From glistening skyscrapers to glistening leaves. The drastic change is most welcome come fall in Denver.
One need not travel far from the metro to be immersed in the color that comes just once a year to the hills distant but not very far. Here are spots to consider within an hour's drive or so:
Butler Gulch Trail
Once a destination for gold underground, people now rush to Clear Creek County for the gold that splashes canopies overhead. For this 5-mile, out-and-back trail near Empire, you'll want to arrive early or go on a weekday; parking fills fast on weekends. Along with aspen, hikers delight in waterfalls and wildlife.
East on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs, Herman Gulch is another vibrant wilderness escape.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
This is a must-visit in autumn for the massive aspen groves and the variety of trails. Blue Grouse Trail is a short way to go, Mule Deer Trail is longer with the bonus of historic homesteads, and Raccoon Trail is a moderate option boasting Panorama Point, so named for the sweeping views of the Continental Divide.
Closer to downtown Golden, check out the paved Clear Creek Trail, with oak and cottonwood adding to the confetti.
This is another necessary pilgrimage for Denverites. The high road from Georgetown is a tunnel of autumnal bliss, with plenty of places to stop and take it all in along the 20-plus miles. If you've got cash for the fare, another unforgettable trip can be had on the Georgetown Loop Railroad.
Tucked in the woods along South Foxton Road in Conifer, we've found this 2,050-acre preserve to be fairly under-appreciated. The highlight of the 17-mile trail system is the Eagle View loop, cresting at views of the majestic Cathedral Spires.
The park shares the U.S. 285 corridor with Meyer Ranch, another great place for leaf-peeping.
Staunton State Park
Also reached along U.S. 285, Staunton is a mesmerizing mosaic of forests, meadows and granite cliffs. The signature outcrop is Lions Head, nicely visible along Marmot Passage Trail, a 2 1/2-mile round trip. Davis Ponds Trail is similar in length and similar in shiny foliage. Elk Falls is regarded as the highest natural cascade near Denver; you'll have to earn the overlook in a 12-mile round trip.