September Splendor in the Rockies: Weekends, September 1–30, 2016
Seeing the aspens change color is an annual Colorado event. Celebrate the season in Gunnison and Crested Butte, where the state's largest aspen stand (along Kebler Pass) puts out a riot of color in September. Self-guided tours, farmers' markets, art walks, a harvest festival, mountain-bike tour and more make the month especially merry.
Downtown Boulder's Fall Fest: Sept. 16–18, 2016
Boulder's autumn fest lines up music performances, a beer garden, local food vendors, a children's carnival and more along the city's beloved and bustling Pearl Street Mall.
Oktoberfest Denver: Sept. 23–25 and Sept. 30–Oct. 2, 2016
Oktoberfests around the world are largely about beer, but downtown Denver’s autumn celebration turns out fun for the whole family with a daschund derby that has to be seen to be believed, costume contests, food booths, polka dancing and live music.
Mountain Harvest Festival: Sept. 22–25, 2016
Colorado’s Western Slope town of Paonia covers all the festival bases at their annual celebration of harvest with live concerts, farmers’ markets, beer and wine tasting, a chili cook-off, arts and crafts, and farm tours. The bounty from locally owned orchards, ranches and farms brings in revelers from all over surrounding Delta County.
Elk Fest: Oct. 1–2, 2016
The beautifully haunting bugle of a bull elk is unmistakable, and every October spectators head to Estes Park to experience the phenomenon. The elk gather there, at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, to show off for their ladies during the start of the rutting (breeding) season. At Elk Fest, you can learn about these beasts’ behavior, observe them in their natural habitat, participate in a bugling contest and see performances by American Indians.
Chile & Frijoles Festival: Sept. 23–25, 2016
This event is your best chance to taste of the pride of Pueblo — a special, intensely flavorful variety of green chile. Served smoking on a stick, chopped and tucked into a quesadilla or sprinkled in salsa, it’s the star of this show. Cooking competitions, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, and a farmers’ market round out the festivities.
Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival: Oct. 21–23, 2016
Fall's the time when spicy spirits become the perfect answer to chillier temps. Sip the best offerings from small-batch, artisan distillers and learn more about the distilling process in Breckenridge, a town with its own pioneering distillery.
Applefest: Oct. 1–2, 2016
Driving into the small town of Cedaredge on Colorado’s Grand Mesa, you’ll pass row after heavenly row of trees bursting with shiny red and green apples beckoning you to sink your teeth in. At Applefest, more than 150 vendors share the area’s agricultural wealth with visitors, who can also check out a classic car and antique tractor show, bands and much more.
Telluride Horror Show: Oct. 14–16, 2016
Already famous for film, Telluride is also embracing the spooky fun of October with this seventh-annual horror, fantasy and sci-fi film fest in the town's historic Sheridan Opera House.
Frontier Historical Museum Ghost Walk: Oct. 14–15, 21–22 and 28–29, 2016
Glenwood Springs' historical society leads tours through its oldest cemetery to hear ghost stories (and maybe encounter!) the town's pioneers and old-timey characters. Bring a flashlight or lantern ... or risk being left in the dark!
U-Pick Farms and Corn Mazes
Many Colorado farms offer opportunities in the fall to pick your own cherries, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, melons, beets, squash, cucumbers and more. The most popular thing to pick by far this time of year is your own pumpkin.
Farms across the state invite visitors to stroll rows of pumpkins searching for the perfect jack-o-lantern candidate. Many of them also offer corn mazes, hayrides, petting zoos, bobbing for apples and other hallmark activities of the season. See the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s list of pumpkin patches and corn mazes in your area.