Five Scenic Hikes to See Durango's Best Fall Colors
We’ve been catching glimpses of autumn, despite the temperatures. In the mountains, fall has struck and the aspens are already boasting their colors. Eventually, all of the trees in town will follow and complete the switch from the summer-time green to their captivating shades of gold. As Durango-Tangs, it’s like it’s our job to go see these colors! We’ve compiled a list of the perfect trails for prime aspen-viewing this autumn. For more hikes in the Durango Area, head over to Trails 2000 for maps, trail info, and local-derived education for trail users. So, fellow fall-lovers, take a hike and share your pictures with #dodurango!
Animas Mountain Trail
5.9 mile RT loop hike leading to beautiful views of the valley below.
Are you in town but still needing some mountain air? The trail head for one of Durango’s classic hikes is located right on West 3rd Avenue ready to be hiked. What makes this trail challenging, yet rewarding, is the 1,519 feet of elevation gain in the first 3 miles before you hit the top of the loop. But the challenge is well worth it; from the top, you can peer into the valley below and see all of the aspens dancing in the wind and releasing their golden leaves. Bring a snack or some tea to lounge on the rocks and gaze into the valley below. Once you’re satisfied with the views of autumn, head back down into town.
Potato (Spud) Lake Trail
2 mile RT loop hike ending at Spud Lake, with Spud Mountains and Twilight Peaks looming over.
Perfect for families and a mountain fix, the Spud Lake Trail leads you to Potato Lake with beautiful views of Engineer (12,968 ft), Potato Mountain (11,871), and the Twilight Peaks (13,000+ feet) all with their aspens glowing under the sun. After driving roughly 30 minutes north of Durango, turn right onto Lime Creek Road. Warning: this road requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance and caution when driving. After 3 miles, the trail head will be on your left. An easy out-and-back with a perfect lake spot to eat a packed lunch and have a picnic, the fall colors will be prominent throughout the forested walk in and throughout all of the mountain peaks.
Pass Creek Trail to Engineer Mountain Trail
5 miles RT loop with the option to continue onto Engineer Mountain Trail for an iconic Durango view.
Engineer’s peak is one of the most iconic views of Durango, one that we’re all proud to have. Located at Coal Bank Pass on Highway 550 and 35 miles north of Durango, this trail is golden if you want to enjoy the fall colors at 11,600 feet lounging in an alpine meadow. Sitting in this meadow will you give you amazing views of the peak itself above you, and of the aspen forests below you with dazzling yellow and gold. Once you get above the tree line and have hiked the 2.5 miles into the meadow, you can either take a lunch break and head back down the trail, or keep going on the Engineer Mountain Trail and summit. If you want to keep going but not feeling like summiting the 12,968 peak, then head up until you’re ready to come down! The out-and-back-trail makes any variations of miles easy.
Animas River Trail
Stretching 7 miles through town, pick any portion to walk and enjoy.
A paved surface and shared-use path, the Animas River Trail runs directly through Durango following the Animas River. Right after the alpine trees switch to gold, soon enough the trees in town will follow suit. Take the opportunity to grab a sweater and a cup of coffee and walk the trail, making sure to stop at its many bridges, parks, and other trail systems. The Animas River Trail is considered the spine of Durango’s other trail systems, so you’ll never know what you’ll find or where you’ll end up. Time it right, and you’ll see the Durango & Silverton Train chugging by!
Vallecito Lake Trails
For a variety of hikes, pick one of the Vallecito Lake trails, all with spectacular views.
With plenty of trails to pick from, a local favorite is the lake trail which walks around the skirts of Vallecito Lake, giving plenty of incredible views of the lake itself, the peaks and ranges that surround it, and of course the thousands of aspens beaming their autumn glow and letting their golden leaves fall onto the lake surface. For a more difficult and high-altitude hike, try the Cave Basin Trail. This 10 mile RT hike provides beautiful alpine scenery and goes all the way up to 12,360 feet with an overlook of Emerald Lake. No matter what you pick, the Vallecito Lake Trails will never disappoint.