5 Scenic Drives in the Pikes Peak Region
Did you know that aspens gain their yellow color from flavonols, the same protein that contributes to the color of egg yolks? Did you know that when nights get chillier and the leaves’ chlorophyll production slows down, that’s when aspens blaze golden?
It’s almost that time of the year when the colors start to change and one of the best ways to see this is on a scenic drive. The Pikes Peak region has so many choices, you may want to take more than one winding mountain road to feed your fall foliage fix.
1. Scenic Foliage Drive to a Fishing Hole
Albert Camus said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
During late September and early October, you’d be hard pressed to find a bouquet any brighter than the trees lining the route to Rampart Reservoir—you might even schedule some time to fish underneath the trees. Reported lake trout activity there in the fall might see you catch a supper-sized trout as the reservoir is stocked by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. If you’d like to hike a bit during your foliage forays, trail #714 (Rainbow Gulch) #700 (Rampart Reservoir) and #709 (Nichols) are all easy to moderate options.
2. Cripple Creek’s Gold Rush
Locals love heading up the winding roads through Woodland Park, Divide and finally, ending up at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center where the 280-degree windows open up an amazing view of the aspens in season. The 2-Mile High Club hosts tours starting at 9 a.m. on September 28 – 29 beginning at the Cripple Creek District Museum lasting all day until 3:30. These donation-based tours benefit the free-roaming donkey herd, believed to be the descendants of the working donkeys of the early days of the gold camps in Cripple Creek and Victor. You may see some aspen groves that are long-lived, with some colony root systems lasting for thousands of years. Each individual tree lives from 40-150 years above ground but these colonies will continue to send new trunks up as the old ones die out.
3. The Gold Belt Scenic Byway
On the Gold Belt Scenic Byway you can drive some or the entire 135-mile loop that takes you through some of the passes that stagecoaches and railroads traversed back in the day. Be sure to stop at the Florissant Fossil beds; Victor for some coffee and donuts; Cañon City and Florence when you tire of navigating the beautiful switchbacks.
4. Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain
Trees close off veins that carry water and nutrients to and from their leaves to protect their limbs and body from freezing temperatures that may damage or kill them. The leaf weakens and dies and finally falls. But before that happens, travel up the twists and turns of the 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway to experience a burst of autumn colors. A beautiful drive year-round, fall is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience to soak in this 14,115-foot view.
5. Skyline Drive in Cañon City
This unpaved, one-lane road is a popular drive or hike with unparalleled views of Cañon City below. Stop at a handful of pull-offs for incredible photo-ops. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the dinosaur tracks settled in the side of the walls and interpretive signs marking one of the most prehistorically rich areas in the country. Enjoy a glass of award-winning Colorado wine among among gleaming aspen groves in the Wet Mountains.
Here’s a quick guide to when the leaves will be changing in the Pikes Peak region: