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If you’re looking for Colorado’s must-see fall festivals and autumn activities, you’ve come to the right place!
Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year in Colorado (and happens to be my favorite season).
It’s when the crazy summer heat is beginning to cool down but we haven’t been dumped on with snow yet.
It’s the perfect time to explore small-town festivals and enjoy outdoor fall activities. There are so many ways to get active while being outdoors.
Fall in Colorado can come and go quickly. Check out this interactive map to see when the fall foliage changes nationwide.
Unlike in many other places, fall is a very swift transition from summer to winter. In fact, we’ve left a town while it still felt like summer and come back a few weeks later to a full blown winter!
Growing up in Colorado, Ryan remembers the leaves changing color, random early snow storms as early as October, and pumpkins — so many pumpkins!
In this post:
Best Fall Festivals and Events in Colorado
What team are you on? #TeamCider or #TeamPSL?
Ryan and I have a chat about what we think the real flavor of the season is…he thinks it’s cider and I love pumpkin spice everything!
Whether you’re #TeamCider or #TeamPSL, there are tons of festivals and fall activities to do in Colorado!
1. Elk Fest
Visit Estes Park, Colorado (at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National) Park for Elk Fest on September 28-29, 2019.
This festival celebrates the annual elk rut (or breeding season), known by the Native Americans as the “wapiti.” This is a classic Colorado festival that many native Coloradans will remember from their childhoods!
2. Great American Beer Festival
Grown ups will enjoy the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado October 3-5, 2019.
This three day festival showcases nearly 700 different Colorado breweries and thousands of beers available to taste and enjoy. Plus, if you use the Untapped app, you will love checking bottles off the 2019 menu!
3. Telluride Festival of Cars and Colors
Car lovers can soak up a world-class automotive celebration and the stunning September foliage at the Telluride Festival of Cars and Colors in Telluride, Colorado.
This festival kicks off September 26, 2019 and goes through the 29th. Collectors and enthusiasts can enter their car or motorcycle in the show. And spectators of all ages can join in the fun during the Medallion Hunt, the photo contest, and more!
4. Local Farmers Markets
Foodies and #buylocal shoppers will enjoy the fall Farmers’ Markets! Most markets throughout the state run well into September and October and are open most days of the week.
This handy PDF from Colorado.gov summarizes all the farmers’ markets happening around Colorado. Find one near you!
5. Denver Botanic Gardens Pumpkin Festival
While in Denver, visit the Denver Botanic Gardens Pumpkin Festival, October 11-13, 2019. Tickets to the Chatfield Farms include access to the 10-acre pumpkin patch and lots of activities for the whole family, including:
- Local craft and artisan booths
- Live music daily
- Pony rides and horse-drawn hayrides
- And a mini-maze for kids!
Bring your own wagon to haul away your pumpkins! And don’t worry: if you’ve picked your perfect pumpkin but you’re not ready to head home just yet, free pumpkin day care is available while you enjoy the rest of the farm.
Best Fall Festivals at Night
Wanting a family night of fun? Check out the best fall festivals that happen at night here in Colorado.
6. Boo at the Zoo
Visit the original creatures of the night when you attend Boo at the Zoo at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in October!
This is a great evening activity for kids and adults alike. The whole family will enjoy dressing up in costume to visit the animals at the zoo. It’s all treats and no tricks at the zoo this Halloween!
The Denver Zoo also offers its own spooky twist on Halloween at the zoo when you attend Enchanted Hollows in October! Travel along an eerie trail at twilight as the forest comes alive with nocturnal noises. But don’t be scared, this is family fun for all ages.
7. Glow at the Gardens
Later in October, return to the Denver Botanic Gardens for their incredible Glow at the Gardens, a luminous nighttime celebration of America’s favorite gourd!
Running October 21-25, 2019 tour the gardens at night to see spooky lighting displays and hundreds of carved, lighted pumpkins.
All of the pumpkins are real and harvested from local farms to create incredible sculptures and unbelievably detailed jack-o-lanterns. Bring a bag for trick-or-treating and stay for the glow-in-the-dark games and other fun activities!
Popular Hikes and Drives in the Fall in Colorado
If you’re looking for that fabulous fall foliage, head to the mountains in late September or early October. You will not be disappointed!
8. Glenwood Canyon
We highly recommend a fall visit to Glenwood Canyon, which we have featured in our Guide to Glenwood Springs.
Turn off I-70 into the mountains, through Glenwood Canyon (like you’re headed to Aspen) to see all the trees changing near Frisco. We make the trek every year in October to soak up the colors and really feel those fall vibes along the Colorado river!
You can’t go wrong with a drive through a canyon! Not only will you be surrounded by beautiful fall foliage, there’s always somewhere to pull off and go for a hike.
Hikes can vary from easy to moderate to rock-climbing-level of difficulty. So, pick a pace that works for you and enjoy yourself!
9. Sunshine Canyon
A favorite hike of ours in the fall is the Sunshine Canyon Trail near Boulder, Colorado.
This is a moderate difficulty out-and-back trail clocking in at 2.3 miles with only 300 feet of elevation gain. This would be a great hike for older kids or people with dogs. Plus, the views of the city behind you are incredible!
