It is always exciting to come to the mountains, be it the wonder and awe a winter snowstorm can bring or the tranquil atmosphere and endless outdoor activities the summer can bring. The fall is sometimes the unsung younger sibling of winter and summer, but if you take a closer look, you can see why the fall is many residents’ ABSOLUTE FAVORITE time of year. Here are 5 reasons worthy of making the trip to Steamboat this fall.
1. Color Change
Every deciduous plant in the area will dawn it’s fall uniform as it prepares for the winter snows that are around the corner, this even includes the ferns and the undergrowth that will paint the trails a shimmering yellow and gold. The Cottonwood and Aspen trees turn a fiery yellow with hints of red and orange, it is truly awe-inspiring to be amongst this beauty. When fall is in full swing, the vibrant colors can be viewed from virtually anywhere you stand. See below for our suggestions on when and where the best places are to take in the color.
Time of Year:
Color becomes noticeable the end of August as things rush towards peak through the month of September as the color change works its way from low to high elevation. The best times to view are the last two weeks of September. By the second week of October, fall weather has usually knocked all but a remaining few leaves off of the trees.
Hiking and biking trails:
- Flash of Gold, Buffalo Pass – A moderate trail that starts at the top of the popular Spring Creek Trail at Dry Lake Campground and winds its way up through meadows and underneath aspen canopies. At the top, you can elect to go back down the way you came up, take the Buffalo Pass Road Down, ride the aggressive BTR bike trail down (bike and downhill only) or continue on up Buffalo Pass Road.
- Pioneer, Steamboat Resort – A blue square rated trail that connects Zig Zag trail and the top of the Gondola. This trail winds through lush aspen forests, over babbling brooks and through open meadows as it climbs its way up. Pop out at the top of the gondola for incredible fall views of the Yampa Valley. Ride the gondola up and hike/bike down, hike/bike up and ride the gondola down, choose to bike/hike back down one of the many options Steamboat Resort’s summer trails provide, or keep going up on the Sunshine trail for even more views and golden trail.
- Yampa River Core Trail – For a more relaxed and less committing endeavor, stroll along the Yampa River Core trail that spans seven miles along the river and through downtown. Be sure to stop at the Botanical Gardens or time your walk up to end up at happy hour at Mountian Tap Brewery on Yampa Street.
Scenic Fall Drives:
- Buffalo Pass Road – A dirt road that connects Steamboat and highway 14 near Walden on the other side. The first ten miles of the road winds up through lush aspen forests and sweeping meadows, as the road climbs up out of the canopy, turn around and look back down-valley to catch stunning fall views of Steamboat. This road is only maintained in the winter up to Dry Lake Campground and beyond that point, it is rutted and rocky in spots. Clearance of a sport utility vehicle or higher is required.
- Rabbit Ears Pass – As you descend down Rabbits Pass on US Highway 40 from the east, breathtaking views of the Yampa Valley appear around each bend. There are plenty of pull-offs to get out and take pictures. Make it an all-day adventure by combining the Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears pass into a loop. Start on Buffalo Pass and take to CR 14. Follow CR 14 south until you get to US 40, turn right and you will be on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass. Drive west back down into Steamboat.
- Strawberry Park Road – For a shorter but equally as pretty of a drive, take Strawbery Park Road (CR 36) until it ends. Bonus: The road ends at Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs!
Like we stated in our spring mud season edition, the fall is also the “offseason” and businesses are offering seasonal specials and prices that are all around lower than the winter or summer months. $Bonus$!
3. Fall Events
There are still some great events going on under the backdrop of the yellows and reds.
- Steamboat Bike Festival – September 6th-9th, 2018. A full weekend celebrating mountain biking including bike races, new trail openings, a bike-in movie, local bike shop discounts and more
- Oktoberwest – September 14th and 15th, 2018. Friday’s beer stroll through downtown Steamboat is followed by Saturday’s beer festival and beef cookoff where local chefs compete for the title of the best brisket in town – to be voted on by the participants! 45 craft brewers from around the Rocky Mountains will be in attendance.
- Run Rabbit Run 50 and 100 Mile Endurance Race – Watch as some of the worlds most elite ultra runners compete for the highest purse in their sport. Start and finish line is at the base of Steamboat Resort. 100 mile start times are 8:00 (Tourtises) and Noon (Hares) on Friday, September 14th, 2018. 50 Mile start time happens at 6:00 am September 15th, 2018.
- Steamboat Restaurant Week – Friday, September 28th – Sunday, October 7th, 2018. Restaurants all over Steamboat will be offering select menus and specials showcasing their unique flavor and brand.
- Signature Events – Click below to see the signature events Steamboat has to offer most of the year.
4. It’s Wedding Season!
Opposite of what a classic Disney Movie says, twitterpation occurs in the fall in the Rocky Mountains. The fall beauty and perfect weather make it the prime time to tie the knot. If you are lucky you may just get snowy peaks and golden valleys for a rare and unique setting. Click below to see our Steamboat Wedding Guide.
5. Active Wildlife
Humans aren’t the only ones to become twitterpated in the fall. Your chances of seeing a massive bull elk, giant moose or gargantuan mule deer buck increase greatly in the fall. These are the kind of animals that you normally only see on the National Geographic Channel or Planet Earth documentary. Listen closely on an early fall morning or late fall evening and you will almost certainly hear the whistle of an elk bugle carrying in the autumn breeze. The same is going on in the rivers as large trout are thriving in the welcomed cooler water of the fall. They become more aggressive and can be easily fooled by an anglers well-placed fly.