Monday, March 4, 2019

Life so far

“Do you miss it at all?”

That’s the question that we get every time we tell someone we moved from Arvada to Grand Junction. 

The answer is always the same, we smile and we say, “No.”

But the real answer is a little more complicated. 

We’ve been in Grand Junction almost a month now and had some time to adjust to our new surroundings. 

Neither of us had been to Grand Junction before we moved here, but that didn’t scare me. 

When I moved to Colorado I had never set foot on the ground here and yet, after flight attendant training, that’s where I found myself based.

I left Birmingham, Alabama….the only home I’d ever known, left my friends, my family, my apartment, my car and even my dog and set off for a new adventure.

At least moving to Grand Junction didn’t mean a cross-country trip. 

So here’s what I miss about Arvada:

I miss our friends. I miss my daughter’s school. I miss Costco. I miss our mini-farm. 

I miss teaching at The Freyja Project and my friends there. I miss poke bowls. 

I miss driving to work and not having to pay for parking. I miss the breweries.

That’s really the bulk of what I miss. Overall life here is great. 

We have a way better house that’s not off a busy road and is quiet inside. 

We have views for days and great walks around our neighborhood. It takes us 45 minutes to drive to the closest ski resort and costs $160 total for all of us to ski. 

No lift lines or traffic. 

Colorado National Monument is 25 minutes away and there’s never anyone crowding the trails or parking. 

I can take all the photos I want and not be bothered. I love having a soaking tub in my bathroom. 

I love having a closet that actually fits all my clothing. I found a yoga studio what has 25 people in class even at 9:15am on a Tuesday and everyone is friendly and parking is free. It takes 10 minutes to drive around town. My daughter’s school is easy to get in and out of...the staff and parents are nice and they all raise the flag together on Friday and say the pledge of allegiance on the lawn. The principal then wishes the kids happy birthday that have birthdays that week. 

I actually don’t mind having friends right now. Not having friends close means I don’t feel obligated to hang out with anyone during the weekday or on weekends. 

When I meet people I can be whoever I want. I have no reputation and nothing to live up to. 

I have places here in mind to run retreats and Daycations and not nearly the competition I had in Denver. 

Yesterday we drove to Fruita and went and swam at the community rec center. We got library cards. We bought a hot tub and new couches. People here are generally nicer. We’ve been able to reinvent ourselves here and start over with a new house, less clutter, new school and new routine. 

I never thought I’d be starting over at this point in our lives, but if you don’t take opportunities when the universe presents them to you then you can’t live up to your full potential. For years we said we wanted to move closer to the things we love - hiking, skiing, biking, Utah, National Parks, Telluride, Ouray, hot springs, a simple life. We talked about it and dreamed about it and imagined what that would look like but we thought that this was something we’d be doing 20-30 years from now. When the opportunity presented itself to move, it was like the universe was saying, “OK here’s what you’ve been asking for, now what are you willing to sacrifice for it?” We had to move, to give up some belongings, to sell our animals and some furniture. We had to say good-bye to our friends and some comforts like being close to an International Airport. We had to decide if all those things were worth trading in for an opportunity to live the life we always wanted. 

And we had to say yes.

You can’t be scared to do something just because it’s uncomfortable. If I had been scared to leave Alabama I’d never know all the people I know now. 

It’s hard to picture what my life would have been like had I stayed in the south. Where I would have worked, who I would have married or what friends or kids I might have had. 

I’ll never know that life because that’s not what I chose. And the same is true now. Chad and I and Charlotte will never know the life we would have had if we had stayed in Arvada. 

Where we would have ended up, what new friends we would have made or how Charlotte would have progressed in school. Maybe everything would have stayed the same but we all just grew older. 

Going to the same grocery store and restaurants and me flying the same schedule. Teaching at the same studio and Chad driving out to do the same work for his job. Over and over. 

Every day until we retired or died….whatever would have come first.

But we chose another path. 

The path of uncertainty and a little anxiety and worry. I hope I’m sitting at this computer 10-20 years from now and looking back on that choice and how it propelled us into a life that I can’t quite picture yet. 

All I know is, this gamble has paid off before and we’re risk takers...and we’re betting it will pay off again. 

