Leaf peeping is starting a little late this season in Colorado, which means there’s still plenty of time to plan for a road trip and make a reservation at a scenic high-country restaurant.
OK, so dining among the trees might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering an outdoor fall excursion, but we think these Colorado dining rooms with views are worth the detour.
RELATED: Fall color changes are about to begin. Here’s where to go leaf-peeping in Colorado.
Here are six to get you started.
The Shaggy Sheep is a lovely stop along Highway 285, just southeast of the community of Grant and Guanella Pass. Husband-and-wife owners Chris Howe and Sarah Bennett run a relaxed log-cabin eatery and lounge here, complete with a little front porch. They are open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks through October, and then for lunch and dinner through the winter. Try the smoked brisket or the house green chile. 50455 U.S. Highway 285, 719-836-8845, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday to Monday (May 18-Oct. 31) and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday to Sunday (Nov. 1-May 5), the-shaggy-sheep.com
If Buena Vista and Salida are on your route, stop by the Surf Hotel for an Arkansas River-side meal at Wesley & Rose. The French chateau decor matches a menu of fresh-baked breads and beignets, Caesar salads, tartines and pork chops. And don’t forget to check out the classic cocktail list (hello, Montanya rum and Leopold Bros. maraschino liqueur daiquiri). Open for daily happy hour and dinner and Sunday brunch. 1012 Front Loop, Buena Vista, 719-966-7048, 4-9 p.m. daily and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, surfhotel.com
Just follow the signs for the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse and sleeping yurts as you’re on this mile-long hike (or on snowshoes or cross-country skis) from the Nordic Center north of Leadville. A four-course dinner at treeline (reservations only) awaits at the end with options such as Colorado rack of lamb and grilled elk tenderloin. A more casual weekend lunch is also available in the winter. E. Tennessee Road, 719-486-8114, dinners with reservations start at 6 p.m. daily (but you’ll need to arrive for the trek by 5:30), tennesseepass.com
Piney River Ranch overlooks Piney Lake and the Gore Range behind it for one of the most beautiful dining vistas near Vail. Open late June through the end of September only, the lodge’s restaurant and bar serve barbecue — on banh mi sandwiches and in tacos — as well as beers from the local Bonfire Brewing. 700 Red Sandstone Road, Vail, 303-905-4439, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through Sept. 29, pineyriverranch.com
Another dining adventure starts outside Aspen in the ghost town of Ashcroft, where — depending on the season — you can hike, ski or sleigh ride up to the Pine Creek Cookhouse. Situated in the Elk Mountains, this upscale cabin serves “American alpine cuisine” for lunch and dinner. Think smoked trout and elk bratwurst, buffalo tenderloin and stuffed acorn squash. 11399 Castle Creek Road, Aspen, 970-925-1044, lunch and dinner hours vary based on private events, reservations required, and the restaurant closes from Oct. 6 to early December, pinecreekcookhouse.com
In the tiny town of Marble (population 150), there’s a big-deal barbecue shack with picnic tables and an outdoor deck that backs right up to the fall foliage. Slow Groovin BBQ opens for the season through Oct. 31 (though a second, Snowmass location stays open through the winter). While it’s still smoking in Marble, stop in for “hillbilly” nachos and BBQ platters, complete with beans, coleslaw and Texas toast. 101 W. 1st St., Marble, 970-963-4090, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily from May 1 to Oct. 31, slowgroovinbbq.com
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