At first light, the morning sun streamed through the mist of yesterdays moisture on the north face of Pikes Peak revealing a blanket of blazing yellow and red color with a hint of white from a light snow last night. The Autumnal Equinox has just passed and the aspen trees in the high country of the Pikes Peak region are in full glory. Peak weekend with the associated rush of autumn color revelers is behind us, but the best is still ahead for those willing to take some time off work and head up to the high country during the middle of the week. The mountains are so much more peaceful and accessible without the weekend traffic to contend with.
There are many great places to experience the peace and calm cool ambiance of autumn in the high country west of Colorado Springs. The Barr Trail from the railroad station in Manitou Springs is the closest access to 14,000 foot Pikes Peak. The trail climbs so high that hikers are given the pleasure of passing through several climate changes on the way to the top. Trees at the bottom will most likely be green. Colors at the Barr Camp are in full glory and it may be winter at the top of the peak.
For those with four wheel drives, Rampart Range Road provides easy access to some great views of the peak and some great color along the inlet stream to Rampart Reservoir. The reservoir is also accessible from Rampart Range Road through the west approach from Woodland Park. To locate that route just drive to Woodland Park and turn north at the McDonald’s Restaurant on Baldwin Avenue. Stay on Baldwin until it becomes Rampart Road. Keep veering to the right to keep the Peak in view and to find the reservoir access.
The road up Ute Pass provides a number of excellent spots for leaf viewing including the Crystal Falls Trail to Crystal Creek Reservoir and the forest trail from Crystola to Bald Mountain. To find the Crystal Trail, exit highway 24 into the town of Green Mountain Falls. Park at the lake in center of town and walk up Hotel Street and turn right on Boulder Street. To make the Bald Mountain Climb, turn right onto Third Street in Crystola across from the Crystola Bar and Grill and drive to the dead end. The trail is accessible from northwest of the dead end.
Mueller State Park is also an excellent place to view the fall colors and a plethora of rocky mountain wildlife, including elk, deer, coyote, fox and perhaps even a bear or two. To locate the park drive west on Highway 24 to the town of Divide and turn south on Highway 67 towards Cripple Creek. The park is a few miles down the road on the right side. Highway 67 to Cripple Creek and Victor also provides some great aspen leaf color viewing and there are a number of places to pull off the road and soak it all in.
The weather is great this week and there will be plenty of sunshine to illuminate the trees. Don’t miss the last chance to enjoy the melancholy ambiance of autumn before the cold snows of winter arrive in the high country.