As Chad always says, “you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play” and even if we don’t hit the jackpot(although it certainly feels like we have so far)
it beats the hell out of never playing this game
called life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Using @Justworks_hr to #WorkFearlessly


One of my New Year's Resolutions has been to grow my retreat business. In order to be able to run more retreats in the future I have to look in to hiring employees. I've always been hesitant to hire employees and photographers, however, because I wasn't sure how to manage a payroll, benefits, time-off, and all the nitty gritty that goes with having a staff. When I learned about Justworks, I felt I had finally found the answers to all my small business questions. The plan pricing allows me to pick based on how many employees I have, so I'm not paying the price for 100 when I only have 2-4. The Basic plan includes Payroll, Compliance, and HR tools and includes unlimited contractor payments, unlimited vendor payments and more plus 24/7. Support is something I need to grow my business and I feel that from the moment I log on to their website. Since I use a lot of different vendors when putting together my retreats I can easily make all the domestic payments I need at no additional cost. Another feature I love is how I can pay remote employees, salaried, hourly, full-time and part-time. No matter who I hire or where they live I can take care of payments after they take care of their work for me!

I know so many yoga studio owners who spend the majority of their time working on payroll, writing checks, and getting frustrated when their teachers fail to pick up their checks or cash them on time. Justworks would be the perfect addition to their business plans so they could easily keep track of payments. These studio owners can even make payday extra special because Justworks sends out a "You got paid," email with the information their teachers have elected to receive. I know, as a yoga teacher myself, I would love the ability to get paid across multiple bank accounts and view my payment details on my electronic paystubs. I've been recommending Justworks to every studio owner I know who could benefit from taking advantage of this service!

It's easy to get started and #WorkFearlessly with Justworks. Just go to their website, watch the video on the home page and get started. You can even request a demo so there's no risk to try. My favorite part? The cute little robot icon that greets you when you sign on asking, "Can we get started on a benefits quote?" From the moment I visited the Justworks website I felt at ease and ready to use the resources provided to take my business to the next level.

Letting Justworks do the work for me while I focus on the other aspects of my business I enjoy!
I feel at ease knowing Justworks is working for me!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Havasuapi Reservations 2019

The official website for permits for Havasupai permits for 2019 has just released information on pricing for this year. Unlike previous years you can now only book 3 night 4 day stays at the campground. The pricing is $100 per person per night but on weekends and holidays that increases to $125. So an average weekday trip for one person will now be $300 which includes your campground stay, permit and fees. Also, only one name can now be on the reservation so anyone joining you must arrive with you to the Office of Tourism to obtain their wristband. There will be no phone reservations this year.

It is recommended you set up an account on the Havasupai permit website listed above that way when they become available on February 1st at 8am (Arizona time) you can easily pick your dates and purchase.

The increase from last year, and the mandatory 3 night stay will surely have some rethinking their travel plans. We really enjoyed the trip and are considering a return one but we also know we could put that money towards a trip to someplace we have never been before. The area is stunning and worth the journey, but there's also the cost to get to the reservation, the items needed for the backpacking trip and the time off work to consider.

If you've been before do you think it's worth the price? Or if you haven't been would this increase deter you from traveling to Havasuapi?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

How the Magee's did Havasupi

We just returned from two nights and three days soaking in the beauty of Havasupi. This place was never on my radar until last year when I started seeing pictures of the Gatorade Frost blue waters on my instagram feed. I knew I had to see it for myself so as soon as permits opened online February 1st 2018 I logged on to the website to snag us a spot. Thirty minutes after permits went live the only permits available were in November and December so I picked some dates and paid my fees. A few minutes after paying I got a confirmation email from the Havasupi Tourist Enterprise congratulating me on my upcoming trip.
Save that email, you won’t get another one!

I knew people would want to know how we got permits, how we traveled to the area, what the hike entailed and more so I decided to put together my thoughts on our amazing experience. THIS is how my husband and I backpacked Havasupi and, of course, it’s not the only way. In fact, I hope you do your own research and curate your own experience based on what’s best for you. But here’s how WE did it and I hope it inspires you to visit this amazing little slice of heaven on earth.

How we got permits:
The first thing you should know is there is no day hiking in Havasupi and you must have a permit. The land the falls are on is in Arizona on an Indian Reservation so the Supai tribe regulates how many people can travel on their land. is the official online campground reservation site for All visits require at least one night reservation and the maximum is 4 days/3 nights per reservation. You can add on back to back days if they are open.

