Autumn in Summit County, Colorado, is nothing short of magical. As the air gets crisp and pumpkins begin to adorn doorsteps, another seasonal marvel unfolds—the changing colors of the leaves.
Known as leaf peeping, this popular autumn activity has attracted both locals and tourists to Summit County for generations. With miles of trails for hikers and picturesque drives for those who prefer to take in the views from the comfort of their cars, leaf peeping in Summit County offers something for everyone.
(And what better way to end your day of natural splendor than with a delightful dinner and delicious cocktails at Timberline Craft Kitchen + Cocktails?)
In this guide, we’ll explore the top leaf-peeping spots in Summit County for 2023 so you can plan the perfect fall day!
What is Leaf Peeping?
Leaf peeping is the colloquial term for the activity of traveling to view and photograph the fall foliage. As deciduous trees prepare for winter, their leaves change color, displaying a vibrant array of reds, oranges, and yellows.
This stunning natural phenomenon usually occurs from late September to early November, depending on the region and weather conditions. It’s a cherished seasonal tradition for many, offering a moment to pause, appreciate nature, and celebrate the transient beauty of life.
Summit County offers some of the best leaf-peeping spots in the United States! Let’s look at some of the best ways to view the fall foliage in Summit County for 2023.
Leaf Peeping by Car: North of Silverthorne
A drive through the Blue River Valley is an excellent option for those who prefer soaking in nature’s beauty without breaking a sweat.
Begin your journey in Silverthorne and head toward Kremmling via Highway 9. This route offers a variety of scenic views—think aspen groves, alpine meadows, and stretches of the sparkling Blue River—that will leave you reaching for your camera.
The road winds its way through the valley, offering different perspectives of the colorful foliage as you go. Not only will you be treated to vistas of golden aspens, but you’ll also have the opportunity to pull off several viewpoints for that perfect Instagram shot.
Leaf Peeping by Foot
If you love the sound of crunching leaves beneath your boots, then leaf peeping by foot is the adventure for you. Summit County offers an array of trails that cater to hikers of all levels, each offering unique and stunning vistas of autumnal glory. Below are some hand-picked trails for an unbeatable leaf-peeping experience.
To reach the trailhead, take Rainbow Dr. to Tanglewood Ln. in Silverthorne. This 6.1-mile one-way hike will take you up to the summit – but don’t worry, there’s a bench halfway up the trail for you to catch your breath and soak in the panoramic views. You’ll see the leaves shifting from green to shades of gold, red, and orange, set against the backdrop of the surrounding peaks.
Start your hike by taking Hwy 9 north to Bald Eagle Rd. This moderate 2.5-mile one-way trail offers spectacular views of Silverthorne, the Gore Range, and the Tenmile Range. As an added bonus, this trail connects to the Ptarmigan Trail at the top, offering you an extended hiking option.
Accessible from Ute Pass, this 4-mile one-way hike offers something most trails can’t: solitude. You’ll experience unparalleled peace as you meander through the colorful forest, with magnificent views of the Gore Range in the distance.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly option or perhaps a trail that accommodates both walkers and bikers, then the Blue River Trail is for you. This paved 3.5-mile trail runs through the heart of town, making it easily accessible. It’s perfect for those looking to capture the essence of fall without venturing too far from civilization.
Summit County Leaf Peeping Tips
Leaf peeping is more than just choosing a destination; it’s about making the most of your trip by being well-prepared. Here are some additional tips and essentials to keep in mind:
Best Time for Leaf Peeping
The peak time for leaf peeping in Summit County usually falls between late September and early October. However, this can vary depending on weather conditions, so checking local forecasts and reports before heading out is a good idea.
What to Bring
- Camera: A must-have to capture the colorful scenery.
- Water: Hiking can be tiring, and staying hydrated is essential.
- Snacks: Bring along some granola bars or fruit for a quick energy boost.
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking boots or sturdy shoes are recommended for trails.
- Layered Clothing: The weather can change quickly, so layers are a smart choice.
- Plan Ahead: Know the trail or route you will take and inform someone of your plans.
- Follow Trail Signs and Markers: Always stick to the marked path to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.
- Keep a Safe Distance: Pull over safely to take pictures if driving. If hiking, keep a safe distance from cliffs and other potential hazards.
Wrap Up Your Leaf Peeping Adventure with Timberline Craft Kitchen + Cocktails
Summit County, Colorado, is undeniably one of the best places to experience the mesmerizing beauty of fall foliage. Whether you prefer the laid-back ambiance of a scenic drive through the Blue River Valley or the invigorating trails that offer panoramic views of vibrant landscapes, Summit County has something for every type of leaf peeper.
But the perfect day doesn’t have to end when the sun sets behind the mountains. What could be better than a hearty meal and a refreshing drink after a day spent capturing memories and soaking in the seasonal beauty? Make sure to add Timberline Craft Kitchen + Cocktails to your itinerary. In the heart of Summit County, Timberline offers a unique dining experience that will be the cherry on top of your leaf-peeping adventure.
Add a little flavor to your fall escape with Timberline’s delicious scratch-made dishes and handcrafted cocktails. It’s the best way to enjoy the final moments of your day and the perfect way to cap off an unforgettable trip!