This summer’s soaring temperatures are finally dwindling, and the leaves are putting on a brilliant color show all across Western Colorado. Whether you’re looking for a day hike, backpacking trip, or something in between, here are 5 local hikes along the Western Slope that you won’t want to miss this fall.
This Grand Junction-area favorite is the perfect trail if you’re looking to enjoy some fun in the water before winter comes. East Creek Trail is an easy route at 2.6 miles with little elevation change, featuring swimming pools, creeks, and small waterfalls.
You’ll find the trailhead off of Highway 141 in Unaweep Canyon. And if you want even more scenic hiking destinations near Grand Junction, check out this list.
The drive from Grand Junction to the Grand Mesa is scenic enough on its own, and you’ll drive by plenty of aspen stands and other colorful foliage. Once you’re on the Mesa, opportunities for all kinds of outdoor fun are plentiful. For a long day hike, or pleasant overnight backpacking trip, head to the Crag Crest Trail. There’s 1,500 feet of elevation gain over 10.8 miles and a great chance to get some fresh air before winter hits.
This moderately difficult trail clocks in at 9.2 miles, and it’s a lovely alternative to the Crag Crest Trail. You’ll hike through stands of aspens and several creek crossings, which are generally easy, but it’s worth noting to be prepared.
Start your hike from the Carson Lake Trailhead located at the junction of Highway 65 and Lands End Road. If you don’t feel game for the full mileage, the first mile of the hike is worthwhile on its own.
Most hikers arrange for a car shuttle when hiking this difficult 13.7-mile roundtrip trail, but it’d also make a great overnight backpacking trip. The fall colors in the area are phenomenal, to say the least.
If you’re planning a shuttle, leave one car at the trail’s terminus: Horse Ranch Park. Then head west on Kebler Pass Road (County Road 12) for 6 miles. Turn right onto Irwin Lake (Forest Road 826), and drive until you reach the Irwin Campground. You’ll see a road — start hiking up, then take the lefthand fork onto a jeep road. In approximately ½ a mile, you’ll see a sign for Dyke Trail.
Don’t let the unassuming name fool you, this short 1-mile trail is a truly lovely spot for a fall hike. You’ll walk through stands of aspens before reaching the pond, with bright yellow leaves surrounding you in all directions.
Hiking this trail means you’re in the West Elk Wilderness, which is coincidentally also a fantastic location for hearing the elk bugle.