10 Ways to Enjoy Fall in Northern Colorado

October 27, 2020

Northern Colorado is beautiful any time of year, but fall is when the area really shines. With beautiful weather, changing leaves, and a variety of activities, fall in Northern Colorado is a time to be celebrated.

From your home in Fort Collins, you can easily travel to numerous activities throughout the region, right in our own backyard.

No matter what kind of activities you enjoy, there is something for everyone to love in the fall.

Fall 2020 might look a little different than years past, as many festivals and activities have been modified and canceled.

But these challenges can’t stop Northern Colorado’s beautiful weather and fall offerings, so get out there and enjoy the area responsibly.

There’s something for everyone this fall in Northern Colorado.

NOTE: In 2020, the Cameron Peak Forest Fire may have impacts on items presented in this article. Check on fire conditions and trail accessibility before planning your trip. 

Here are 10 ways to enjoy fall in Fort Collins.

1. Drive to see the leaves

rocky mountains with aspen trees changing colors in the fall

Get outside and go leaf peeping! There’s nothing like the beauty of Colorado’s aspen trees changing colors in the mountains.

One of the most picturesque places to see the leaves is along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The road travels through the mountainside and features a wide variety of foliage and beautiful colors. The drive makes for a great day trip through Estes Park.

Closer to home, Colorado Highway 14 follows the Poudre River between Fort Collins and Walden and boasts beautiful colors in the fall.

The Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway is also a popular fall drive for good reason—the leaves and scenery along the way are some of the best in the state.

Take an afternoon to drive the roads, pack a picnic, or even stop to get out and take pictures or go on a hike. There is colorful beauty everywhere you look.

Before you head out, make sure to check the leaf changing map, available through most news stations and meteorologists.

The leaves peak at different times each year depending on the weather and elevation. If you choose to go around peak time, be prepared for crowds and beautiful colors.

Don’t forget your camera!

2. Go on a hike

Hiking is a quintessential Northern Colorado activity through the entire year, but especially in the fall.

The cooler temperatures and beautiful fall foliage make for pleasant weather and breathtaking scenery. No matter what type of hike you’re in the mood for, you can find it in Northern Colorado.

From easy family-friendly nature walks to strenuous all-day climbs, there’s something for everyone. Cache la Poudre River Canyon is just 20 minutes from Fort Collins and home to several trailheads through the canyon, ranging from rugged hikes to smoother terrain.

Horsetooth Falls is a relatively easy 2.2-mile hike that connects to a network of other trails to make the hike even longer and more difficult. The popular out-and-back trail ends at a waterfall that is often dry by October, but the view along the trail is still magnificent.

Northern Colorado’s many state parks, including Lory State Park, Boyd Lake State Park, and State Forest State Park, also have numerous trails for people to experience wildlife and the beauty of nature.

Stop by the visitor’s center at a state park or talk to a ranger to get the best hiking recommendations.

3. Visit a pumpkin patch

on the ground view of several pumpkins in a pumpkin patch
What’s fall without visiting a pumpkin patch? It doesn’t matter how old you are—pumpkin patches are the ultimate fall activity. And they are only open for one month a year!

Grab some friends or family and enjoy a day at the patch looking for the perfect pumpkin and experiencing the many different fall activities.

The Bartels Farm in Fort Collins is open through Halloween and lets visitors pick their own pumpkins to take home and turn into jack-o-lanterns.

Fritzler Farm Park in LaSalle hosts a fall festival every weekend in October with pumpkins, pedal go-carts, a barrel train, and even pumpkin cannons.

The vendors won’t be out this year, but the activities still make for a great outing. For a more historical feel, try Osborn Farm in Loveland, which dates back in the Big Thompson Valley to 1861.

Osborn Farm has a wide array of pumpkins, corn stalks, mums, and other farm goods for purchase.

Many pumpkin patches and farms in Northern Colorado are closed or have limited reservations for the 2020 season.

Be sure to check with each farm on their hours and availability before making the drive.

4. Stroll through town

Colorado State University trial gardens filled with many colorful and beautiful flowers
From big downtown areas to small towns, Northern Colorado features a wide variety of areas, perfect for strolling.

Beautiful fall weather makes it a great time to wander the neighborhood and find out what’s right outside your door.

Many shops are still open and restaurants have turned to outdoor dining. As you walk, pick up a treat or sit down for a meal and discover a new favorite restaurant.

Along the way, there are plenty of things to see on your walk. The Colorado State University trial garden is free and open daily.

Take a walk through the beautiful gardens to see local flowers. Blooms are planted throughout the fall, so you can see something different every time you visit.

In case you missed our Facebook post, Loveland is hosting a scarecrow scavenger hunt throughout October with more than 30 scarecrows designed by local artists and businesses on display around town.

