Bikes, wine and fall colors! |

Bikes, wine and fall colors!

Colleen O’Neil
Wagon rides at Sustainable Settings' Harvest Festival are a terrific way to see the fall colors in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Sustainable Settings / Provided |

fyi: Why do trees change color?

The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the carotenoids (yellow to orange colors) become visible. At the same time other chemical changes may occur, which form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments. Chlorophyll and carotenoid are in leaf cells all the time during the growing season. But the chlorophyll covers the carotenoid — that’s why summer leaves are green, not yellow or orange. Most anthocyanins are produced only in autumn, and only under certain conditions. Not all trees can make anthocyanin.

People come to Colorado from all over the world to experience the beautiful colors of fall. In late September through October, the hills are ablaze with gold, orange and red aspen leaves that pop against the deep green of the pines. Leaves float gently down to the ground, a fragrant carpet covering the trails.

KUSA reported earlier this month that most leaves will be at their brightest by the fourth week in September in the northern and central mountains. Further south, the leaves might hang on into early October, but then they’ll start dropping fast.

You’ll see fall colors blazing throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and the surrounding area for the next two or three weeks. So we put together a list of our favorite events that are perfect for enjoying the splendor of autumn.

Colorado Mountain Winefest — Sept. 17-20, Palisade and Grand Junction. The Colorado Winefest has an array of events, from food and wine pairings, chocolate and wine tastings, educational seminars and more. The “Festival in the Park” takes place on Saturday, Sept. 19. It’s the state’s largest and oldest wine festival featuring dozens of Colorado wineries, live music, a grape stomp, chef demonstrations and seminars. On Sunday, Sept. 20, wineries extend a special invitation to spend the day touring the scenic vineyard country, which is an excellent opportunity to see the fall foliage, sample a wide variety of wines and linger for the entertainment and appetizers. All Mountain Winefest events require a separate ticket, and all ticket holders must be 21 years of age with valid ID to enter. More inforation at

Rally the Valley — Sept. 19, Sayre Park, Glenwood Springs. Rally the Valley supports patients at the Calaway • Young Cancer Center at Valley View Hospital. Rally participants, you will help patients receive the healing touch of massage, ease the symptoms of cancer treatment through acupuncture and find companionship and strength through counseling and support groups. There are many ways to participate: a 25-mile bike ride, a four-mile walk through downtown Glenwood Springs or a 1.5-mile parade for kids, followed by a party with food, a beer garden and kids’ activities. The colors in Glenwood are already changing, so bring your cameras! Register at

Lead King Loop Charity Races — Sept. 20, Marble. Called the “Most Scenic Race in Colorado” and best weekend getaway by Colorado Runner Magazine. And for good reason. The Lead King Loop has three race options: a 25-kilometer run around Sheep mountain, a shorter 12.5-kilometer Quarry Climb on a gravel road toward the marble quarry and a 1.5-mile fun run for kids. The long loop features over 3000 feet of ascent and descent, with lots of rocks and incredible scenic views — make sure you bring your camera to take a selfie with the Crystal Mill. The race, which is a fundraiser for the Marble Community School, has cash prizes and a hefty barbecue buffet from Slow Groovin’ BBQ at the end. Visit for more information.

Slow Money Harvest Festival — Sept. 20, Sustainable Settings Ranch, Carbondale. An on-farm day of public talks, workshops, tours and a celebratory Harvest Dinner, with music and dancing to celebrate the building of local food systems in the Rocky Mountain region. This is an event you won’t want to miss. With Mount Sopris and the Crystal Valley in the background, Sustainable Settings Ranch is an ideal location to celebrate the beauty of fall. Register at

Vail Outlier MTB Festival — Sept. 25-27, Vail. This festival is a consumer-facing demo weekend offering next year’s bikes and gear from some of the industry’s big brands. If you don’t feel like pedaling, you can ride the lift and ride downhill bikes all weekend. If you want to get in on more action, you can also jump into one of the races — there will be three cross country courses (long, medium and short) and a two-stage enduro, both with cash prizes for the top male and female finishers. These big backcountry loops should be an awesome way to see parts of the mountain that will soon be covered in snow.

Salomon Golden Leaf Half Marathon — Sept. 26, Aspen. Voted by Colorado Runner as the best half marathon and chosen by Trail Runner Magazine as one of “America’s 14 most scenic races,” the Golden Leaf is a beautiful trail run in the Rockies. This 13.1-mile half marathon traverses from Snowmass Village to the heart of Aspen on mountain trails and roads at the height of Colorado’s fall colors. The race is already sold out, but if you’re crafty, you can usually find someone who’s trying to transfer their registration. More information at

Niemann’s Pumpkin Patch — Sept. 27, New Castle. Take a break from running and biking for the weekend. Niemann’s has fall activities for the whole family including hay rides, a straw maze, PumpkiNators, a straw mountain and more. Enjoy the fresh air and autumn scenery of western Colorado while making memories! You can conclude your visit by purchasing and decorating your own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Gourds, corn stalks and straw bales are available for purchase as well. Bring a non-perishable food item for Lift-Up and get a free PumpkiNators ticket. Local Girl Scouts will be selling snacks as a fundraiser. Call Birgie for more information at 970-984-3850, or visit

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