Fall is one of the best seasons here in Rio Grande County and surrounding Rio Grande National Forest. Warm days and cool night temperatures usher in the color change in the high country aspen trees. Change can start as early as September 10th and usually peaks around September 25th- October 1. Here are a few of our favorite drives to view the brilliant hues. P.S.Don’t forget your camera!
Del Norte Peak Road
Between Del Norte, CO and South Fork CO on Hwy 160: Just 1 mile east of South Fork turn off on Forest Service Rd 60 (also shown as Wen Dar Drive) located just east of Tiny Timbers Bistro & Resort on the map below. Enjoy the drive to view aspens in all their glory.
Pinos Creek Road Loop
West Side of Del Norte, CO on Hwy 160: Turn left on the first road Pinos Creek Road. (Cty Rd 14) Drive past private property into Rio Grande National Forest (all Forest Service (FS) dirt roads from here) and into some of the prettiest, tall, old growth stands of Aspen Trees in the area. At the chickens foot intersection take a right (FS RD 332) and continue on toward the west (if you want a longer day out of Aspen Viewing) to FS Rd 360 which will take you all the way to drop into Beaver Creek Reservoir Area and on to South Fork, CO. See the map below. click to enlarge.
Silver Thread Scenic Byway
At the fork on US Hwy 160 in South Fork CO take the turn to CO Hwy 149. This is the beginning of the Silver Thread Scenic Byway driving tour. This is an all paved road car tour from South Fork, thru Creede, CO and over Spring Pass & Slumgullion Pass to Lake City, CO. (or as far as you decide to go) You will see a variety of terrain, from hills to mountains to lakes and plenty of Aspens including some of the most spectacular stands along the way. Be sure to add this to your list of places to drive. Also, Don’t forget to make the short 1/2 mile turnoff to view North Clear Creek Falls too. It is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Colorado.
Park Creek Road
Take Hwy 160 West of South Fork (towards Wolf Creek pass) to the Park Creek Road (FS Rd 380) Turn off to the left. Continue on up Park Creek Road to aspen viewing areas for miles. You will likely see deer along this route and enjoy the creek and wildflowers. It’s a beautiful drive in the summer or fall. Wintertime it is a favorite snowmobile trail.
From Monte Vista, CO take US Hwy 285 north (also known as North Broadway Street intersection with the Dairy Queen on the corner) to Saguache, CO. There you will meet up with CO Hwy 114. Turn left there onto Hwy 114 also marked to Gunnison, CO. Enjoy incredible views of not only the fall aspen color, but the fascinating geology of this region. Several volcanic calderas are located in this part of the San Juan Mountains. Approaching Cochetopa Pass you will see some “columnar basalts” which formed in the manner as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. View map below for starting location.
Beginning at Monte Vista, CO. Turn South from US Hwy 160 onto CO Hwy 15 (also shown on the map as Gunbarrel Road). Go South 12 miles to the 12 Mile Road (County Rd DD) Turn West (right) go 12 miles west to the Alamosa/Conejos River road (FS Road 250). Then follow FS Road 250 17 miles up the Alamosa River and over Stunner Pass to Mix Lake. Beautiful Platoro Reservoir is just west of Mix Lake on FS Road 247. As you travel this route you will see aspens along the river and larger stands as you climb. Going over Stunner Pass you will be following the path of late 1800’s gold miners who dreamed of striking it rich. The town of Platoro (plata-meaning gold and oro-meaning silver) was founded as a mining camp. View History.
From South Fork, CO travel west on CO Hwy 149 to the Town of Creede, CO. Continue west on Hwy 149 for 7 miles. Turn left and travel southwest on FS Road 523 for 10 miles to Love Lake. All along the dirt road of FS Rd 523 you will climb into the mountains from the foothills. There are views of entire hillsides of aspen trees along the way. So breathtaking. Love Lake is a great place for a picnic and some fishing. Enjoy a family day or some romantic alone time on this trek.
So many places to go, So many trips to take…you will want to stay longer in Rio Grande County!