When in the best time to visit Colorado? As a local Coloradan and avid hiker and adventurer, I’ll give you the inside scoop, from the perspective of someone who lives and works in the Rocky Mountains.
In this guide, I’ll give you the honest, unfiltered truth about the best time to visit Colorado. You’ll hear all the pros and cons of each season, and I’ll give you all the details on why certain times of year may be better than others, depending on what you plan on doing in the state.
Truth: not every month and season out here is created equally. So let’s dive in…what actually is the best time to visit Colorado?
I like to joke that the only thing predictable about the weather and seasons in Colorado is that they’re unpredictable.
At the core of it, the best time to visit Colorado really depends on the types of locations you’re looking to visit and what activities/adventures you plan on doing there. Let’s break it down.
There’s a joke that people come to Colorado for the winters but stay for the summers, and it’s 100% true. Summer in Colorado is paradise.
So many of our epic locations are in the high country, and many awesome trails and mountain passes that are used to access them are completely shut down outside of the Memorial Day to Labor Day window. So in that respect, summertime is the best time to visit Colorado.
If your goal is to go on a comprehensive road trip through Colorado or hike up into the alpine tundra, summer is the best time to visit Colorado, full stop. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of our wild weather.
Traveling through Colorado outside of the summer window means taking lengthy alternative routes through the mountains that add tons of time to your trip and can take you on roads that aren’t always well maintained.
Open Mountain Passes + Trails, Wildflowers, Alpine Lakes
Most of our epic mountain passes, whether you’re going on a paved one or going off-roading, are closed outside of the warmer months.
That also means any trails and epic alpine lakes along those passes are inaccessible. Summer gives you access to those epic spots.
Also, while you might think of blooming flowers as a springtime thing, in Colorado alpine wildflowers typically bloom in summer.
For high alpine flowers, aim to visit our best mountain towns in late June, July, and early August.
Crowds + Wildfires
The western US is seeing more and more wildfires, and Colorado is no exception.
Even if we don’t have fires going in Colorado, there’s a chance that smoke from places like California will blow over and haze up the mountains.
Also, with schools being out in summer, we get lots of visitors to Colorado this season, so expect crowded trails, especially in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Avoid the crowds by opting for more lightly trafficked, longer hikes. Or get up before sunrise to begin your adventures. That’s what I do, and it helps a ton!
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Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer months, and they can be extremely dangerous at higher elevations.
So if you’re planning on hiking in the alpine or tackling one of Colorado’s many 14’ers during your visit, pack your headlamps and plan for a sunrise or pre-sunrise start for the most predictable and safe weather.
Here in Colorado, we’re known for our aspen trees (and we have the most of them in the US!). They’re absolutely breathtaking in the fall, and 10/10 worth seeing.
That said, you have to time things perfectly. Let me explain. Fall colors stick around for about 2 weeks, assuming an early snowstorm doesn’t roll in and cause the leaves to fall before peaking.
For most of our mountain towns, you’re really looking at the second half of September, with the last week typically being peak week for towns like Telluride and Crested Butte (it’s slightly earlier for northern Colorado cities like Steamboat Springs).
Outside of the leaf peeping window, what you’ll get is finicky weather, dried brown grasses, the first major snows of the season, and a state in the “in-between” season.
Basically what I’m getting at is this: the best time to visit Colorado in the fall is the second half of September. If you’re visiting Colorado for the beautiful views, fall colors are gone or almost gone by October and by November you’re not in fall and you’re not in winter wonderland. It’s honestly a little “meh.”
All of this to say, the fall window is super tiny out here, and the best time to visit Colorado for serious fall vibes is right at the very start of the fall season.
Fall Colors + Crisp Weather
If you get your timing right, early fall could very well be considered the best time to visit Colorado. The iconic changing of the leaves is a sight you don’t want to miss.
Things also start to cool down during this season. At super high elevations, it can actually feel more like winter at this point.
And the Front Range towns go from hot and dry summer temps to cool breezes, which is lovely.
Crowds + The Storm Wild Card
As with summer, people flock to visit Colorado during the changing of the leaves. Our state makes a big deal out of leaf peeping, and for good reason! But expect to battle crowds again.
Another downside of fall is that once you exit the summer window, the likelihood of winter storms rolling through and changing your plans increases quite a bit.
It might sound a bit strange, but when visiting Colorado in the fall, you’ll want to be prepared for winter conditions.
Colorado weather is notoriously unpredictable, and fall is when we usually see our first major snowstorms (those usually happen mid-October).
