Vail Oktoberfest. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.


Fall in the Colorado Rockies is a glorious time to visit. The colors are mesmerizing and the weather is delightful—ideal for fall outdoor adventures.

Fall is an excellent time to visit the Colorado Rockies. The heat of summer is over, yet the days are still warm, and the nights are cool and crisp. The weather is ideal for outdoor adventures, the landscape is picture perfect, and the summer crowds have disappeared. Vail and Aspen are my two favorite places to stay, eat, and play. September, October, and November boast festivals that fill the pedestrian streets, another reason why fall in the Colorado Rockies is my favorite time to visit.

A Painter’s Palette—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

In the fall, aspens, cottonwoods, Douglas firs, lodgepole pines, Rocky Mountain maples, and willows paint the hillsides of the Colorado Rockies. Evergreens maintain their deep shades of green, but the broadleaf deciduous trees provide an ever-changing array of colors. Initially, the leaves turn from their countless shades of summer green to scarlet, red, carnelian (a reddish-orange), and vibrant yellows.

Maroon Bells. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Maroon Bells during fall in the Colorado Rockies. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

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As the season progresses, the reds turn to russet or maroon (a reddish brown), the oranges to ambers and golden auburn, and the yellows to lurid (a pale yellow color signifying that the leaves are about to die). This spectacular color palette drew me and many others to the Colorado Rockies in the fall.

Late fall at Maroon Bell. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Late fall at Maroon Bell. Photo by Ronda Kimbrow

Residences at The Sebastian-Vail—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

My son Garrett and daughter-in-law Victoria live in Colorado. They joined me for a trip, and we stayed in Vail Village for the first few nights. The Residences at The Sebastian-Vail make the perfect home away from home. The apartment or condominium-style accommodations offer first-class amenities, fireplaces, balconies, one to four bedrooms, full kitchens, and stunning views of the valley or mountains. We stayed in one of the spacious three-bedroom residences.

Residences at The Sebastian-Vail by Shawn O'Conner. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Residences at The Sebastian-Vail. Photo by Shawn O’Conner

The residences are only part of The Sebastian-Vail, located in the heart of Vail Village; hotel rooms and suites are also available. At The Sebastian-Vail, we found ourselves surrounded by a delightful blend of warmth and sophistication. The library’s tall ceilings, numerous books, and leather couches were striking, and the art in the lobby and public areas added to the luxurious ambiance.

Victoria in The Sebastian-Vail's grand library. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Victoria in The Sebastian-Vail’s grand library. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Delicious Dining in Vail

First, Garret, Victoria, and I headed to the Bully Ranch Restaurant for dinner. It is known for its tasty wagyu burgers, which lived up to their hype, and the truffle tots were phenomenal. Bully Ranch Restaurant is located directly across the pedestrian street from The Sebastian-Vail. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails and walked back to our residence worry-free.

Wagyu burger at Bully Ranch Restaurant. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Wagyu burger at Bully Ranch Restaurant. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

We dressed up for dinner on the second night and began with a cocktail at Leonora. Garrett ordered a chocolate old-fashioned; it was a nice twist on a familiar favorite. Victoria and I sampled two of the restaurant’s signature drinks: the skyscraper made with bourbon and the Violet Beauregard containing 18 Belvedere vodka. Leonora and Frost Bar are inside The Sebastian-Vail; each venue offers scrumptious traditional cocktails and delightful seasonal options.

Fall in the Colorado Rockies and a chocolate Old-fashioned at Leonoras.

Chocolate Old-fashioned at Leonora. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Executive Chef Kevin Erving uses fresh, local, and organic ingredients to create an exceptional tapas experience. I’d say that an ideal evening includes an inspired cocktail or two, wine, and dinner with a series of shareable small and more significant dishes.

Leonora at The Sebastian-Vail. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Leonora restaurant at The Sebastian-Vail. Photo courtesy of The Sebastian-Vail



Dishes at Leonora change seasonally. The kids and I shared a variety of tasty choices, and the sommelier paired each with exquisite wines. Our favorite dish was the pork belly; it was moist, tender, and full of flavor.

Vail and Aspen Colorado in the Fall

Pork belly at Leonora. Photo courtesy of The Sebastian-Vail

An Adventure Outside—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

Fall is a fabulous time to enjoy the outdoors in a jeep, on a hike, or via horseback. We appreciated our adventurous jeep tour with Nova Guides Vail, Co. Our expert driver/knowledgeable tour guide made this excursion an exhilarating trip through the backcountry. Garrett and I rode in the back of the open-air jeep, and Victoria sat up front with the driver. The jeep excursion was a fun way to explore the area.

Jeep tour with Nova Guides Vail, Co. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Garrett, Victoria, and I on the jeep tour with Nova Guides Vail, Co. Photo by Garrett Beard

A Stroll Through the Village—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

Vail Village boasts an abundance of tasty eateries, posh clothing stores, fancy bars, and cozy coffee shops. The village is family-friendly.

Kids playing in Vail Village. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Kids playing in Vail Village. Photo courtesy of The Sebastian-Vail

Our local tour guide painted a great picture of Vail’s persona. She told us, “Summertime brings people that love the outdoors, like hikers and cyclists, and the area has a laid-back vibe. In the winter, people change. This pedestrian corridor becomes a different type of happening place, and it is known as ‘Vail’s Promenade.’ People dress up, get out their furs, and walk around to see and be seen.”

Fashion in the Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Fall fashion in Vail Village. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Oktoberfest rocks in Vail. One evening, Garrett, Victoria, and I went out to peruse the pedestrian streets lined with booths selling food, drinks, and wares. It was a festive time filled with music and streets bursting with locals and visitors.

