Farewell to Summer: Explore the Best Southern Colorado Hiking Trails Before the Fall Arrives

The transition from summer to fall is one of the best times to go hiking in Colorado. Not only are summer crowds and mosquitos gone by the time September rolls around, but you don’t have to worry about afternoon thunderstorms with Colorado fall hiking.

What Is the Best Time To See Fall Colors in Colorado?

Generally, it’s best to go hiking in late September or early October to see fall colors in Colorado. However, this depends on the location of your chosen trail. For example, higher elevation areas like the mountains have their peak viewing in mid September. However, lower elevations and southern Colorado areas tend to be best in early October.

The Best Southern Colorado Fall Hiking Trails for Fall Colors Before the Temperature Drops

While many people tend to flock to areas like Rocky Mountain National Park when visiting Colorado in the fall, the southern regions of the state also have a ton of great hikes to offer. In fact, within short drives from Cañon City, you can access Pikes Peak, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, as well as the Collegiate Peaks. These trails provide some of the best fall hiking in Colorado.

Horsethief Park Trail

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate 

Horsethief Park Trail is a 6-mile out-and-back hike located near Woodland Park, CO. With moderate climbing mixed with flat areas, you can count on about 1,500 ft. of total elevation gain on this hike. Horsethief Park Trail follows a beautiful creek drainage where you can see some great fall colors during September and October.

Cheesman Ranch Trail

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate 

Cheesman Ranch Trail is a 5.7-mile loop located in Mueller State Park near Divide, CO. While this is an excellent trail for hikers of all skill levels, please note that dogs are not allowed inside any Colorado State Parks. Hikers report finishing the loop in around 2.5 hours, so be sure to give yourself a little extra time if you aren’t sure about your speed.

Columbine Trail

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate 

Columbine Trail is a 6.5-mile out-and-back hike located just southwest of Colorado Springs in North Cheyenne Canon Park. Since the trail climbs 1,900 ft. in just over 3 miles, plan on gaining quite a bit of elevation right off the bat. Since the climb is quick, you will see a variety of ecosystems, including ponderosa pines and scrub oak plants that change colors in the fall. Truly, this is one of the best Colorado Springs hiking trails during the fall.

Preacher’s Hollow

  • Difficulty rating: Moderate 

Preacher’s Hollow is another loop hike located in Mueller State Park. While a majority of the trail is considered easy, a significant uphill section can be challenging for some. In total, Preacher’s Hollow is 2.1 miles in length with just under 500 ft of climbing. Many people visit Mueller State Park to see the beautiful fall colors of changing aspen trees. Please note, that since Preacher’s Hollow is in a state park, there is a $9.00 entry fee.

Rainbow Trail

  • Difficulty rating: Easy to difficult (varies with location) 

The Rainbow Trail is over 100 miles long in total. Starting just south of Salida, the Rainbow Trail follows the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in a southerly direction before finishing just east of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Since the trail is so long, difficulty ratings vary from section to section. If you are considering a hike on the Rainbow Trail, be sure to do some research on the specific section you wish to visit.

Book Your Homebase for Your Colorado Fall Hiking Trip Today

Summer won’t wait, and neither should you. Seize the opportunity for an unforgettable hiking adventure in Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes. Book your escape with Royal Gorge Cabins now and make the most of the changing seasons.

Picture of Ben Sack

Ben Sack

Ben Sack is the General Manager of Echo Canyon River Expeditions and Royal Gorge Cabins. He's also a raft guide, photographer, and he loves exploring Colorado and beyond with his wife and two boys.

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