With its miles of cattle ranches and fruit orchards, the Grand Valley once had a reputation for being a bit boring. But day-trippers from Denver and Boulder are drifting west to discover a mini Napa-meets-Boulder-meets-Moab.
The trio of towns here—Palisade, Grand Junction, and Fruita—have it all. Vineyard-striped wine country? Check. World-class mountain bike trails? Check. Great food, shopping, and shows? Check, check, check.
And you’ll have it to yourself in the fall, plus cooler temps.
During a fall day trip to Denver, spend some time in LoHi, aka Lower Highlands.
This hilltop hood is just northwest of downtown and it's full of ornate historic buildings, new restaurants, and eco-friendly shops.
You'll have plenty of options for taking in the crisp, cool fall weather: Stroll through Commons Park or dine alfresco at a rooftop bar with scenic veiws of the downtown skyline.
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
For anyone oriented toward the outdoors, Jackson Hole comes pretty close to perfection.
97 percent of the valley is state and federal land, while the Jackson Hole Land Trust has gained protection for another 15,000 acres of ranchland. This is where you'll find some of the country's best out-your-front-door recreation.
With the Jackson Hole Community Center for the Arts, the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and dozens of art galleries, the town of Jackson has become a major center for Western painting and sculpture.
Food and drink possiblities range from the new and upscale to the classic joints like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. And once you have your fill of town life, Grand Teton trails are waiting for you.
Now that Jackson Hole has become a preferred retreat for Hollywood and Washington elites, some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet can look out their front door and see Grand Teton National Park.
But Grand Teton is for you, too.
The park is beautiful in fall, and much less crowded than it is in summer. Wake at sunrise to watch first light transform the majestic view of Teton Range. Then take a hike, climb a mountain, or shop and dine the day away in town.
Yellowstone is a place where the ordinary has been shoved aside in favor of the astounding. September and October is beautiful here, with fewer crowds, great fall color, and wildlife watching.
It's so big, you can experience completely different parts of the park over 3 days. Visit Old Faithful and Norris one day, Canyons and wildlife the next, and perhaps Mammoth Hot Springs after that. For a shorter visit, we've selected the highlights to see in 1 day.