Bring lots of layers and be prepared for driving in the snow. You could get here and the weather could be warm and nice. Or there could be a blizzard. Anything outside of the summer window is fair game for snow.
Love the winter wonderland vibe? Live for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing? Want to avoid crowded trails and feel comfortable driving in winter conditions?
If so, the best time to visit Colorado may just be winter. Winter is kind of a hidden gem. Unless your goal is to participate in winter sports, we tend to see a bit of a tourism lull in Colorado during this season.
Winter Adventure Sports + Snowy Vibes + Lower Crowds
There’s something so peaceful about winter in Colorado. You get to see the gorgeous Rockies covered in snow.
You can hear yourself think as you snowshoe up a hiking trail in the afternoon, because the trails are nice and empty.
You get to participate in all kinds of winter adventures, whether it’s backcountry skiing or soaking in a hot tub in the snow.
Weather, Weather, Weather
I can’t stress this enough: the weather in Colorado is so unpredictable. Some winter days are 60 and sunny. Others…not so much.
Be prepared with winter tires, chains, MICROspikes (for traction while hiking on icy trails!) and a positive attitude. Because there’s a good chance you’ll have to modify your plans to accommodate the Colorado weather.
Winter can be the best time to visit Colorado, if you’re willing to be flexible.
With winter, the main things you have to consider are: your comfort level driving in winter weather conditions and whether you’re prepared to layer up.
The reality is, winter can be one of the best times to visit Colorado, if you come prepared with the right gear and equipment.
It’s also worth noting: many of our high elevation mountain passes and trails are closed during the winter, so you’ll want to research alternate routes as needed.
The high elevation mountain towns are incredible spots for snowy mountaintops and epic winter adventures:
When it comes to the best time to visit Colorado, I generally advise against springtime. It’s this awkward in-between time where blizzards, hail storms, and excessive rain are common.
It’s kind of the worst offender when it comes to unpredictable Colorado weather, which is why I generally say that it is not the best time to visit Colorado.
Plus everything hasn’t quite turned green just yet, especially at higher elevations. That said, there are some benefits to spring, which I’ll discuss below.
Cooler Temps on the Front Range + Shoulder Season Crowds
While most people associate spring with blooming flowers and greening grass, in some of the best mountain locations, that really happens in the second half of June.
That said, the Front Range towns begin greening up in May, and the temps haven’t gotten too high at lower elevations. So this is not a bad time to hang out in places like Boulder and Fort Collins.
Also, given the unpredictable (and sometimes unfavorable!) weather in the spring, we have less tourists in the state.
Hail Storms + Blizzards + "In-Between" Weather
I’ve harped on it already, but weather is the big con of visiting Colorado in the springtime.
It genuinely is all over the place. You can totally get lucky with a warm sunny day, but some of our craziest snow storms are at the beginning of the spring season.
And later in the spring, we see lots of afternoons with golf ball sized hail (no, seriously!).
My biggest recommendation when visiting Colorado in the spring is to be prepared for the weather to do whatever it wants.
For the greatest chance of avoiding really crazy snow storms (although they happen at all elevations here!), opt to stay in one of the lower elevation Front Range towns.
If hiking, swimming, camping, whitewater rafting, driving high elevation mountain passes, or off-roading is your jam, the best time to visit Colorado is the summer. Specifically, I’d recommend July and the first half of August as ideal.
If you want fall colors, the last two weeks of September are when I’d plan to visit. And if you’re aiming for a winter wonderland, the best time to visit Colorado would be December or January. March tends to have our worst snow storms, so I’d steer clear of that month if you can.
But if you go to the higher elevation mountain towns, there’s snow on the ground during late December and January, and a lower likelihood of blizzards than the end of winter/start of spring when things get pretty dicey and unpredictable. Basically, this time is just as pretty, but tends to have safer driving conditions.
Summer is my personal favorite time to visit Colorado, with fall (assuming you get your timing right!) coming in a close second. Personally, as a Colorado local, that’s how I’d plan my trip.
Colorado is incredible, and each season has its own special perks. So all of that said, ultimately the best time to visit Colorado is whenever you are able to get out here. The mountains are calling.
Outdoors enthusiast and advocate. Adventure elopement photographer. Dog mom extraordinaire. Girl who lives for the sounds of dirt beneath her hiking boots.
Sheena is a Colorado-based elopement photographer who believes in being the go-to adventure wedding resource for the couples she works with.
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