It's late september and much of the foliage in the area has started to fade, but it's not too late. Here are five great spots in Eagle County all within an easy drive of Vail and Beaver Creek.
1. Lake Creek Road in Edwards
If you are just visiting the Vail area, you may not know about the community of Edwards where many of the local professionals live. In the far west and south area of Edwards is Lake Creek road. As you head south on the road, it ascends and gives great views of the Elk Range and Mt of the Holy Cross. Because of the higher elevation and north facing slopes, the trees turn their colors a few weeks later than most.
2. Piney Creek & Lake
To get to Piney Creek, get ready for a ride on a dirt road. For this you stay on the north frontage road in Vail and look for Red Sandstone road. This will be a bumpy drive on a , but any sound passenger car can make it. The drive itself is scenic and when you drop down into the valley of Piney Creek, you'll have one of the more amazing views in the Rocky Mountains waiting for you. In the summer and early fall, the privately-owned Piney Ranch has concessions, but this late in the season it will likely be closed. Park at the trail head walking in past the lake and take in the view! If you're lucky you'll spot one of the moose that love to frequent the wetlands in the area.
3. Route 24, Cape Hale and Tennessee Pass
For this trip, take I-70 to the Minturn exit and head towards Leadville. You can head all the way to the Continental Divide at the Tennessee pass (about 30 minutes) or stop anywhere along the way to take in the views. Camp Hale is a fun side stop and a great place to explore if you have an SUV.
4. Shrine Pass Road
You can take this direct road from either the top of the Vail Pass rest stop on I-70 or from the mountain town of Redcliff, which is on Rt 24 (see #3). Any SUV can make this trip, as can most passenger cars, but parts are a little bumpy. I recommend starting at the top of Vail Pass, then heading down to Redcliff, stopping to eat at Mangoe's Bar, a locals favorite.
5. Top of Eagle's Nest Gondola at Vail
The Eagle's Nest gondola is at the Lionshead base at Vail. Unlike the Vail Village gondola, it gets up to a mountain ridge with 360 degree views of the Gore and Elk Ranges. The gondola only runs on weekends this time of year. If you're in Vail or Beaver Creek for the weekend and not interested in a road-trip, this will get you the best view in town.
Whatever you do, enjoy the glorious fall in the mountains!