Kenosha Pass is an easy hike that can accommodate all levels of hikers. This trail offers stunning fall foliage, spectacular long-range views, and a chance to experience part of the famed Colorado Trail.

The Colorado Trail (http://www.coloradotrail.org) is 500 miles long and stretches from Denver to Durango. Perhaps the most-traveled portion of the Colorado Trail is at Kenosha Pass. Kenosha Pass is well-known for its thick, colorful stands of aspen in the fall. During peak leaf season (late September-early October), the trailhead at Kenosha pass is packed with leaf-peepers. The vast majority of these people park their cars, jump out to take a few pictures, and drive off again. All the better for hikers and mountain bikers! The best views—and photographs—are along the hiking trail.

Because the trail is unending, you can hike as little or as much as you want. The trail continues on both sides of Hwy 285, but this article is about the segment east of the highway. About 3 miles out is about as far as a typical day-hiker goes; at that point, the views open up to a spectacular 270-degree view of the aspen-covered mountains. This segment is a fast-moving trail because it’s so easy. Over three miles you get about 400 feet elevation gain. And since the surface is not very technical, it’s easy on the feet as well. Because it begins at about 10,000 feet, altitude could be an issue for some.

If you’ve only ever driven through Kenosha Pass, I recommend that you park your car and stay awhile. If you drive down the dirt road on the east side of the highway, you’ll come to another parking lot with bathrooms. Three roads branch off for camping and hunting access; you’ll also see the singletrack that is Colorado Trail. Immediately you’re immersed in a thick stand of tall aspen trees. This is a great place for taking pictures, but don’t stop here. If you continue on, you will pass through several stunning stands of golden leaves. Between these stands, you’ll catch glimpses of Mount Evans and many other mountains to the north. The photos tell you what words can’t.

This trail is also a great snowshoe/xc ski route in the winter. The white on white of aspen bark on snow is magical in its own way. With the leaves gone you can see for miles, and the evergreens are emphasized.

UPDATE:

I recently hiked the portion of the Colorado Trail west of Hwy. 285. I went about 4 miles out and back, for a total of 8 miles. Sadly, I was too late to see the fall foliage this year, and judging by all the bare stands of aspens, I really missed out! This is definitely on my “must go back” list for next fall.

After a gentle climb for about a mile through aspen and pine forest, the views begin to open up. By the second mile, the views over South Park are wide open, and … wow. The valley floor is ringed by millions of aspen trees, and those trees are against a backdrop of 13ers. The effect is just jaw-dropping. I cannot wait to go back and photograph this!

The trail gently drops to the valley floor and weaves through an aspen-forested section of South Park. You’ll cross a creek and a couple of dirt roads at about the three-mile mark, and the fourth mile is relatively flat. Once you hit mile four, you’ll start to climb again as the trail aims towards Jefferson Hill and the mountains behind it. If you’re out for a day hike, this is a good place to turn around. Because this section of the trail is so easy, you can go a little further than you normally would—and with such endless beauty around you, why not?

This four-mile section of the trail has a minimum altitude of 9846, maximum altitude of 10,452 (trailhead is at 10,040’), with a total ascent of about 1200 feet. Most of the altitude gain is on the return trip.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Trail snacks
  • Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm)
  • Hiking poles (optional)
  • Trail shoes or hiking boots
  • Camera
Show More
RT Distance 8 Miles
Elevation Gain 1200 Feet
Activities Photography, Mountain Biking, Running, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Great Views in Autumn (and year round)

The views from Kenosha are amazing, especially when you're looking out over South Park. In the fall the parking lots and trails can get pretty busy, but if you get out early you can still find some solitude.

about 3 years ago

Too Late for Foliage Viewing?

Hey Guys, I'm trying to gain a sense of when the update was posted (stating that she missed out on the foliage viewing). Do you think it'd be too late to see the aspens if I did this hike tomorrow? (Oct. 9th). Thanks!

Great way to spend an afternoon outdoors

I absolutely love Kenosha Pass and the Colorado Trail through there. It's easy to get to and there is plenty to explore. As your photos show, it's also a top-knotch place to see the Aspen in the fall, and I've been snowshoeing there as well! Kenosha rocks, thanks for posting this to share with other outsiders!


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