Pricing for 2018 was as follows: 
One person, 2 days/1 night $140.56
One person, 3 days/2 nights $171.12
One person, 4 days/ 3 nights $201.67
Weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Holiday weekday nights and Spring Break weekday nights are an addition $18.34 per night.
When making a reservation, you will have the option to add the name of a person you authorize to be able to use your reservation to check-in at the tourist office as if they were you. The reservation is only valid if at least one of the people named on the reservation is present at the tourism check-in office in the Village of Supai with photo ID. You can’t resell your permits and they are non-refundable and non-transferable. They checked our permits at the Hilltop before hiking in the canyon and checked our ID’s at the tourism office. There was also a ranger riding through the canyon who asked our name and radioed to the office to make sure we were legit.
I went on the website shortly after permits opened at 8am MST and was able to get two for the 8th and 9th of November. I sent my friend Rachael a message and she was able to obtain one for the same date as well. I know in the past the only way to get a permit was to call but the online system makes it so much easier I imagine. You have to realize the office is small and there’s maybe two people answering 4 phones which ring non-stop. If you don’t get through keep trying and see what happens.

If you are open to whatever dates are available it makes it much easier to get a permit. I also noticed the more people I tried to get a permit for the less I found available and if I wanted Friday-Sunday those days were sold out first. So if you don’t see permits for the days or months you want try changing up your search and see what opens up. Also if you pick late fall you’re more likely to find openings. I kept refreshing my phone to change dates and literally saw openings disappear before my eyes. Work fast and have your credit card ready.

*Pro-tip: We met a larger group who had a girl who had just added on to their party by calling two weeks out. So it seems once you have a reservation it’s easier to add a person or two then it is to book for multiple people online.*

Phone numbers to call: (928) 448-2180 or (928) 448-2237 or (928) 448-2141 or (928) 448-2237. You can also go to now and be added to an email list for updates on permit openings for 2019.

Getting there:
Congratulations, you obtained a permit! Now how are you going to get to Havasupi? Living in Colorado meant we had to fly to the closest city or drive so we opted to fly stand-by (since I am a flight attendant after all) in to Vegas. We spent the night on the Vegas strip but if I go again I’d stay outside of Vegas in Henderson or make the push to Kingman, Arizona. Kingman is the last “big” city you’ll find before heading east on Route 66 so you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need before leaving the city. We rented a car at the airport because there’s no shuttles to the hilltop. Because we flew we couldn’t bring our camping fuel and had to check our bags so we could bring knives and all the stuff we needed. The nice part about renting a car was that I wore one set of clothing on the airplane then changed at the trailhead and left a fresh pair of clothing in the car. If you’re really ambitious you can leave a cooler in there with gatorade and water for your return. There’s a large parking lot at the trailhead but it fills up quickly and though there are bathrooms there is no water. This is also where you drop your pack off if you are using a mule to haul your gear in or if you paid to have a helicopter ride down to the village. You’ll see a little hut at the end of the parking lot and you’ll show your permit to the person inside before starting your hike down to Supai Village.

Is the hike really that bad? Ah the hike. The first 1.5 miles is downhill into the canyon via a series of rocky switchbacks. The trail is well marked and nearly impossible to get lost. From the hilltop to the village it’s about 8 miles and there’s no water until you reach the village. One of my main motivating factors for hiking in the fall was that I knew we wouldn’t have to start the hike at 4am in order to beat the Arizona summer heat. Since we arrived late Wednesday night and had to drive to the trailhead the next day and wait until at least 9am when stores opened so we could buy camping fuel which meant we didn’t end up starting the hike until 1pm. The downside to hiking after daylight savings is that we didn’t have a lot of daylight to work with and ended up setting up camp in the dark. I also believe I saw a sign on the tourist office door that they closed at 5pm so you’ll want to make sure you check-in and get your wristbands before then.

I had read a lot of comments from people about getting blisters from the hike and I have to say my feet held up very well in my Vasque hiking boots with thicker REI hiking boot socks. I can see how one could easily get blisters however as the terrain is a mix of rock, sand and gravel so the uneven surfaces can do a number on your feet especially with a heavy pack on. While ten miles is certainly nothing to sneeze at, I saw people of all shapes and sizes making the hike so I truly believe anyone can do it if they are strong mentally. But pack smart. I saw one girl with a box of crackers sticking out of her pack and a neck pillow. I don’t know why she didn’t think to take the crackers out of the box or use an inflatable pillow. My pack weighed 25lbs and even that was a lot to me.