Wander downtown Loveland to find the scarecrows on your own, or download a map to guide your stroll. Submit your selfies with the scarecrows for a chance to win fun prizes.

5. Enjoy live music

As the weather cools and the days get shorter, live music ushers in a change of seasons.

Most indoor music venues are closed in 2020, but the pleasant fall temperatures allow for socially distanced outdoor live music all around Fort Collins.

The Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins hosts Magic Rat Music Nights every Friday and Saturday through the end of October on the Magic Rat Live Music’s outdoor patio.

The venue allows guests to spread out and enjoy a drink while they listen to great live music.

Through mid-October, Music at The Mish runs outdoor, socially-distanced concerts at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre in Bellvue. This stunning venue up Poudre Canyon offers great views and great music.

6. Visit the farmers market

There’s nothing like fresh fall produce, especially from Northern Colorado’s wide variety of local farmers.

Some farmers markets are closed in 2020, and others are following social distancing and mask guidelines, but you can still get your fix of great produce. Farmers and artisans from all across the region come to local farmers markets to sell their items that can only be purchased in person.

The Larimer County Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday through the end of October in the Larimer County Courthouse Parking Lot and has a variety of fresh produce and other handmade goods, ranging from bakeries and fresh cheese to products for pets.

On Sundays, the Fort Collins Farmers Market sets up with a large number of vendors selling anything from fresh produce to jams and jellies and beef jerky.

The market runs through mid-November, so you can get your produce fix long into fall.

7. Cheer on the Broncos and the Rams

two men and two women eating pizza on the couch and cheering on their favorite football team

Fall is for football, especially in Northern Colorado. Only a limited number of fans (if any at all) will be able to watch the Denver Broncos and the Colorado State University Rams in person this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still cheer for your team.

Don your orange and blue or gold and green to watch the games from home.

While the weather stays pleasant, you can even grill up some food to re-create the stadium experience at home.

Set up an outdoor projector to watch the game outside, or sit down with friends and family from the comfort of your couch.

It might not be the same as an in-person experience, but nothing beats football in the fall.

8. Go fishing

One of the best ways to get outdoors and enjoy the autumn weather and solitude is with a fishing trip.

Northern Colorado is known for its expansive fishing options. With plenty of locations to choose from, everyone can have their own spot and not have to compete for the fish.

Two of the most popular fishing locations are Hoorsetooth Reservoir and Boyd Lake.

These places are easy to get to from anywhere in Northern Colorado, and they’re popular for a reason. You may have a little more competition, but you’ll still have great views of the Front Range and great fishing.

Red Feather Lakes draw less of a crowd, and the people who fish there are loyal to the location. Of the eight lakes that make up Red Feather Lakes, four allow fishing, each with their own types of fish and regulations.

The lakes are relatively close to each other, so you can make a day of it and move between the lakes to enjoy a variety of fishing experiences.

If you like river fishing, the Poudre River can’t be beat.

The river stretches from Rocky Mountain National Park down through Fort Collins and offers a wide variety of fishing locations. Some spots are easier to get to, and others are best discovered on a weekend camping trip.

The Poudre River is home to a number of types of fish, but predominately Brown Trout.

No matter where you go, a fall fishing trip in Northern Colorado is sure to be memorable.

9. Check out a drive-in movie

Many movie theaters may be closed, but you can still enjoy a show on the big screen from the comfort of your own car.

Any car works for a great drive-in experience, but to enjoy all fall has to offer, fill the back of your truck with blankets and pillows so you can feel the crisp air as you watch the show.

The Holiday Twin Drive-In in Fort Collins shows new movies and classic Halloween favorites throughout October. You can even order concessions and drinks and have them brought right to your car.

Re-visit a favorite Halloween movie from your childhood like you’ve never seen it before.

10. Go four-wheeling

You’ve seen Northern Colorado by car and on foot—but what about from the back of an ATV? Fall is the perfect time to go off-roading and explore the amazing views on backroad trails.

Northern Colorado features a large amount of ATV trails, perfect for every skill level. Each trail has its own views and offers a unique experience.

West of Fort Collins in the Roosevelt National Forest is more than 100 miles of double-track ATV trails around the Red Feather Lakes.

The trails offer amazing views of the Front Range and even have a few sections of semi-technical single track for more advanced riders.

Towards Walden is a 60-mile network of trails tucked back in the mountains with amazing views of mountains, valleys, and moose. The area is a state forest, and many of the trails even allow dispersed vehicle camping.

Walden is known for its amazing fall leaves, and an ATV is a great way to see them. The area also has designated trails for non-motorized vehicles if you want a break from the ATV.

Fall in Northern Colorado is unbeatable. With so much happening around town and so much beauty to be experienced, you can easily fill up the entire season with amazing activities.

From festive Halloween activities to outdoor recreation, take time to enjoy all that Northern Colorado has to offer this fall.

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