10. Cripple Creek
Another great place to visit in the fall is Cripple Creek, Colorado. This historic gambling and mining town is on the southwest slopes of Pikes Peak.
It was once the hub for thousands of gold-seeking miners. Today, it’s a cute little town with lots of fun activities in the fall, including train rides, a donkey herd, an old mine, and the Cripple Creek Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum!
11. Peak to Peak Highway
A can’t-miss drive for fall foliage is the Peak to Peak Highway. Starting in Estes Park, this 55 mile journey will carry you through Allenspark and onto the town of Nederland.
You’ll continue through Blackhawk until the highway ends at Interstate 70. Set aside about 2 hours for the journey (plus more if you take frequent stops for pictures, snacks, and shopping in the many towns along the highway!).
Before the snow turns this town into the famed ski resort, head up to Breckenridge to enjoy the fall season.
This town has plenty to offer in the still-off season, including a Wine Classic, Oktoberfest, and Spirits Festival. Not to mention, there are tons of outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking and fly fishing, and — of course — the stunning fall foliage.
Pro tip: The trees change color about three weeks before the lower elevation parts of Colorado do. So, if you’re planning a trip to the mountains, it’s better to go early than too late!
13. Woodland Park
But, you don’t have to go all the way up into the mountains to see the leaves change. Right in Colorado Springs’ backyard is the smaller town of Woodland Park, Colorado also called the City Above the Clouds.
If you’re looking for a relaxing place to experience nature and wildlife, we love that Woodland Park is a perfect fall hideaway. It also has some of the best free campsites for RVing that we enjoy visiting.
Fall Foods and Foodie Festivals in Colorado
There are some fall foods that every native Coloradoan just can’t resist. And newcomers will quickly be hooked too!
14. Palisade Peach Festival
There is nothing like a Palisade peach in the fall! Load up on these local peaches for some ah-may-zing peach cobbler, peach chutney on pork chops, or just eat them fresh.
In the harvest season, you’ll find plenty of squashes, like pumpkin and butternut squash. My favorite flavor of fall is sage, which gives an earthy, homey flavor to those warm and filling dishes we all love this time of year.
Fun fact: There are lots of kinds of sage that grow natively in Colorado and can be eaten straight off the bush.
15. Happy Apple Farm
Growing up, a childhood favorite of mine was an annual visit to Happy Apple Farm in Penrose, Colorado (near Pueblo).
At this pick-your-own fruit farm, you can bring home fresh fruit as well as jams, jellies, donuts, and cider from the country store.
16. Morrison Cider Festival
On September 28, 2019 head to Morrison, Colorado (southeast of Denver) for the Morrison Cider Festival!
Enjoy free admission for hot mugs of apple cider and activities like horseshoe tournaments, pony rides, and live music. Hard ciders are also available to sample for a fee for adults.
17. Chile & Frijoles Festival
Celebrate Pueblo, Colorado’s famous green chile at the Chile & Frijoles Festival, September 20-22, 2019.
Throughout late August and early September, you’ll often see chefs charring green chiles in barrel drums outdoors. But come fall time, there’s no better place to partake of Pueblo’s favorite food than this festival.
Stay for the cooking competitions, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, and the farmers’ market!
18. Applefest in Cedaredge
On the first full weekend of October 2019, be sure to check out Applefest in Cedaredge, Colorado! It’s on your way toward Grand Junction and Palisade.
And it’s home to row after row of apple trees. Applefest has more than 150 vendors, and features a classic car and antique tractor show, and live music.
There is even a beer stein holding competition for those over 21. It’s a 5 hour drive from Denver, but so worth the journey for a real small-town fall feel.
Fall Festivals and Activities on the Front Range
If you’re looking for traditional fall festivals and autumns activities, check out the fun events all along the Front Range.
19. Rock Creek Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze
Kids and adults will love the Rock Creek Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze in Broomfield, Colorado. This is one of the largest pumpkin patches in the state and boasts over 100 acres of pumpkins to pick!
There are three corn mazes to choose from, including one that traces 5 miles of maze across 30 acres of field. Rock Creek Farm opens late in September and remains open through Halloween.
20. Punkin Chunkin
Oh. My. Gourd. You can’t miss Punkin Chunkin in Aurora, Colorado! At the Arapahoe Park Racetrack in Aurora on September 21-22, 2019 you’ll get a front row seat to all the punkin chunkin competition.
Competitors will shoot pumpkins with cannons, fling them with catapults, and generally throw some gourds around. Come for the chunkin, stay for the chainsaw-carving, the you-pick pumpkins, live music, crafts, and food and beverage vendors.
21. Oktoberfest Denver
Beer lovers rejoice! Oktoberfest Denver on September 20-22, 2019 and 27-29, 2019 offers free admission and more than just beer (although the beer selection is incredible!).
All ages will enjoy the dachshund derby, costume contests, food booths, polka dancing, and live music.
22. Parade of Homes
As the summer winds down, we personally love to check out the Springs Parade of Homes.
Hosted in August in both Colorado Springs and Denver, this is a fun way to see some of the amazing homes that have been built in Colorado.
You’ll see unique features that most traditional homes don’t have, like secret doorways behind bookcases and trapdoors to movie theaters!
When it comes to fall activites in Colorado, it’s a blast no matter what you do. So head for the mountains, eat your fill, or explore spooky new places.