Once you reach Supai Village you’ll first be greeted with a small grocery store that has cold drinks and packed food items like chips and ramen. There is a $20 minimum for credit cards so I recommend bringing cash. Near the tourist office there’s another grocery store but keep in mind these stores are 2 miles from the campsite. There’s also water here you can fill up on. I brought a Nalgene and 3 liters in and was just fine but remember my hike wasn’t in the dead of summer. If you need anything the time to buy is when you arrive so you don’t have to hike 4 miles for more food. Prices are triple what they would normally be as you can imagine. I believe we paid $13 for two cokes and a bag of chips and pack of ramen.

So where can I camp?
So you hiked the ten miles and made it to camp, now what? There’s three bathroom areas with composting toilets along the trail and plenty of picnic tables dotting the trails along the water. There is, however, only one water source here which is spring fed and well-marked so most tend to try and camp near the spring water station. I knew this, however, so our group pushed on past the water and the first set of bathrooms and set up across the stream which was near the second set of bathrooms. People are arriving and departing each day so the earlier you arrive at camp the earlier you’ll be able to snag a spot from someone who just left. You can always move your tent if you’re super ambitious. The later you arrive the more hassle it is to find a spot. We found most people were very accommodating and willing to share their camping space. If you’re planning on sleeping in your hammock there are plenty of great trees to use. There is no camping down by the top of Mooney Falls even though we saw several tents set up right near the edge. To me, this is very stupid, because if there’s a flash flood then your tent, possibly with you in it, will be carried 200 feet to your death.

What should I bring?

I’ve taken several backpacking trips in the past few years and I feel like everytime I learn more about what I should bring and what I shouldn’t. Knowing there were no fires allowed at the campsite but there was a water source we decided on dehydrated meals. I brought my MSR WindBurner stove system for cooking. We ended up eating one backpacker meal Thursday night and a backpacker desert, ramen and tuna Friday for lunch and another backpacker meal Friday night and a backpacker desert. We honestly brought way too much food and ended up packing out a lot of snacks and extra meals.

Here’s what I brought:

my looks bigger because my hiking boots were in it for the flight home

What I packed: serac hammock, mini first aid kit, solar light, headlamp, msr wind proof stove and fuel, pack towel, inflatable pillow, sunscreen, toothbrush, toothpaste, multi-tool, pack silverware, water filter, camp slippers, chacos, thermarest, north face sleeping bag, costco down light weight blanket, camp cup, warm hat, tripod

the best camp pillow and pack towel ever

clothing I took: feral Patagonia moisture wicking top, prAna Halle pants, gloves, three pairs of socks for hiking and one for sleeping in, tank top, two sports bras, two bathing suits (I only needed one), rain jacket (didn't need it), Patagonia baggie shorts, 32 degree heat pants and long sleeve shirt as a base layer from Costco, Melanzana dress, Patagonia vest, Mountain Hardware puffy, Lululemon tank top. I wore the Lulu top and sports bra in with the 32 degree heat long sleeve over it and my vest and on the way out the Feral top with same shirt over and vest. Same pants the whole time.

Mountain Hardware 3.5 optic tent which my husband carried. It's about 5lbs so we often divide it up. Pictured is food we didn't eat.
Here’s what I wish I brought:
A plastic inflatable water cube to fill up and keep at camp for cooking. A deck of cards. A mesh hang-bag for food. We didn’t have an issue with squirrels but some people did and these keep them out of your goodies.
Here’s what I brought that I didn’t need:Extra food. Water filter (nowhere to filter water along the trail and plenty of fresh water at camp).
It goes without saying, but everything you pack in you must pack out. I was horrified to look around the area and see blatant disrespect of leave no trace principles. Garbage bags piled up in the restroom. Items left on the picnic table. One group we passed by that was packing up had obviously just bought a lot of items for the trip that they didn’t need and had a “FREE” sign posted at their site with canisters of camping fuel, sleeping pads and you could see lots of plastic bags strewn about their area. This isn’t a garage sale. If you don’t want it after you’re done with it that’s too bad...unless you specifically ask other campers if they want your gear don’t just leave it assuming it will be used. They have to helicopter supplies in and out and no one has time to clean up and pack out your trash for you.

