For many, fall in Colorado is their favorite season.

As the temperature drops, our state sees a transformative change with the color changes that make the forests shimmer like gold. The aspen, oak, birch, maple trees, and forest floors explode in a range of yellows, oranges, and reds.

One of the best places to see these colors is Durango, Colorado, in the state's southwest corner. Durango is situated in a valley with several surrounding mountains, so you can bet that the views are incredible.

With so many places to explore in and around Colorado, it's hard to figure out where to go to see fall colors. Thankfully, we're making it easy for you!

Here are 10 of our favorite places to see the fall colors in the Durango, Colorado, area:

#1 La Plata Canyon

West of Downtown Durango, Colorado

La Plata Canyon and Mountains in the Fall

La Plata Canyon is a long, narrow canyon that the La Plata River has cut.

Home to Durango's mountain range, the La Plata Mountains, this area is often looked over as a great place to view fall colors.

While it's only 30 minutes from downtown Durango, La Plata Canyon feels like you're in a new world compared to the mesas surrounding Durango.

Compared to other places on our list, La Plata Canyon is easily accessible via the forest service road: Country Road 124.

When you arrive at La Plata Canyon, we suggest parking your car on one of the many pull-offs and finding a trail down to the La Plata River. Along the river, you'll have incredible views of golden aspens against the towering 13,000-foot peaks in the valley.

#2 On the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's Line

Through the San Juan National Forest

Durango Train in the Fall

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a historic train that takes you on a journey through the San Juan National Forest. During the fall, two rides are available:

  1. To Silverton, Colorado
  2. The Cascade Canyon Express

Regardless of which train you take, you'll have plenty of time to take in all the incredible fall colors.

As you ride past the Animas River Valley, you'll see golden aspens, red oaks, and maples underneath the towering 13,000-foot peaks.

If you're interested in riding the train, we suggest making your reservations early as trains fill up quickly during peak season.

#3 Hermosa Valley During the Animas Balloon Rally

North of Downtown Durango

Hot Air Balloons During the Animas Balloon Rally in Fall

Every fall, the Animas Balloon Rally takes place in Durango. This event is a must-see if you're visiting during the fall season.

Over 30 hot air balloons from around the world come to Durango for nine days to fill Hermosa Valley with color. You can see the balloons take off every morning around 6 AM and then again in the evening around 6 PM.

If you want to get up close and personal with the balloons, we suggest attending one of the many events that take place during the rally. Each day offers something different, from live music to food trucks.

You can find a full schedule of events on the Animas Balloon Rally website.

#4 Along the Animas River Trail

Downtown Durango

Biking on the Animas River Trail During Fall

As the days get shorter and our trees catch less and less sun, the leaves' green hues fade to reveal those beautiful gold and yellow colors. If you’re hunting for aspen groves, look no further than the Animas River Trail.

The Animas River Trail is located just a short walk from downtown Durango and is an easy, family-friendly walk. The trail follows along the Animas River for 7 miles, but you can begin and end your hike from anywhere you choose. The trail is great for sightseeing, photography, family time, and biking.

Check out the bridge next to Rotary Park and the Fish Hatchery for a truly incredible view of the aspens on the river.

#5 Around Molas Lake and Pass

North of Downtown Durango

Grenadier Range During Fall from Molas Pass

Molas Lake is a stunning mountain lake popular among hikers, fishermen, and photographers. The lake is located at an elevation of 10,910 feet and is surrounded by aspen trees that turn beautiful gold in the fall.

We recommend hiking trails that take off from the Molas Pass parking area. These trails are moderate to difficult and will take you through some of the gorgeous aspen groves in the area.

#6 Vallecito Reservoir

East of Downtown Durango

La Plata Canyon and Mountains in the Fall

Peak foliage around Durango typically falls within the last two weeks of September. If you have a full day to explore during this golden window, drive the short and scenic 22 miles to Vallecito Reservoir.

There are miles of trails to explore in this region and plenty of parking areas along the lake. Look for the Walking Path signs that follow the water’s edge, and be sure to make frequent stops for photos.

#7 Hermosa Creek Trail

North of Downtown Durango

The Hermosa Creek trail weaves through the San Juan National Forest for miles just north of downtown Durango. Along the trail, you'll be immersed amongst aspen trees, oak, pine, and more as you hike with views of Hermosa Creek at the bottom of the valley. Within a few miles, the forest opens up, exposing the La Plata Mountains to the southwest. 

Hike as far as you like on the trail and turn around. For the adventurous, the Hermosa Creek trail connects with Telluride.

If you're looking for a great way to spend 3-4 days during fall in Durango, we can think of no better backpacking trip!

#8 Colorado Trail to Elk Park Overlook

North of Downtown Durango

Hikers on the Colorado Trail During Fall

One of the most popular fall hikes in Durango is the Colorado Trail to Elk Park Overlook. This trailhead is located at Molas Pass and heads east towards the Animas River along the Colorado Trail.

The Elk Park Overlook offers incredible views of the Animas Valley, the towering mountains of the Grenadier Range, and miles of aspens that will take your breath away. The hike is moderate in difficulty and takes about 3 hours round trip.

#9 Colorado Trail to Gudy's Rest

North of Downtown Durango

Durango is home to the terminus of the Colorado Trail, a 486-mile trail that winds to Denver. But you don’t need to plan for a thru-hike to experience some incredible fall views around here.

The route to Gudy’s Rest is an 8-mile out-and-back that climbs a little under 1,000 feet in elevation. The first 2.5 miles follow along Junction Creek, a perfect area for fishing and photography year-round. Once you cross the footbridge at mile 2.5, several switchbacks will take you quickly up to Gudy’s. After hiking through thick trees for 1.5 miles, you will be well rewarded by a panoramic mountain scene. There is a bench where you can rest and take in the scene, so be sure to pack a good lunch!

#10 Million Dollar Highway

North of Downtown Durango

Coal Bank Pass, North of Durango, CO

Ready for a full day to relax and take in the scenery? You’ve never truly experienced fall in Colorado until you’ve driven along the San Juan Skyway. Traveling north up Highway 550 towards the historic town of Ouray, this scenic road was named one of “America’s Best Spring Drives” by Travel & Leisure Magazine, and for good reason.

Keep going past the small mining town of Silverton and you’ll reach the Million Dollar Highway, a 25-mile section of road that takes you all the way to Ouray. Nationally acclaimed for its historical significance and scenic features, folks from all over the world have come here to drive this winding way.

The best places to stop along the Million Dollar Highway are the high points. The road will take you over three prominent mountain passes: Coal Bank (10,640’), Molas (10,970’) and Red Mountain (11,018’). Be sure to stop at each for unbelievable photo opportunities! 


It's no surprise that Durango, Colorado is a fall paradise. There are hundreds of miles of trails, forest service roads, and county roads at your fingertips - allowing you to explore endlessly this Fall season.

If you're looking for a little more adventure as you leaf-peep around the area, hopefully, you pulled some spots off our list and added them to your Durango fall colors bucket list! And as always, let us know your favorite way to experience fall in Durango!