Last Updated on July 10, 2023
Most years, you’ll find me in Breckenridge in late September. I simply can’t resist the aspens changing color, looking as if someone has taken a yellow highlighter and swiped it across the landscape.
If I could only take one hike in Breckenridge in the fall, it would be Aspen Alley. The photos in this post will probably convince you more than words ever could, but I wanted to give you a few tips about how you can tackle this trail and get great shots like these.
How to Get to Aspen Alley Trail in Breckenridge
Aspen Alley has a bit of a choose your own adventure aspect to it. That’s because you can start at the bottom or the top.
The easy way to hike Aspen Alley
If you want the easiest route, start at the top and come down. This route is best if you have someone who can drop you off. I even saw a local condo shuttle drop someone off up here on my last hike.
You get to the parking lot here by taking a left on Boreas Pass Road from Highway 9 (assuming you’re coming from Main Street in Breck). Follow Boreas Pass for about 3.5 miles until the pavement ends. There’s a parking lot on the left where the road becomes dirt. If you don’t have someone to drop you off, you’ll either have to hike back up to your car or find someone to take you up there. Unfortunately, public transportation does not go that far up Boreas Pass.
If you’re looking to bike down instead of hike, you can take the Breckenridge Bike Shuttle to get dropped off.
Note: Boreas Pass does close to car traffic before you get to the parking lot for the winter. I’ve been here in late May and it’s still not open yet, so this is really only a summer/fall option.
The harder (but not too hard) way to hike Aspen Alley
I like to feel like I got more of a hike in, so I start at the bottom and go up first before turning around and coming back down. If you want to choose this adventure, there’s a small parking lot at the sawmill on Boreas Pass Road a little over half a mile past the ice rink. If you’re trying to hike on a weekend, get there early. Even during the week, it can be tough to snag a spot.
If that’s full, or if you simply want a longer hike, you can start from the ice rink and take the Illinois Creek Trail. Some people also just walk up Boreas Pass Road, but there’s no sidewalk and drivers take the turns pretty fast, so it’s not my preference.
Personally, I enjoy hiking up from the bottom and then hiking back down. AllTrails says it’s 2.6 miles total if you do both ways, but when I turned on AllTrails navigation on my last hike, it landed at 3.16 miles. Of course, I did take a few small detours off the path at overlooks to snap some photos, but still.
Aspen Alley Difficulty Level
I’m a big fan of the AllTrails app both for picking out good trails and for making sure I stay on the trail when it isn’t marked well (or I just miss the signs). If you’re in the sawmill parking lot, the trail starts to the right of the sawmill building and begins a slight uphill climb almost immediately.
Total elevation gain from bottom to top is 528 feet. AllTrails rates it as moderate, and it’s probably on the easier end of moderate for most. I live at sea level, and although I breathe heavy a little, it’s not what I’d consider a strenuous hike. I saw plenty of couples in their 60s and 70s out hiking this trail on my last visit, although I didn’t see any kids. Lots of dogs though!
If you park at the top, turn away from your car, face the road and walk to your left. The trailhead is well marked just a couple of dozen yards down the road. It’s a much easier journey downhill than up, but you probably guessed that! I’d rate it on the higher end of easy if you’re only doing the downhill. I’d feel comfortable taking people who’ve never hiked before on the downhill.
What to Expect on Aspen Alley Trail
I’ve hiked Aspen Alley in the summer, and it still offers great views . . . but the fall is when this trail really shows off. It’s my absolute favorite hike in the fall, and if I only had time for one hike, this would be it.
With the exception of the top 1/4th of the trail closest to the upper parking lot, you’re surrounded by aspens the entire route. The aspens do mostly give way to evergreens at the top, but the views of the surrounding mountains are fantastic the whole trip.
It took me 2:15 to go up and back on my last hike because I stopped to take so many photos and videos. You could certainly do it in the 1:18 AllTrails lists if you only took brief stops.
You will need to watch out for mountain bikes, as it’s a popular biking trail as well. My last hike, I went on a Monday in September and only had to move aside to let bikes pass a handful of times. The bikers were courteous and moving at reasonable speeds, but it’s definitely more crowded on weekends.
Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail, and you’ll likely encounter quite a few.
Although I’ve never seen a moose on this trail, quite a few people on AllTrails report seeing them, so be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions if you encounter one.
When to Visit Breckenridge for Fall Foliage
Foliage peaks early in Breckenridge compared to other areas of the country thanks to the high altitude. Although it varies from year-to-year, I’ve always had good luck the third or fourth week of September. I’d say it peaks more often the third week, but if there’s been good rain over the summer, the fourth week might be better (as was the case in 2022).
More Helpful Tips on Visiting Breckenridge
Looking for more Breckenridge advice? Check out our other guides and best tips for a great vacation in Breck any time of year!