Alright I’m here, I’m unpacked, I’m ready to adventure!
Even though we had a long day traveling and hiking Thursday we were ready to hit the ground running Friday. I had read that a line can form with people waiting to go up and down the chains to Mooney Falls, sometimes causing a 2 hour wait so it’s imperative one get down them before 10am. We woke up early, made coffee and took our meals and stove with us so we could eat after getting down the most treacherous part. Oh, you didn’t know there were chains and ladders? Ok I’ll enlighten you. At the end of the campground you’ll come upon an amazing site, Mooney Falls. These falls were named after the sailor who tried to downclimb to the base of the waterfall and died. Comforting right? But deaths here are extremely rare, the only fall having occurred before a trail was established. (Read more behind the history of the falls here).

this part is slippery and muddy from the waterfall

exit from second cave

the chain gang 

If you’re nervous about heights or exposure isn’t your thing then you can see the falls just fine from above. One of the great parts about being on a reservation is it’s unlike other spots in America where there’s retaining walls to keep you from getting to close to the edge. Nope, you can walk right up to the edge of the falls and peer over or take all the selfies you like. Just know your limits. The first part of the chains is pretty benign. You go through two small caves that have very well worn steps leading you down to the crux of the climb which is where the down climb begins. The final part of the climb wouldn’t be so bad if the chains and ladders weren’t muddy and wet from the spray of the waterfall and people climbing up and down them getting them more wet and muddy. Once you pass through the second cave if you aren’t feeling comfortable now is a great time to turn we saw a guy do. Because past this point you are committed and it’s dangerous and difficult to squeeze by others. We brought gloves to make it easier to get a good grip on the wet chains. There are great foot and hand holds you just have to take your time and make sure you have three points of contact at all times.Once you reach the bottom of the final ladder you’re rewarded with a cooling spray of the falls. In total I believe it’s 200 feet of down climb.

Our next objective was Beaver Falls so we snapped a few photos and followed the water downriver. The trail to Beaver Falls crosses the river several times so we wore our hiking boots then changed in to water shoes for the three mile hike since we were in and out of the water. Depending on the water level these crossings can be shin to thigh high. I wore my prAna Halle pants because they are quick drying and my bathing suit underneath. I brought a pair of Patagonia baggies in my day pack which I changed in to for the hike back. Since we went in November I wasn’t sure how warm the water would be but it really wasn’t that cold. I only brought a pack towel though because I knew it wouldn’t be hot enough to fully submerge myself in the water and, to me, a towel, wasn’t worth the extra weight.
My other reasoning for leaving early for Beaver Falls was to be first there and catch the sun at its high point over the canyon. You don’t have a lot of hours of daylight in the fall as it is but you have to keep in mind that there’s limited time where the sun is in the sky in just the right spot to reach the floor of the canyon. There was a few more ladder climbs (nothing like Mooney Falls) and we finally reached our destination. We had the place to ourselves for a good hour or so until 3 other people showed up. By the time we left, two hours later, the light was gone and the people we arriving in droves. My pro-tip: get here early to enjoy the falls to yourself then spend time at Mooney Falls on the return hike. 

my favorite spot of the trip

there's multiple waterfalls on the way to Beaver Falls. It looks so fake here like we are at some amusement park and have a green screen behind us! I promise it's real!

After playing at Beaver Falls we hiked back to Mooney, took several photos then made it back up the chains and ladders to our campsite. We changed and then headed to Havasu falls which is the first waterfall you encounter before reaching the campsite. While we didn’t have cell phone service at campsite, we did have a few bars of service at the top of Havasu falls so I was able to check-in with our babysitter and make sure everything was alright at home. Havasu falls is the easiest falls to get to and the one you’ll see the most people enjoying.

