In the Roaring Fork Valley, once Labor Day weekend has come and gone, there’s no doubt that winter is on its way. Daytime temps can linger in the 70s, but in the Aspen evenings it’s not unusual to feel a familiar chill in the air. In fact, we’ve already had some snow up high which means that locals are discussing season pass options and what gear will fill any spare space in their closets. Around town the colors are changing which brings the most magnificent autumn landscape that I’ve ever experienced (and I used to live in the Adirondacks and Vermont– the “leaf-peeping” capitals of the northeast).

If you’re looking to maximize your fall experience in the Aspen area, you’ll get the most bang for your buck by planning a drive to one of the picturesque spots I’ve outlined below.

Aspen to Paonia

Fall colors Colorado

The drive to Paonia is a solid hour and forty-five minutes, but once you’re there it is well worth the effort. I recommend making a full day of it. Leave your hotel bright and early to maximize your time in this kid friendly gem of a town.

Located in Paonia, Avalanche Cheese Company’s farm tours can be booked in advance. You’ll have the chance to learn about how Avalanche’s hugely popular products are made and you might even get to cuddle with a baby goat! You can also book a breakfast, lunch or dinner on the farm that can be customized for groups of all size. Paonia also features a variety of local wineries and you can bike from one winery to the next.

Aspen to Hanging Lake  

Fall colors in Colorado

Hanging Lake is one of the most scenic spots in our area, especially in the fall. If you’re planning a trip and googling Aspen-area hikes, it probably won’t come up because it’s much closer to Glenwood Springs. The drive down highway 82 won’t be the most scenic of your trip, but once you’re in the Glenwood Canyon, you’ll forget all about that. The canyon walls are incredibly  steep, and the views are awe inspiring. Hanging Lake is located at exit 125.

The clear blue water looks more like something you’d experience on a Caribbean beach than off an interstate that intersects the US. The uphill climb isn’t a cakewalk, but it’s well worth the effort of the ascent. The waterfalls at the finish are all the reward you’ll need. After the hike, cruise back to downtown Glenwood for lunch at The Pullman.

Jeep Tours with The Little Nell

Fall drives- jeep tours in the fall

If you’re staying at The Limelight Hotel or The Little Nell, you have priority to sign up for a variety of custom Jeep Tours. The tours are also open to the public, but are gaining in popularity and may fill up in advance, especially when the fall colors are especially glorious.

The toughest part of any of these drives might be choosing which picture you take will be your next Instagram masterpiece. With so many camera-worthy options, make sure your batteries are charged and that you also take a least a moment or two to enjoy the view without any technology in hand.

Come see the colors in Aspen, it’s a sight to see.