Autumn in Leadville and Twin Lakes means crisp weather, blue skies, snow-capped mountains and brilliant fall foliage, making the area a perfect getaway for leaf peepers. Tucked away in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Leadville is surrounded by Wilderness Areas and national forests, making it feel like a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, its central location is just 103 miles from Denver and 129 miles from Colorado Springs, an easy — and beautiful — road trip. Its affordability adds to the many reasons to explore the historic mountain towns this fall.
Here are nine ways travelers can enjoy the fall colors in Leadville and Twin Lakes this year:
1. On a hike or on a bike: The Mineral Belt Trail is a paved, ADA-accessible trail that loops the city of Leadville, traveling through aspen groves, conifer forests and wildflower meadows. Highlights include views of the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges, along with some of the area’s most significant historic sites. There are miles and miles of other trails in the area, too, including portions of the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail.
2. On foot: There are 70 square blocks of downtown Leadville included in its National Historic Landmark District of Victorian Architecture, including the largest opera house west of the Mississippi, the saloon visited by Oscar Wilde and two historic 1879 churches. Visitors can explore it on the self-guided Historical Walking Tour and visit some of Leadville’s museums along the way. Guided tours are available at The Delaware Hotel. Reservations: 800-748-2004.
3. On the byway: There are two options for scenic drives on the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway that circle through the area: the Minturn – Leadville - Twin Lakes - Aspen loop and the Copper Mountain – Leadville - Vail loop. Both will take leaf-peepers by Camp Hale, home of the 10th Mountain Division, and through historic downtown Leadville, which is lined with antique stores, specialty shops and eateries. Forbes.com named Independence Pass, which links Twin Lakes and Aspen during the summer and early fall, one of “America’s Prettiest Fall Drives.”
4. On the water: Lake County got its name because it has more lakes than any other county in Colorado. There are also plenty of rivers, creeks and streams, making it an ideal destination for fishing, paddling or just relaxing on the shore. Boat tours are now available on Twin Lakes to the historic 1880s Interlaken Resort. Reservations: 866-936-3654.
5. On the green: Mt. Massive Golf Course is ringed by the state’s tallest mountains and surrounded by ranches and forests. Golfers can take in the fall colors while playing one of the friendliest and most affordable golf courses in the state and the highest-elevation course in North America.
6. On a weekend of learning: Leadville has played an important role in Colorado’s history since 1860, when miners discovered gold south of town. In the ensuing 153 years, the region’s history has been filled with cowboys, ranchers, performers and miners. History buffs can dive into this Wild West history during the Explore Historic Leadville weekend, Sept. 20-22. Highlights include historical tours of museums and an underground mine, as well as dinner and a performance by the Madams of Central Colorado. Reservations: 719-486-4258.
7. On a trip back in time: On the banks of Colorado’s largest glacial lakes, the Historic Village of Twin Lakes was a busy mountain transportation hub between Aspen and Leadville during the gold rush days of the 1880s. Visitors this fall can enjoy the tranquil beauty of the lakes, surrounded by snow-capped Fourteeners ablaze with golden aspen trees and lush green conifers.
8. On the rails: The Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad takes riders on a two-and-a-half-hour journey through the untamed wilderness of the San Isabel National Forest, with fall photo special rides the weekends of Sept. 14-15 and 21-22. Reservations recommended: 866-386-3936. Train rides are available through Oct. 6.
9. On horseback: For a taste of the Old West, a scenic horseback ride through high-alpine Wilderness areas surrounding Leadville is the way to go. Mega Mountain Magic offers one-hour, two-and-a-half-hour, half-day and full-day rides. Reservations: 719-486-4570.
Lodging options range from an 1880s Victorian inn, B&Bs and modern motels to lodges, cabins and vacation rentals. Known for its beautiful scenery, affordable prices, history and outdoor recreation, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in North America.