playing at the base of Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls as seen from above. You can climb all over the rocks here. See the tents at the top by the falls? Way too close
It’s been fun but now it’s time to go…
Before the trip I vaguely knew about the mules and helicopter you can take in and out of the village. I also want to preface this by saying I’ve read conflicting reports about the treatment of the mules and horses by the locals. Personally, I did not witness any elements of abuse to the local animals although I will say I’m sure they aren’t taken care of as well as people would like them to be. I’m sure living in the desert is hard on these animals and there’s not a whole lot of pasture for grazing. We had talked to the ranger on our way to Havasu falls (yes, there’s a ranger on site who checks your wristbands and keeps things running smoothly) inquiring about having our packs hauled out by mule. He gave us a number to call and we were able to pay over the phone and add our name to the list. We then returned to the ranger who gave us 4 tags (there was three of us but were told the tags only come in 4 packs or 2 packs and so we ended up selling the extra tag) to put on our bags that night. Our bags then had to be dropped off at the entrance of the campsite by 7:45am the next morning. I believe for four tags it ended up being $43 per bag. You can also arrange this prior to your tip or at the tourism center, but it must be done the day before you depart. If you want to take a helicopter in our out of Supai it’s $85pp but it’s first-come, first-served and locals have first dibs. The helicopter runs every 15 minutes but only on certain days of the week (it definitely doesn’t run on Saturday) so it’s not the most reliable mode of transportation.

Last look at Havasu Falls, the first waterfall you see on the way in
I was fully prepared to carry everything out on my own, but I will say the mule option was a huge weight off our bodies. In fact, our packs passed us on the way out of the canyon and were waiting for us at the top. We also saw the mules loaded with coolers and duffel bags and many other oddly shaped bags you wouldn’t expect. As my husband said, “I’m realizing you can bring anything you want in here if you pay for it…”
Which leads us to the rules: Besides the leave no trace rule being ignored by some the other rule of the campsite I saw being broken by various groups was no alcohol. There’s signs everywhere warning of a $1200 fine plus immediate removal from the premise and seizure of property. I was people being blatantly obvious with whisky bottles on their tables and even attached to their backpacks. To me, it’s not worth being kicked out and facing a penalty just to have a drink. But I will also say no one was coming in and checking out the campsites and making sure people were adhering to the rules. Just be respectful and mindful you’re on a tribe’s sacred land. That’s all I’ll say on that subject because hey we’re all adults here.

So what did I think? Would I go again? Was it worth it?
This was hands-down the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve been to a lot of amazing places. From the moment you step on the trail to head in to the canyon you feel as if you’ve entered another world. A world that lives by a different set of rules and is so remote that the closest parking lot is 10 miles away by foot. The Supai people are incredibly nice and every hiker we met was laid back and friendly. We adventured with one guy Friday who joined us at Beaver Falls and made friends with our camping neighbors for our final night who were incredibly kind. The air temp was perfect for hiking and there was no bugs or snakes to contend with. While it was a little chilly at night, the trade-off was less crowds. We all kept saying that even though we knew there were at least 100 people scattered all over the place it didn’t feel crowded. For a backpacking trip, as far as accessibility and gear goes, this one is fairly easy and requires no maps or specialty items.

Above Havasu Falls looking down into the canyon

I’m lucky in the fact that this was my first time ever to try and get permits and I got them. I truly believe being flexible and willing to travel to this destination on an off time in the year made all the difference. While I would have loved to have more daylight to enjoy the campsite after our activities or warmer weather for swimming, I’m glad I don’t have hundreds of people with pool floaties in my photos I have to photoshop out.

I hope you get to see this place in person and experience the magic and beauty for yourself in 2019!

I'll be adding to this more in the coming days but if you want to see my recommended gear check out my amazon affiliate store: or check out my adventures on instagram @yogimagee

One flight, one rental car, a hotel and a 4 hour drive, a year of planning and 26 miles RT later we finish the adventure of a lifetime!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It's almost Fall Y'all! - Best Leaf Peeping Spots in Fallorado

I have a confession to make.

I’m a peeper.

It’s true. I love to peep. September is not only the start of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, cooler weather and a time to dig out the scarves, but also kicks off my favorite season: leaf peeping in Fallorado.

After living in Colorado 13 years I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of this fine fall family activity. While the local news stations do a great job of projecting when the aspen leaves will change to gold, one crazy snowstorm can blow in and wipe the colors from the mountaintops. The best plan to peep, I’ve learned, is to have a few ideas on where you’d like to go to see the colors, but be willing to change your weekend plans if necessary. While some of my favorite spots might require a hotel stay or camping trip, others can be made as a daytrip. It’s best to note the colors change from North to South in the state so some of these places are best scheduled to visit at the end of September or early October. So pack some snacks, grab your fall boots, charge up the camera and get ready to take the kids to the best colorful Colorado has to offer.

