As daily high temperatures begin to drop and the nights become increasingly brisk, the signs of fall are beginning to add up. The aspens are also beginning to show off their colors with Colorado State Forest Service experts predicting those peak colors for southern Colorado could be up to a week early due to the ongoing drought throughout the state.
For those looking to capture the colors either by means of photography or just plain sight, our area offers a plentitude of opportunities to jump on before the leaves begin to fall. Trinidad Tourism Director Marty Hackett recently expressed such opportunities were most easily found traveling the Scenic Highway of Legends (State Highway 12).
“In this region of Colorado the traffic is light and local establishments are mostly one-of-a-kind,” said Hackett. “The spectacular geological backdrop is shaped by the Spanish Peaks, the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain ranges.”
In addition to the colors, Hackett said they are encouraging visitors as well as residents of the area to turn the excursion into a day trip.
“Trinidad and Walsenburg are gateways to the 82-mile Scenic Highway of Legends that boasts world-class geological features including a system of radial dikes unique in North America, the Kp-Boundary (that marks the extinction of the dinosaurs) and the Dakota Sandstone Wall,” Hackett explained. “Join the locals at the Dog Bar and Grill in Cuchara, or take a guided tour with JW Ranch Nature Excursions outside La Veta.”
For views of the radial dikes Hackett mentioned, Stonewall is the place to go and fall colors are in ample supply there. The town is just 32 miles from Trinidad on Highway 12.
Another great stop along the way to catch the beauty of fall in the iconic Colorado mountains is at Cuchara Mountain Park, just up the road from the Dog Bar and Grill toward Trinidad on the right. The park is open for public strolls and some of the old cross-country ski paths make passable hiking trails. The park will also be hosting a disk-golf tournament on September 26 for the more active fall enthusiasts. For more info, visit their webpage, TheCucharaMountainPark.org.
Hackett also shared that the three scenic byways in Southern Colorado had joined forces this year to feature a road trip that offers infusions of fall colors and points of interest.
“Fort Garland, Antonito, San Luis, Mosca and Alamosa are gateways to the 129-mile Los Caminos Antiguos (Trail of the Ancients) Scenic Byway that reaches from Alamosa to the Great Sand Dunes through the culturally rich San Luis Valley,” said Hackett. “Here travelers can tour Spanish mission churches or ride the Historic Cumbres and Toltec Railroad. Highway 17 offers stops at the UFO Viewing Station outside Mosca, or the Alligator Farm near Alamosa.”
Hackett added that taking the cake for golden aspen views was the 117 mile Silver Thread Scenic Byway near Lake City and South Fork.
“Windy Point located just east of Lake City boasts superb views of 5 ‘fourteeners’ framed by unending miles of goldenrod Aspens,” said Hackett. “The North Creek Waterfall is photographed more than any other waterfall in Colorado. This high-elevation byway has self-guided walking tours in Lake City and Creed, both historic silver mining towns.”
For itinerary details on the three scenic byways for enjoying the beautiful Colorado fall colors, visit Colorado.com/colo-road-trips.