Fall is here! While the fall can be a bit quieter in the mountains as we gear up for ski season, it's a great time to get outside to explore one of the many hiking trails in and around Steamboat. Fall hiking is my absolute favorite time of year to venture out into the mountains. If you're looking for leaf peeping at its finest, below are my 5 favorite fall hikes.
Spring Creek Trail
Spring Creek Trail is located under a mile north of downtown Steamboat Springs. This trail is great for the whole family because of the accessibility and friendly terrain. Young kids will enjoy the first mile of the trail leading to a beautiful log pavilion above a few ponds. Pack a picnic and rest a while at the picnic tables where you can celebrate the kids making it out for a hike. If capable, continue into the forest where the trail leads up to Buffalo Pass. This is a down and out hike that is quite popular for hikers, runners and even mountain bikers. The double track will turn into single track. At this point you'll enter the enchanted aspen forest of turning yellow leaves.
Fish Creek Falls
Another great hike for the whole family is Fish Creek Falls. Take the quarter-mile paved path to the waterfall viewing area. This is an ideal spot to capture perfect holiday photo. This is great for young kids and elderly folks who need the stability of a paved path. For the more adventurous hikers, head down the single track dirt trail a quarter of a mile to the bridge where the 180-foot waterfall awaits. Continue on for another 2 miles to a second waterfall, making a good turning spot to complete a 5 mile hike. The trail does continue further if hikers want more mileage.
Emerald Mountain Trail System
Emerald Mountain is the lovely background for Downtown Steamboat Springs. You can park at the horse stables behind the rodeo grounds or at Olympian Hall, home base for Howelsen Hill Ski Area. There is a network of trails to discover all over Emerald Mountain for all levels. Make sure you "know the code" when sharing trails, as Emerald Mountain is open to mountain bikers and other users.
Mad Creek Trail
Drive north on County Road 129 for about 5 miles and Mad Creek trail parking area will be on your right. This is a steep trail with some drop offs when you begin, but it levels out after the first mile. It is another popular trail due to the refurbished barn that awaits 2 miles up. I love bringing a picnic and enjoying the barn setting. This is a mellow spot to turn around making about 4 miles round trip. You can also continue into the Zirkel Wilderness Area of circle the trail back to the hot springs.
Ski Area Trails
The gondola stops running the fourth week in November, but you can still hike around the mountain. Park in Ski Time Square and start the hike in front of Slopeside Restaurant. Keep an eye out for the designated hiking routes. You may have the energy to hike 2,000 vertical feet to the gondola building, or turn around when you're ready. The views of the town of Steamboat are fantastic. From this vantage point you can see the Flat Tops to the south, or the Sleeping Giant mountain to the west.