        1. Hells Hole Hike in the Mount Evans Wilderness: This is an 8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Idaho Springs. Full disclaimer, I hiked this once with my daughter when she was little and it was a huge undertaking. Now we just drive up to the trailhead and hike until the aspens run out, about a mile or so in and turn around and come back out. There’s picnic tables at the trailhead as well as pit toilets making it a nice spot to hike and lunch with the family. The road isn’t paved but I’ve driven up in a 2wd vehicle with no issues. Dogs are also allowed on leash. To me, this is the closest spot for soaking in the Aspen’s and it’s a great place to take out-of-towners who don’t care to do more than a few miles of hiking as well.

2.       Golden Gate Canyon State Park: located northwest of Golden, this 11,998 acre park has 36 miles of hiking trails to choose from and features over 100 campsites and 100 picnic sites. The twelve trails are each named after an animal and marked with the animal’s footprints. I chose the Horseshoe Trail because it’s 1.8 miles one way and passes through aspen groves which were mostly bare of leaves when I went mid-October last year. Some of the trails are for hikers only while others allow horse and mountain bikes so you can choose the option that’s perfect for you and your family. Don’t feel like hiking? Drive straight to Panorama Point and enjoy the best picnic views around.

3.       Bear Creek Falls: If you can swing a trip to Telluride during gold season, it’s my absolute favorite spot to see the fall colors. While you can peep at just about any spot driving past the Dallas Divide on your way into town, Bear Creek Falls offers an up close and personal view of aspen the quaking aspens. While the hike itself is 2.5 miles one way to the falls, you can shorten this by letting your little ones hike as far as their legs will carry them then walk back into town. My favorite part about this jaunt is that it can be accessed from town so once you arrive at your accommodations you don’t have to drive anywhere further. You can also take the free gondola up to mountainside village so you can have a bird’s eye view of the aspens lining the soon-to-be-snow lined -ski-hill below. For bonus aspen tree peeping, take the Last Dollar Road on your way into town and find yourself surrounded by trees and views of Mt. Wilson peak. Pro-tip: don’t drive this road if it’s recently been raining or snowing, we almost went off the road and got stuck due to excess mud from a recent storm.

4.       Maroon Lake: No leaf peeping list would be complete without a mention of the Maroon Bells Wilderness. This landmark is so popular that access is restricted during the summer and fall. Before 8am and after 5pm, you can drive all the way to Maroon Lake for a $10 vehicle fee. Otherwise plan on taking the bus from the Aspen Highlands Ski Area where you can purchase tickets from Four Mountain Sports and the ticket office. Call the Maroon Bells hotline: 970-945-3319 for information about the status of the scenic area and parking. What makes this area so amazing is that it’s accessible to everyone (even dogs on leash!) and if you’re feeling motivated you can hike past Maroon lake and on to Crater Lake where you’ll find the crowds start to thin. We camped at the Lost Man Campground, which is a first come, first-served site situated directly across Independence Pass road from Lost Man Trailhead. This gave us an affordable way to stay near town without having to pay resort prices.
after a gorgeous summit day on S. Maroon

Maroon lake as seen from summit of S. Maroon

5.       Ouray and Silverton: Last fall my husband, daughter and I flew to Montrose (perks of being a flight attendant!) rented a car, then drove to Ouray and began the ultimate leaf peeping adventure. True to all great adventures, we had no definite plans. We stayed at the Victorian Inn which has natural hot springs pools (perfect for kids) plus free breakfast and popcorn in the lobby. We spent a day driving over Red Mountain pass into Silverton for lunch then driving down any dirt road that held the promise of gold. Many might not have known our daughter was with us since she slept in the car for half our leaf peeping experience, which made this activity perfect for our family. My husband and I got to jump in and out of the car to take photos, my daughter got great naps in, and at the end of the day we soaked and ordered room service from the Tiki bar.
somewhere off red mountain pass

There you have it, my top picks for peeping around the state. Of course, I didn’t even mention hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park or a drive over Trail Ridge Road but that’s because the options for viewing fall colors in this state are only limited by your imagination. While there are many times in life to be a planner, and trust me I love to plan, soaking in the colors of Fallorado requires more spontaneity which will allow for a truly incredible adventure for your family. So gas up the car and get ready for a road trip because before you know it all those beautiful aspens will be bare and winter will be on its way.