Less than one hour away from Denver, Colorado is one of the best trailheads for fall foliage viewing. Last weekend I packed up the car, dog, and husband for one night of camping and we had an amazing fall weekend getaway. I found trails that would suit any fitness ability, lakes to swim/canoe in, and plenty of Forest Service campgrounds.
Hiking for Fall Foliage at Monarch Lake Trailhead. From this trail head you have upwards of 8 different hikes to chose from! The evening we arrived at our campsite (Arapaho Bay Campground, about 1 mile from trailhead) we enjoyed a 4 mile loop around Monarch Lake. The terrain was obtainable, and absolutely breathtaking. We spotted 4 moose from across the lake, enjoyed the fall colors, the interesting wetlands and forests! This trail is so nice (very little elevation gain or loss) I can understand why it is popular.
Cascade Waterfalls Hike The next morning, after cleaning up camp, we arrived back at the Monarch Lake Trailhead a little before 7 AM. There was plenty of parking available, primitive restrooms & water. We noted that the trail we wanted to hike enters wilderness areas, so we were prepared to keep our dog on leash the entire time (not to mention the moose sighting the day before). We made our goal to make it to the Cascade Waterfalls about 3.5 – 4 miles into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area ( a total hike of about 8 miles). They did not disappoint. There was some elevation again, but the trail was well marked and built. The clip below illuminates the fall foliage.
Cascade Waterfalls Ultimately we reached our goal of hiking to the waterfalls. If you keep going on this trail about 2 more miles you will reach Crater Lake and some well sought out geological formations! We saw a lot of people who had done weekend backpacking trips to the lake. There were at least 5 other trails that linked to this wilderness area. I cannot wait to go back and plan our own short backpacking adventure! To make your own plans visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/arp/recarea/?recid=28566.
Other Things to Know: When we planned this trip we were just planning on a quick weekend camping trip to enjoy Lake Granby (near the National Forest campgrounds), we spent a little time on the lake but ended up really enjoying the wilderness area instead. This weekend fall getaway would also appeal to water lovers – we saw plenty of paddle boarders, canoes & kayaks.
Make sure to plan your camping – recreation.gov does allow you to reserve campsites.
Be prepared; when entering the wilderness area make sure you know the rules. The big ones I am thinking about were keeping Honey (my golden retriever) on leash, packing my own litter in and out. I keep a well balanced daypack of water (minimum of 2 L), water-proof layer, nutritious snacks (I am inspired by Megans blog & instagram at https://wholisticwanders.com/dalisay/nutrition/ for some clean eating motivation), basic first aid, and sunblock (UV is no joke even in the fall in CO).
I hope you find the perfect fall foliage getaway and hiking options this next weekend. I sincerely recommend spending a little time at the Monarch Lake Trailhead – and please let me know how it goes! Happy Fall!