September marks the start of Colorado’s Fall – a beautiful myriad of gold, burnt orange and yellow leaves dot the mountain landscape whilst wildlife spotting opportunities abound (be it a migration of tarantulas or elk rutting in the Rockies). Locations across the state are ready to be explored by travellers seeking new experiences and spectacular scenery in the great outdoors.Read on to see what’s new and on the horizon in the Centennial State…
Rediscover Colorado with these top adventures this Golden Season
Rockies to Red Rocks route in Fall, credit Rocky Mountaineer
- Traverse the Rockies to the Red Rocks with Rocky Mountaineer: About to complete its first full season, the Rocky Mountaineer’s only U.S. route, between Denver and Moab, offers passengers premier seats for experiencing Fall colours across landscapes that are otherwise not accessible. Starting in Denver, the route passes Winter Park ski town and follows the Rocky Mountains to it’s overnight stop, Glenwood Springs, home to the largest hot spring pool in the world. The following day, passengers can enjoy the spectacle of the autumnal mountain landscape changing to red rock as the Silver Leaf train service approaches the Utah border. Rocky Mountaineer recently extended its 2023 All Aboard Promotion, in which travellers can save $1080 AUD per couple on qualifying bookings with select travel dates in 2023, bookings to be made before 30 September 2022 (valid on packages and rail only through travel agents or online).
- Hike the World’s Largest Flat-Top Mountain (Grand Junction): Among Grand Junction’s spectacular red cliffs and winding canyons, visitors can marvel at the 11,000-foot Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain, which boasts more than 300 lakes. At 350,000 acres, the Mesa is graced with deep forests of aspens set against Colorado pine, spruce and fir and offers breathtaking ranges of fall colours. Crag Crest Trail offers a high alpine hike atop the spine of the Mesa, perfect for fall colour viewing.
- Fish at Lake San Cristobal (Lake City): Enjoy the state’s second largest natural lake against the backdrop of vibrant aspen trees. This deep blue jewel is rich with trout, and the area’s best kept secret is that fall is the best time of year to go fishing, as fewer anglers are out and fish begin to bulk up for the winter. After a long day out on the water, visitors can head to the south end of the lake, in the Red Gulch Day Use Area, for dynamic views.
- Ride the Rails to the Top of Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs): What’s better than a view from the top? The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, America’s highest railway, takes guests up Pikes Peak topping out at a height of 14,115 feet and offering stunning Colorado mountain views and some of the country’s best fall foliage landscapes.
- Bike Gold Level Trails Amongst the Golden Leaves (Snowmass Village, CO): Tucked into one of the most beautiful and accessible parts of the Rocky Mountains, Snowmass is the launching pad for accessing over 75 miles of ultra-scenic mountain biking and road cycling surrounded by brilliant gold aspen leaves. The destination and surrounding Roaring Fork Valley is an International Mountain Bicycling Association designated IMBA Gold-Level Ride Center.
- Soar Above The Leaves in A Hot Air Balloon (Steamboat Springs): Offering stunning views of the Steamboat Springs area, the Flat Top Mountains and Hahn’s Peak, an inactive volcano, Wild West Adventures in Steamboat offers incredible fall hot air balloon rides. Early morning flights include a champagne ceremony after the flight and a personalised flight certificate.
- Get a cliff ledge view on a Via Ferrata adventure: Climb cliff walls on a guided Via Ferrata experience for the best views across the treetops. Options across the state include Telluride, Ouray, Estes Park and Royal Gorge.
Get A Culture Fix in the mile high city
Culture seekers should head to Denver this season as the highly anticipated world premiere of Theater of the Mind, co-created by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and writer Mala Gaonkar, opens on 13 September. The show is described as “an immersive journey of self-reflection, discovery and imagination, inspired by and grounded in neuroscience.” It’s also an intimate experience with less than 20 audience members for each 75-minute performance. The show, hosted by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) Off-Center, takes place in a 15,000-square foot warehouse at York Street Yards in the Clayton neighbourhood of Denver. Other cultural highlights in the city this season include MeowWolf Convergiversary – a 1-year celebration of MeowWolf Convergence Station in Denver, which surpassed 1 million visitors in June with two ticketed parties on 17 September. The inaugural Denver Walls international mural festival kicks off on 22 September in the Globeville neighbourhood and River North (RiNo) Arts District, with 4 days of street artists reimagining the city’s walls.
