Saturday, September 26, 2015

Where to find fall colors

Posted By on Sat, Sep 26, 2015 at 8:44 AM

Summer is quickly fading into memory, and in our forests and parks, most green things are starting to turn to yellow — fall is here and winter isn’t far behind.

Everyone has their lists of places to go to see fall colors I'll share mine. Some of the following require some hiking, but after all, that is what I write about. I shared some of my favorite fall colors spots about this time last year, and that list is still good, but here are some additions:

Cheeseman Ranch Trail, Mueller State Park: On the north end of the park, the Cheeseman Ranch Trail is not only the longest single trail in the park, but it winds its way through a forested area and through the old ranch. There are a few old buildings and fencing which makes for a good foreground or backgrounds for foliage pictures. I suggest taking the trail clockwise for the easiest hike and best views. This hike is best in the afternoon.

To get there: Take U.S. 24 west from Colorado Springs for 25 miles through Woodland Park, to the town of Divide. Turn left onto S. Highway 67 for 3.5 miles. Entrance fees do apply.

Crags Trail (Trail 664): Just past Mueller State Park, the Crags trail offers a variable landscape with rocky cliffs and large boulders to work as a background for fall colors. The wide, expansive view from the crags at the end of the trail also make for good photos. The moderate out-and-back trail is a little under 6 miles round trip.

To get there: Follow the directions above for Mueller State Park, then pass the park entrance and look for Forest Service Road 383 going over a creek on the left. Take 383 for about 3.5 miles, passing a Mennonite Camp along the way, to the Crags trail parking lot.
click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone


Teller County Road 61 (4 Mile Road) runs roughly parallel to Colorado Highway 67 and offers plenty of color without the traffic on the main road. You can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your car, but for a better experience, Dome Rock State Wildlife Area, approximately two miles south of the Highway 67 on 4 Mile Road, offers some great hiking trails.

A sign at the trailhead shows all the trails, however, there are few signs after that. Take a picture of the sign with your phone for reference.

Your best bet for fall colors is the Willow Creek Trail (trail number 40), which ascends from the parking area in to a thick aspen forest. 4 Mile Road reconnects with Highway 67 just past the cut-off to Victor at Teller County Road 81.

If you're looking to do some leaf viewing in places that are otherwise inaccessible, a ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad is a great option (tickets running from $79 to $189 depending on length of the ride and accommodations). The coal powered steam train departs from Antonito Colorado, about 28 miles south of Alamosa on US 285, and crosses the Colorado-New Mexico border 11 times along it's 64 mile trip to Chama, New Mexico.

The views and photo ops are great, and many places along the route are inaccessible or very difficult to access without the train ride. During a recent ride (CTR invited me to travel at no charge) I was able to enjoy the views and take pictures from a “parlor car” and also an open car with complete freedom of movement. Attendants on the train, similar to flight attendants, are on hand to serve drinks and snacks and also double as tour guides, while docents offer an additional wealth of knowledge.

The high point of the route is where the railroad crosses Highway 17, at the top of Cumbres Pass, with access to the Continental Divide Trail just a few yards from the tracks. Hikers who are registered with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition can hitch a ride on the train at a reduced rate.

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone


These lists are not meant to be all-encompassing lists, and you will likely have your favorite places that aren’t included here.

The Springs should be showing some fall colors very soon. Southern Colorado is starting to turn, but is probably 10 days from peaking. In Teller County, especially the Divide, Cripple Creek and Victor areas, the colors should be peaking by the weekend of September 26th.


Added Bonus: September 26th is National Public Lands Day, and access to National Parks and Monuments is FREE.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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