For many, fall in Durango, Colorado is their favorite season. As the temperature drops, Durango sees a transformative change with the color changes that make the forests shimmer like gold. With so many places to explore in and around the Durango area, it's hard to figure out where to go to see Durango's fall colors. Thankfully, we're making it easy for you.
Here are seven of our favorite places to see the fall colors in the Durango area:
#7 Animas River Trail
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 on the hunt 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.
For a truly incredible view of the aspens on the river, check out the bridge next to Rotary Park and the Fish Hatchery.
Great for: Short hikes, photography, river, downtown, history, running, bicycling, fly fishing, dogs
#6 Vallecito Reservoir
Peak foliage around Durango typically falls within the last two weeks of September. If you find yourself with 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.
Great for: Families, short and long hikes, full-day activities, water sports, photography, fly-fishing, dogs
#5 Hermosa Creek Trail
Sitting just north of downtown Durango, the Hermosa Creek trail weaves through the San Juan National Forest for miles. Along the trail, you'll see 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, 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!
#4 Colorado Trail: To Gudy’s Rest from Trailhead
Durango is home to the terminus of the Colorado Trail, a 486-mile trail that winds all the way 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, which is a perfect area for fishing and photography nearly year-round. Once you cross the footbridge at mile 2.5, there are several switchbacks that 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 here where you can rest and take in the scene, so be sure to pack a good lunch!
Great for: Moderate hikes, families, photography, sunset, running, mountain biking, half-day, thru-hikes, section hikes, fly-fishing
#3 Colorado Trail: To Lime Creek from Little Molas
If you just can’t get enough of section hiking the CT, we understand. Little Molas is located off of Highway 550 on the way to Silverton. The out-and-back to Lime Creek is only 5 miles, but it’s easy to spend an entire day here exploring the area.
Looking for an incredible vista without all the hiking? Pull off at the larger Molas Lake Overlook on the other (right) side of the road. It’s not unusual to see artists set up here with their easels and canvas. See for yourself and you’ll understand why.
Great for: Moderate hikes, families, photography, half-day, camping, section hikes, fly-fishing
#2 Cascade Creek Trail
Just below Engineer Mountain is the start of Cascade Creek Trail. To get there, travel north up Highway 550 for 2.3 miles past Purgatory Resort. Here, you’ll turn left up a dirt road that leads to the trailhead. You will need a high clearance or 4wd vehicle to get to the official trailhead, but there are more easily accessible parking spots along the way to the trail.
This moderately trafficked trail starts at a red gate and travels up for 3 miles along the cascade creek. On many days, it’s likely that the only other hikers you will pass are fly-fishers in the area. While it’s easy to spend hours meandering slowly through the alpine meadows and river crossings, stick with the trail and push through to catch the best view. At the end of the trail is a massive 150-foot waterfall!
Great for: Moderate hikes, photography, half-day to full-day activities, fly-fishing
#1 Million Dollar Highway
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!