Love This City Mural, photo credit Visit Denver, So Gnar
Events worth travelling for this season
- Elk Fest – 1-2 October: The beautifully haunting bugle of a bull elk is unmistakable, and every October spectators head to Estes Park to experience the phenomenon. The elk gather there, at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, to show off for their ladies during the start of the rutting (breeding) season. At Elk Fest, visitors can learn about these beasts’ behaviour, observe them in their natural habitat, participate in a bugling contest and see performances by American Indians. This year, The YMCA of The Rockies is also offering an Elk Ecology Class in which participants enjoy hands-on activities to learn about elk biology, herding dynamics, habitat requirements for survival and seasonal behaviour changes.
- Great American Beer Festival – 6-8 October: Celebrating 40 years in 2022, the Great American Beer Festival will be showcasing 500 of America’s best breweries and more than 2,000 beers to sample. Pairings match independent craft breweries and acclaimed chefs from across the country whilst more than 10,000 beers will be judged in the USA premier beer competition. Tickets are already sold out for 7 and 8 October with availability still for the opening day, 6 October.
- First Annual Tarantula Fest – 8 October: Each fall, large numbers of tarantulas skitter across the landscape in La Junta and southeast Colorado. While this phenomenon has traditionally been called a migration, it’s actually an annual mating ritual performed by male tarantulas who roam across the 443,000-plus acres on the Comanche National Grassland. The mating season starts once the temperatures cool at night, which is typically around the start of September. The first annual Tarantula Fest will be held in La Junta Saturday, October 8, and will include guided tarantula tours, an educational pavilion and much more.
- Denver Arts Week – 4-12 November: Denver Arts Week celebrates The Mile High City’s arts and culture scene with hundreds of events around the city. Explore vibrant art districts, outdoor sculptures, indulge in the performing arts, be inspired at literary events and even buy some art of your own. One of the week’s highlights is Saturday Night at the Museums on Nov. 5, when many of Denver’s top cultural institutions will be open for free from 5-10 p.m. – a great opportunity for families to explore all the city has to offer!
Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, credit Matt Inden
Haunted Hot Spots
Colorado is home to 1,500 ghost towns, with a storied past of cowboys, bandits and gold diggers. Halloween inspired haunts are aplenty and anyone prepared for a scare should check out these top three spooky spots:
- Ashcroft Ghost Town (Aspen): Once home to two newspapers (even Denver only has one!), 20 saloons, a school and many private homes, Ashcroft faded before the turn of the century. Only 10 miles from Aspen, take a guided tour of a dozen or so buildings preserved by the Aspen Historical Society, including the jail, livery stable and a couple saloons.
- Black Monarch Hotel (Victor): In the late 1800s during the town of Victor’s heyday, what was then called the Monarch Hotel served miners and international travelers as the Gold Rush fueled their indiscretions. Today, visitors enjoy this renovated boutique hotel and its paranormal activity. Those working the hotel bar have reported strange sights that they cannot explain, including a woman’s silhouette in the window when no one was there and the sounds of women laughing and men yelling in the middle of the night. Victor is the site of the Colorado Labor Wars, innumerable Gold Rush era murders and industrial accidents, so it’s said to be one of the most haunted cities in Colorado.
- Hotel Colorado (Glenwood Springs): This 1893 Glenwood Springs accommodation is known as one of the state’s most haunted thanks to the paranormal activity that takes place under its roof. Both guests and staff have reported getting goosebumps at the sound of a woman wailing, and the lights are known to flicker unexpectedly. Hotel Colorado’s eeriness is ramped up by the fact that the basement was once used as a crematorium for World War II military personnel. The hotel has just completed a multi-million-dollar restoration including all guest rooms which may have awoken some spirits…
Just for fun...
Think you know Colorado? Wordle, the web-based game developed by Josh Wardle and then acquired by the New York Times in 2022, has become a smash hit among puzzle-players. Now, there is Coloradle. Answers will be popular activities, landmarks and locations, public figures, colloquialisms, and well-known businesses or brands associated with Colorado. One puzzle is released daily at coloradle.com ranging from four to eight letters long.
View of Snowmass Village in Fall, credit Jeremy Swanson
Colorado has changed – for the better. We’re the same great State you remember, only more so! And if you are lucky enough to visit, please help us Care for Colorado – Leave No Trace. The set of principles is aimed at guiding travellers to show care for the state’s water, land and wildlife while helping protect special Colorado places. Colorado loves Aussies and can’t wait to see you here again. Come, re-discover Colorado and embrace our changes for the good.
Find out more and get a copy of the Colorado Official State Vacation Guide at www.colorado.com
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