Looking to enjoy some outdoor recreation in cooler temperatures? Now is a great time to plan a (socially distanced) adventure and take advantage of the late fall weather.
Here are four of our favorite locations in the Western Slope to explore in the fall, from the dry, desert regions around Dinosaur to the picture-perfect mountains near Durango.
Located in northwest Colorado, Dinosaur is an arid area that can be uncomfortably hot during the summer, but fall’s cooler temperatures make it a great place to explore.
Dinosaur National Monument is the biggest draw out here (check out this guide to Plan Your Visit to Dinosaur National Monument), but it’s not the only place worth visiting. If you’re a fan of remote camping, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands around Dinosaur shouldn’t be missed. And, cast your lines in the White River for some quality angling.
The North Fork Valley is home to the small towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss, and Paonia. The region has agricultural roots with a number of wineries and farmer’s markets and farm-to-table restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene has also taken hold here.
Each of the valley’s scenic towns is full of rural Colorado charm, but the mountains also offer stunning fall foliage. Large aspen groves are found in the West Elk Mountains, which are east of the valley, and the Grand Mesa National Forest, which is north of the valley.
The section of U.S. Route 550 that connects Silverton and Ouray is known as the Million Dollar Highway, and it’s a drive you shouldn’t miss. The reasons for the name are debated, but one thing is certain: the mountain scenery is incredible, especially during fall when the leaves change.
You’ll experience steep cliffs, hairpin turns, and more than likely, an adrenaline rush. If you’re up for an adventure, take the road south from Ouray to Silverton. The lack of guardrails can make your hair stand on edge. If you’d rather hug the inside of the curves while driving this narrow road, take the route north from Silverton to Ouray. Whichever route you choose, be sure to drive safely.
If you want to stay in the area, you can find camping options in the San Juan Mountains. Silverton and Ouray are also lovely, with a variety of accommodations, restaurants, shops, and local businesses to visit. Ouray is also famous for its hot springs, so be sure to treat yourself to a soak in the relaxing waters.
If you’re in Silverton, we recommend you continue heading south to Durango. It’s a fun Western Slope town to visit at any time of year, but the crisp mountain air and fall colors make it a must-see in the fall.
The San Juan Mountains have their share of fall delights, but look no further than the Animas River Trail for some easy in-town fun. Aspen groves can be found along the river, and access to this seven-mile trail is a quick walk from downtown Durango. It’s a great trail for families with little ones.