Fall (and zip and traverse) into the fall foliage

Photos: courtesy Sam Fisher

Photos: courtesy Sam Fisher

A new perspective on Colorado’s most colorful season

By Steve Graham

You’ve seen the fall leaves from a car, a mountain bike and a hiking trail. Sam Fisher has an exotic suggestion for getting a new perspective on the colorful Colorado foliage — a Via Ferrata.

The concept, imported from Italy, requires participants to traverse across a cliff face on iron bars inserted in the rocks. They date back to the 19th century, and helped troops move through the otherwise impassable portions of the Italian Alps.

There are now more than 1,000 Via Ferrata courses around the world, mostly used now for recreation and thrill-seeking, according to Fisher. He is the marketing brand coordinator at AVA Rafting and Zipline, which operates Via Ferrata courses in Idaho Springs and Buena Vista.

Other Via Ferrata courses in Colorado include: 

  • a large and thrilling open course in Telluride

  • a guided course at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park

  • a course at the Royal Gorge near Cañon City

  • and an Estes Park course overlooking Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Some of the guided courses, including both AVA routes, combine cliff-face traverses with suspended bridges, zip lines and an optional free-fall. 

“It’s a really cool twist on zip lining,” Fisher said.

He said the Idaho Springs course draws crowds because it is so close to the Denver area, but the Chaffee County location is also enticing.

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“That Buena Vista outpost is worth the drive,” Fisher said. “It’s a beautiful part of the state.”

He said autumn is a great time for zip lines or the Via Ferrata challenges. 

“There’s typically less people around,” Fisher said. “The temperatures are perfect, and the colors are astounding of course.”

He said the traverses and the suspended bridges also help you slow down and really enjoy the fall leaves. 

“There is plenty of opportunity to sit back and soak in the scenery that the courses provide,” Fisher said, adding that hand brakes on the zip line help riders control their speed, and guides will go at any pace.

Of course, fall weather in Colorado is predictably unpredictable, so pack some comfortable waterproof layers to be ready for precipitation and sudden temperature drops. Closed-toe shoes are also required. Most Via Ferrata guiding companies will provide helmets and harnesses.