Fall in Colorado is the perfect time to get outside and explore the amazing place we call home. The leaves change from green to bright yellow and orange, the air turns crisp (time to pull out those flannels!), and there’s really no good excuse to stay indoors. We can’t help but get excited about fall early in September, even on those 80 degree days. So, we put together this list of must-do fall experiences to share with your family. From hikes and scenic outings to the familiar tastes of autumn, add these five editor-approved picks to your family’s fall to-do list.
Listen to Elk Bugling
September to October is elk rut (mating) season, and during this time, the distinct, high-pitch bugle of the bull elk can be heard. If you haven’t experienced this spectacle yet, head to Rocky Mountain National Park, where herds of elk can be seen congregating (and bugling) in the park’s open spaces. Just outside the park in Estes Park, where elk are known to linger around town, listen for the elk bugle up-close. Don’t miss the annual Elk Fest from September 29-30, a free festival celebrating the elk rut with bugling contests, arts and crafts vendors, music, a beer garden, and kids activities.
Get Lost in a Corn Maze
Find your way through acres upon acres of tall corn stalks intricately designed to throw you off course, with twists and turns and surprises around every corner. Sound like fun? Heck yeah! Navigating a corn maze as a family is a must-do fall outing, and it’s a fun activity for any age. From the Front Range to the Western Slope, we rounded up some of the best corn mazes in Colorado. So take your pick, pile in the car, and prepare to get lost.
Eat Apple Cider Donuts
Although apple picking tends to be limited here in Colorado, there’s no shortage of apple cider donuts around this time of year. For the full orchard-to-table experience, head to Ya Ya Farm and Orchard in Longmont. Visiting the farm stand is free, and it’s stocked with everything your apple-loving heart desires, with a variety of fresh-picked apples, apple cider, apple pies, apple butter, and perhaps the best apple donuts on the Front Range. (OK, we may be partial, but you’ll just have to try them for yourself.) Made fresh daily, purchase these appley treats individually or by the half or full dozen. They are best enjoyed out in the orchard under the shade of an apple tree, with a bottle of cider.
While at the orchard, take a tractor-drawn hayride ($5 per household) and visit the farm animals (purchase carrots in the farm stand to feed to the horses). Round out the day with a self-guided tour of the property.
Pick Your Own Pumpkins
Pumpkins are ripe for the picking in September, when Colorado farms and pumpkin patches open to the public for fall harvest fun. At Rock Creek Farm in Broomfield—open for the season on September 29—families are welcome to stroll through the 120-acre pumpkin patch and cut the perfect pumpkin right from the vine, for $8 each. Stay awhile at the farm to enjoy a range of activities including corn mazes, a hay bale maze, farm animals, and food.
Go Leaf Peeping
If there’s one thing Coloradans love most about fall, it has to be the changing colors of the aspen trees in the Rockies. Whether you want to hike with the family, or just find the perfect Instagram-worthy spot for a family photo, Kenosha Pass is a relatively close option with amazing scenery. Located just outside of Grant, Colorado, about an hour and 20 minute drive from Denver, the pass offers easy to moderate hiking trails lined with golden aspens. Plan to go mid-to-late September for peak colors.
If you can swing a weekend getaway, Aspen is the place to go. The drive up Independence Pass alone is worth the trek. From mid-September to early October, quaking aspens fill the town of Aspen and surrounding mountains with a vibrant yellow hue. For more affordable lodging, opt to stay in Snowmass, which is just 20 minutes from downtown Aspen. The nearby Maroon Bells Scenic Area is a must-see and offers unbelievable views and hiking trails for the whole family.