Vail Oktoberfest at night. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Vail Oktoberfest at night. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

The Little Nell—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

We left Vail and headed to Aspen. We stayed at The Little Nell—Aspen’s only Five-Star, Five-Diamond, ski-in/ski-out hotel. The Little Nell is part of Relais & Châteaux, an association of independent innkeepers, chefs, and owners who share a passion for their businesses. I love every Relais & Châteaux hotel and restaurant I have visited. Each one is unique, luxurious, and offers impeccable service.

The Little Nell Paepck Suite by Shawn O'Conner. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

The Little Nell Paepck Suite. Photo by Shawn O’Conner

Our expansive room had two queen-sized beds, a lovely sitting area in front of a fireplace, a workspace, and an enormous bathroom. The lobby featured a fireplace and a well-appointed sitting area.

The Little Nell Living Room by David Marlow. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

The Little Nell Living Room. Photo by David Marlow

Decadent Dining in Aspen

Element 47 is one of seven restaurants at The Little Nell, and Chef Matt Zubrod, the executive chef and culinary director, runs the show. His menu showcases Colorado’s contemporary cuisine and features wagyu beef, house-made pasta, and seasonal produce. Diners can enjoy Chef Zubrod’s cuisine paired with wines from The Little Nell’s award-winning wine program.

Elements 47 Chef Matt Zubrod. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Elements 47 Chef Matt Zubrod. Photo courtesy of Janelle Patrick.

We began our dinner at Element 47 by sharing the wagyu tartar topped with an egg yolk and an heirloom tomato tart with Palisade peaches, arugula pesto, and burrata. I ordered the wagyu steak with potato pave, locally foraged mushrooms, and shishito peppers. I finished the meal with a rich and creamy chocolate mousse.

Element 47 Chocolate Mousse. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Element 47 Chocolate Mousse. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Dinner is not the only meal at Element 47; breakfast is also a treat. The offerings include the classic morning essentials—like coffee prepared a million ways, juices, eggs, and bacon—but Chef Zubrod puts some yummy twists on the menu. We ordered the light and fluffy lemon soufflé pancakes with raspberry syrup, toasted pine nuts, and fresh raspberries, the perfect combination of sweet and tart. The house-made seasonal pop tart was superior to the ones from the store, and the wagyu enchiladas with eggs, salsa, and cotija cheese were sublime.

Lemon souffle pancakes at Element 47. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Lemon souffle pancakes at Element 47. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Betula Aspen

Betula Aspen, one of the area’s fine dining establishments, is a short walk from The Little Nell. The restaurant, owned by Chef Laurent Cantineaux and architect and restaurateur Juan Carlos Pérez Febres, serves Chef Laurent’s creative French Pan-American cuisine.

Betula Bar. Photo by Romeo Balancourt. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Betula bar. Photo courtesy of Romeo Balan.

Cocktails at Betula Aspen arrive in various glasses, colors, and deliciously unique taste profiles. I was glad there were three of us at dinner so I could sample more than one drink. Chef Laurent sent his ceviche bonito with striped bass and sweet potato to the table; it was light and refreshing.

Betula cocktail by Romeo Balan. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Betula cocktail. Photo by Romeo Balan.

His roast Peking duck with pineapple chutney was incredible, and the crispy-skin striped sea bass was moist and flaky. We finished with the raspberry cream cheese mousse and a delectable, warm, caramelized apple Napoleon.

The caramelized apple Napoleon at Betula Aspen. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

The caramelized apple Napoleon at Betula Aspen. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

A Wine Cellar Experience—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

The Little Nell allows guests to book private tastings from their celebrated wine cellar. A sommelier will lead guests through a private tasting. The kids and I participated in the sampling, and I had fun watching Garrett and Victoria get an education in wine. I enjoyed sipping some varietals that I had never tasted.

Little Nell Wine Room. Fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Little Nell Wine Room. Photo by Janelle Patrick

An Audi Experience to Maroon Bells—Fall in the Colorado Rockies

Guests at The Little Nell can test drive the all-electric Audi E-Tron. Victoria and I took the swanky new car with all the fancy bells and whistles for a spin to Maroon Bells.

The car ride was exhilarating, but the splendor of the new car could not compare to the two towering 14,000-foot mountains that appeared before us in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Fall in the Colorado Rockies. An Audi Experience.

An Audi Experience. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

We exited the car and stood stunned at the resplendent scene before us. The aspen trees bathed the hillsides in a dazzling golden yellow. We meandered down one of the nature trails to get closer to the magnificent display of fall colors. Most people take a bus to Maroon Bells, which requires a reservation.

Fall in the Colorado Rockies. Strolling through Maroon Bells.

A stroll with Victoria through Maroon Bells. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Articles Related to Fall in the Colorado Rockies

Visit the Colorado Rockies in the Fall

Since my kids live in Colorado, I have visited several times in the winter to ski, summer to hike, and spring to check out the food scene in Denver. This trip was my first fall visit but will not be my last.

Red Cliff Bridge in the fall in the Colorado Rockies.

Red Cliff Bridge in the fall in the Colorado Rockies. Photo by Tracy Ellen Beard

Fall in the Colorado Rockies is the most glorious time to visit. The colors are mesmerizing, the weather is delightful, and it is one of the best times to be outside experiencing new adventures. Check out suggestions from the travel experts at Wander about what else to do when you visit Colorado, along with more fall adventures.

Fall in the Colorado Rockies is the most glorious time to visit. The colors are mesmerizing and the weather is delightful, making this an ideal destination for outdoor fall adventures.

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Fall in the Colorado Rockies

Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Valentino Pattaya