Fall Foliage near Buena Vista
Fall is my favorite time of year in the Arkansas River Valley; everything has calmed down from the buzz of summer, the Aspen leaves begin to change, but it is still sunny and warm enough to be outside almost every day. We are also lucky enough to be located right along one of Colorado’s Scenic Byways, a beautiful drive providing easy access to the Collegiate Peaks.
I took the time this month to make the leisurely drive from Buena Vista to Monarch Pass along the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway. The scenery is amazing the whole way there, with 14er’s along the west side, and the Arkansas River and Brown’s Canyon along the east side.
Then you start the climb up Monarch Pass, past Monarch Ski area, to find Monarch Crest, a fairly large gift shop and tram starting at 11,300 ft. Unlike a lot of attractions that close down on Labor Day, Monarch Crest is open until Sept. 15.
The gift shop and tramway also sit on top of the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide is the line that separates the watersheds that flow into the Pacific Ocean from those that flow into the Atlantic Ocean. It was pretty cool to be right on top of it!
While the Monarch Crest gift shop is a great rest stop in itself, the tramway is the real adventure. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re afraid of heights, even I was a little afraid inside the tram car! The Monarch Crest Scenic Tramway first opened in the 60’s and is now the oldest working tramway in the state of Colorado! It took us up and over 12,000 ft. to a scenic lookout with full panoramic views of the Sawatch Mountain range, Monarch ski area, and even Pikes Peak on a clear day. There is a great indoor viewing area, or if you’re brave you can explore outside. The day we rode the tram there was 50mph winds at the top and we felt like we might be blown away!
I would definitely recommend driving up Monarch Pass and stopping at Monarch Crest to anyone staying in Buena Vista or just passing through.