9,500 feet, it can be chilly up high.
The Rio Grande trail runs 42 miles from Aspen down to Glenwood Springs. Once the path of a railroad, it’s now a paved multi-use trail for cyclists, runners and even horseback riders. Hop onto any section of the trail, which parallels the Roaring Fork River, for spectacular views of changing leaves set against the rushing water. Picturesque and peaceful.
Drive the eight miles to Snowmass through Owl Creek Rd., an open two-lane road with sweeping groves of aspens on all sides of it. Old barns, beautiful homes and a bike path line the road. Once in Snowmass, there are a number of on-mountain hikes, restaurant patios and open-space areas to take in the scenery.