Bike, Drive, Boat or Hike to See the Beautiful Fall Colors in Summit County Colorado
The fall colors in Colorado are nothing short of spectacular. The yellow aspens are stark against the brilliant blue sky. The groundcover turns contrasting shades of red and orange. Even with the sun shining, there is a slight chill in the air and the smell of fall. It is magical.
Not only does Summit County offer the most beautiful mountain scenery, but there are also so many adventurous ways to enjoy that scenery. Here is my guide to enjoying the fall colors in Summit County Colorado by bike, car, boat, and hike. Pick one adventure, or if you have time, do all four.
Know Before You Go
Weather – Because the majority of Summit County is above 9,000 feet in elevation, it can get chilly in the fall. The temperature swings are drastic, often dipping below freezing at night and then warming up during the day. Dress in layers to be prepared for any weather.
Crowds – Because Summit County is so beautiful in the fall and only an hour’s drive from Denver, it can get crazy on the weekends. Visit during the week if at all possible. If the weekend is your only option it will still be amazing, there will just be more people, bikes, and cars everywhere. Be patient and keep in mind that everyone is visiting for the same reason as you.
There are 55 miles of paved bike path in Summit County, Colorado. 55 miles! Riding a bike is the perfect way for people of all ages and abilities to take in the fall colors of Colorado.
There are bike rental shops in Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Keystone, Frisco, Copper Mountain, and Dillon. Anywhere you stay in Summit County you will find a bike rental shop nearby. There are also many different options for the kind of bikes to rent. You can get a road bike, mountain bike, tandem bike, or electric bike. If you have a baby or toddler you can rent a pull-behind trailer with your bike. For older kids, you can rent a kid’s sized tandem bike or a kid’s sized mountain or road bike.
My favorite sections of the bike path for viewing fall colors are the Dillon Reservoir Recpath from Dillon Marina to Frisco, the Tenmile Recpath from downtown Frisco to the hospital, and the Snake River Recpath through Keystone. This map will show you all 55 miles of the Summit County rec path along with some helpful elevation gain/loss information.
The Summit Stage is a free bus with stops throughout Summit County. In the summer and fall, the Summit Stage is equipped with a rack on the front of the bus to carry bikes. If you find that you’ve gone too far and don’t want to ride your bike back, find a Summit Stage stop and take advantage of the free ride.
My favorite fall colors drive in Summit County is from Breckenridge to the top of Boreas Pass. We usually do it a few times each autumn to catch the fall colors at their peak.
To get to Boreas Pass, turn east on Boreas Pass Road on the southern edge of Breckenridge.
-If you have a few extra minutes, stop and take the short walk to see the Breckenridge Troll. The trailhead is on the right just after you turn on Boreas Pass Road. Read Breckenridge Troll Isak Heartstone – a Must See In Breckenridge for more information.
Boreas Pass Road is a paved road that winds up the side of the mountain with amazing views of Breckenridge ski resort across the valley. When you get past the neighborhoods the road turns to dirt but a four-wheel-drive vehicle isn’t necessary if the road is dry. Beautiful golden aspens are along either side of the road for the first few miles after it turns to dirt.
-Boreas Pass is the most popular leaf viewing drive in Summit County so expect to see heavy traffic. Even with the traffic, the beautiful fall colors are well worth the drive.
There really is nothing better than seeing the fall colors from a boat on Lake Dillon. Don’t have a boat? No problem. Both Dillon and Frisco Marinas rent boats through September and even into October, weather permitting.
Pontoon boats, perfect for big groups and families with young kids, are available to rent at both Summit County Marinas. Along with pontoon boats, the Frisco marina also rents fishing boats and ski boats. Dillon Marina also rents sailboats. I’ve rented boats from both marinas and it was a great experience every time.
Even on the weekends, the lake isn’t crowded in September. Going out on a boat is the perfect way to relax and take in the beautiful mountains and fall colors.
Don’t forget to dress warmly. It is much cooler on the water, especially if the wind is blowing.
There are so many amazing hikes to view the beautiful fall colors in Summit County Colorado, but the Old Dillon Reservoir trail is by far my favorite. At a mile and a half and an elevation gain of only 200 feet, it is the perfect hike for all ages. Eli has been doing this hike since he was two years old. The gentle climb takes you through several stands of aspens with views of Lake Dillon and the surrounding mountains. The trail ends at a small reservoir surrounded by breathtaking views.
Getting there – The Old Dillon Reservoir trailhead is on the Dillon Dam Road, between Dillon and Frisco, west of the dam. Look for the trailhead sign on the north side of the road.
Although this is an extremely popular hike in the fall, I’ve never had a problem finding a parking spot. If the parking lot does fill up, just wait for someone to leave. Because it is such a short hike you won’t have to wait long. If you want to avoid the crowds, go during the week or early in the morning.
Where To Stay In Summit County
There are so many great lodging options in Summit County. Here are a few of my favorite in each area-
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For amazing views, the perfect location, and every amenity you could wish for, One Ski Hill Place is where you want to stay in Breckenridge. One Ski Hill Place is at the base of Peak 8 with direct access to the free Breck Connect Gondola that will take you into town.
If you are only staying in Frisco for a night or two I would suggest getting a room at the Frisco Lodge. The location right on Main Street is perfect. It is nice to hang out around the fire pit or enjoy the hot tub after a long day checking out the fall colors.
For longer stays, there are many incredible condos or home vacation rentals. Check VRBO for availability and pricing.
The outdoor heated pool at The Keystone Lodge and Spa is amazing! The Keystone Lodge and Spa isn’t in River Run Village so it is a quieter, more peaceful location. Besides the pool and location, I love that you can access the bike path and hiking trails right from the hotel.
Seeing the fall colors in Summit County Colorado is an experience you will always remember.
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