Off the Beaten Path: Leaf Peeping in the Vail Valley

Fall is a wonderful time to visit the Vail Valley and take in the sights of the golden Aspen trees against the majestic mountain backdrop. While Vail and Beaver Creek have their charm, Minturn and Red Cliff are the prime places to visit as you take a scenic drive or hike to admire the change in seasons. Both towns are located between Vail and Beaver Creek, off U.S. Route 24, a road also designated as a Scenic Byway for its spectacular views.

Minturn was originally developed as a railroad town in the late 1800s, but today is known for its friendly, small town charm. In addition to historic architecture and charming homes, Minturn boasts great restaurants and unique shops. Set in the heart of White River National Forest land, Minturn offers visitors a variety of outdoor activities year-round.

One great way to see the fall colors is by taking a hike into those golden Aspens. The Vail Valley offers hiking trails for all abilities. Everkrisp Trail, off of Meadow Mountain in Minturn, includes moderate climbs on a switchback trail with great views of the surrounding mountains. (Fun fact: Everkrisp Trail got its name because the Everkrisp Lettuce Company used to grow lettuce in the meadows back in the day.)

Red Cliff, the oldest town in Eagle County, boomed at the turn of the century as a mining town with saloons, a bank, sawmills, and even an opera house. Today, it is a quaint mountain community that continues to attract individuals including entrepreneurs, artists, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Cemetery loop on Iron Mountain in Red Cliff offers incredible views of the fall colors on the mountainside and a unique view of the iconic Red Cliff Truss Bridge. It is recommended to park at the big brick old schoolhouse and walk up to the historic Greenwood Cemetery to begin several hikes in the area as parking is limited in town.

Not a hiker? No worries – there are many great views and places to stop for photo opportunities along the Scenic Byway of Highway 24 between Minturn and Red Cliff. The areas around mile markers 152 & 153 are locals favorites in the fall.

Be sure to grab a meal in either Minturn or Red Cliff to fuel you for the rest of your leaf peeping journey! Enjoy the duck or quail and the famous margaritas at the Minturn Saloon in Minturn, a landmark restaurant in the Vail-Beaver Creek area, or Mango’s signature fish tacos on their rooftop patio in Red Cliff.

Recreate Responsibly

  • Pack plenty of water and stay hydrated since you are at higher elevations.
  • Wear socks and proper footwear when recreating in mountain terrain.
  • Bring layers since the weather can change quite quickly.
  • Stay on the designated trails. Going off trail can damage or kill certain plant or animal species and can hurt the ecosystems that surround the trail.
  • Pack out all trash and garbage and dispose of it properly when you can.
  • Keep your distance from the wildlife you encounter to avoid stressing the animal. They need their space, and you need yours, too.

For more information on trails, dining and shopping in Minturn visit

To learn more about Red Cliff’s history visit