Scenic Autumn Drives in Colorado With a Destination

Post Updated: September 14, 2017

It seems that every Colorado travel writer has authored an article about scenic fall drives around our beautiful state. I’ve decided to do the same, but with a twist. With gas prices going back up (again), it’s hard to justify driving miles and miles simply to take photographs of aspen trees, however, I’m going to share with you three scenic autumn drives around Colorado that have a destination.

Kenosha Pass Sept 19 2009
The view from Kenosha Pass, Colorado on September 19, 2009. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer
Route: Guanella Pass Scenic & Historic Byway
Destination: South Park City Museum in Fairplay, Colorado

Accessible either from I70 at Georgetown, or via Grant at US 285, this 23-mile alpine route takes you through Pike and Arapahoe National Forests. My recommendation is to start in Georgetown with a delicious breakfast at The Happy Cooker.

After breakfast, take this lovely fall drive to the town of Grant, where you will turn right on US 285 and take the highway 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass. At the top of the pass, you get a breathtaking view of the South Park area. I’ve seen it often because my in-laws have a home outside of Fairplay, Colorado. It’s a truly gorgeous scene at any time of year, but during autumn the mountain and valley glow with huge groves of yellow aspen.

South Park City Museum is a re-creation of a Colorado mining town using real structures from around the area that have been relocated to the museum’s property. I’ve written about the museum HERE on HeidiTown. You can visit them online at  or find them on Facebook. It’s a worthy destination for this scenic fall drive.

Recommended Stay: Every room at the Hand Hotel B&B in Fairplay is said to be haunted. On my stay, I didn’t see any ghosts, but I closed my eyes every time I walked by “Grandma’s Room,” where a rocking chair is said to rock periodically without anyone in it.

Hiking the Mineral Belt Trail in Leadville, Colorado.
Hiking the Mineral Belt Trail in Leadville, Colorado.
Route: Independence Pass, Hwy 82 from Aspen to Twin Lakes
Destination: Leadville

Independence Pass is the 32 miles on Hwy 82 that connects Aspen to Twin Lakes, Colorado. At 12,095 feet, the summit of the pass marks the Continental Divide. This byway offers amazing scenery during the spring and fall.

The road traverses through the White River and Pike & San Isabel National Forests. The route takes you through aspen groves and towering granite walls, tundra, and meadows. Those with a fear of heights may find their hearts in their throats at times, but the views will be worth it.

There are lots of campsites and hikes along this stretch of highway along the slopes of the Sawatch Range.

Leadville Colorado in the fall. Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
Leadville in autumn.

Once you pass Twin Lakes, Colorado, turn north on US24 and in approximately 15 miles you’ll arrive in Leadville where you can participate in a cemetery tour this fall or simply enjoy an outing on the Mineral Belt Trail.

Leadville has a colorful history filled with memorable characters and I think it’s one of the last truly authentic Colorado mountain towns.

Recommended Stay: Colorado Trail House, read my review here.

Peak-to-Peak Scenic & Historic Byway
Destination: Black Hawk, Colorado

This 71-mile route, from Estes Park to Black Hawk will take you through an aspen dotted landscape and past the 14,255-foot Longs Peak. From Estes take CO-7 East to CO-72 East (eventually becomes Hwy 119) into Black Hawk.

Take time to stop over for coffee in the adorable town of Nederland, best known for Frozen Dead Guy Days. If you’re hungry for lunch, I’ve heard wonderful things about Crosscut Pizzeria & Tap House in Nederland.

Once you reach Black Hawk,  I don’t have to tell you what to do there. Cha ching!

Recommended Stay: Ameristar is more than just a casino. Read my review here.


If you have a favorite Colorado scenic autumn drive, feel free to leave a comment here and tell us about it.



  1. I’m not a huge road tripper so I like these ideas! Driving with a purpose. 🙂 Would love to be in Colorado in the fall sometime. Leadville sounds really neat.


    1. Thanks for stopping in town, Gina! 🙂

      Leadville is fantastic. All the fun and rowdy wild west history wrapped up into a place with fantastic views and really nice people. I often recommend it as a weekend get away for Coloradoans who might be new or haven’t visited the town before. It’s got a work-a-day feel, so not pretentious or touristy. Put it on your travel list! 🙂


      1. I have beautiful pictures taken on our way to Princeton Hot Springs. So glad we went when the leaves were in their flaming colors! Nice article.


        1. That is a beautiful drive. Kenosha pass to the Buena Vista/Salida area. It is beautiful at any time of year.


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