2019 Gold Rush Photo Contest Winners

EnCompass Magazine

The beautiful images you see on these pages, and the cover, were taken by AAA Colorado members like you and submitted in response to our Gold Rush Photo Contest.

EnCompass received hundreds of entries, and we’re thrilled to present this year’s winners and honorable mentions. We hope you enjoy this tour of Colorado’s autumn color as much as we did.

Click to enlarge


Natallia Brennan, Loveland
Member since: 2010

While visiting a family friend in Glenwood Springs, Natallia and her family went on a hike at Sunlight Mountain Resort on this beautifully calm and sunny fall day, capturing this cover-worthy photo with her Nikon D3400 camera. “As a nurse, I find the mountains a great place to relax, recharge, and promote emotional healing,” she says to EnCompass. “While the older folks were busy walking behind, my newlywed daughter, Aksana, and son-in-law, Andrei, walked ahead of us. This picture of a happy young couple wandering through the peaceful golden nature was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist taking it.”


Dan Ford, Centennial
Member since: 1985

Dan and his wife, Corrine, take several trips each fall to view the beautiful Colorado fall colors. One of their favorite drives is to the top of Squaw Pass, near Mt. Evans. However, on this particular trip, Dan took the drive alone. He photographed his 1965 Chevy Impala against the golden backdrop with his Canon EOS Rebel T2i just before descending down to Echo Lake toward Idaho Springs.

“I’m the second owner of this 1965 Chevy, we’ve owned it for 25 years, and it’s been part of the AAA family since it was new,” he tells EnCompass. “I often tease my wife that I purchased this convertible to remind me of the year we were married. We enjoy mountain rides frequently, especially for viewing wildflower in July and aspen color in the fall.


Laura Clark, Colorado Springs
Member since: 2010

Laura is an avid hiker, driving all over the state spending most of her weekends in Colorado’s high country. One October, she started out on an early morning alpine hike in Westcliffe before dawn, but had to turn back at treeline due to unsafe snow conditions. “I was a bit upset to abandon my hike,” she relates to EnCompass. “However, as I drove out in the daylight, I was greeted with multiple layers of Colorado colors I hadn’t seen in the early morning hours. As I looked through my car’s side mirror, capturing the moment with my Canon T3i camera, I thought even though my hike was cut short, the view was worth the drive.”


Conner Staley, Arvada
Member since: 2017

Conner and his wife were on a “babymoon” of sorts. After tirelessly working on their house to prepare for their first child, they planned a getaway while she was about halfway through the pregnancy. “Both of us grew up in Colorado, but we had never been to Hanging Lake,” he expresses to EnCompass. “We got an early, mid-week start, and were lucky to get a nice cool morning with few visitors for the challenging hike. When we made it to the wooden walkway at the pool, our reward was this scene, captured with my Nikon D5200 camera. Inspired and in awe of the natural beauty of the falls and the pool, we were reminded that there are so many beautiful places to see in Colorado—some easy and some more difficult to get to.”

Fred Braun, Fort Collins
Member since: 1982

Fred was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park while looking for fall colors and critters to photograph. “I found this strand of aspen along the base of the Bierstadt Moraine, on the Bear Lake Road,” he tells EnCompass. “I photographed this with my Canon 5D Mark III camera at dusk, which brought out the color of the leaves.”

Claire Chomiak, Castle Rock
Member since: 2016

Claire and her husband have hiked to Rainbow Lake in Frisco well before moving to Colorado from New Jersey. “It’s one of my favorite hikes that I’ve done hundreds of times over the years with friends and family,” she coveys to EnCompass. “We had decided to move to Colorado upon retirement, but didn’t know where, and this sign along the road to the lake (taken with my Nikon CoolPix P100 camera), didn’t seem to help. We stared at it with perplexed looks on our faces.”

An Amber-Hued Legacy of the Gold Rush

One hundred sixty years ago, in 1859, prospectors first flocked to Colorado in search of gold—and they found it (Well, some did, anyway.)! The lucky ones sparked a gold boom that gave rise to mining camps and mountain towns—and, of course, saloons.

At a time when gold drove the economy, saloons were some of the most important buildings in town. Saloon owners accepted pinches of gold dust in exchange for glasses of whiskey or beer, and plenty of new arrivals spent their first nights in Colorado sleeping on saloon floors. The Rocky Mountain Brewery opened in Denver in 1859, churning out barrels of lager that quickly replaced whiskey as Coloradans’ beverage of choice.

From those earliest days to today, beer has played its part in some of the most significant moments in Colorado’s history.

At the History Colorado Center in Denver, the Beer Here! Brewing the New West exhibit looks at those earliest days of Colorado beer and the saloons that served it up to thirsty prospectors. It’s a legacy that gave rise to the craft brew phenomenon today’s Colorado is known for. Some 360-plus breweries now call Colorado home. Towns founded in the Gold Rush now host beer festivals and ski races. And it all started with those first would-be miners scrambling through the peaks in hopes of finding their fortunes.

4 best I-70 exits to avoid leaf-peeping congestion

By Julie Bielenberg

It’s the nature of the season, literally, that sends Coloradans, and visiting tourists, to the Rocky Mountain high country for enjoyment of the atonal palette. This often leads to traffic and congestion along I-70—more often on the way back down—but these ideas work either way. So, make the most of your fall mountain getaway with some extra pit stops.

Exit 116, Glenwood Springs

Bring the bathing suit!

Traffic congestion first might occur in Glenwood Springs as cars funnel from Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, and Carbondale into the hot springs mecca after viewing the namesake trees. The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool opened a few new attractions in July that includes a whitewater tube ride, children’s play area with mini water slides, and a family-friendly splash pad during the day that transforms into a colorfully, lighted fountain come evening.

Exit 147, Eagle

Bring the wet suit!

Roughly another 30 miles east along I-70 is Colorado’s newest whitewater park, and another easy escape from traffic. Constructed by the town of Eagle, the Eagle River Park features whitewater waves, eddies, chutes, and drops that can be accessed via tube and float during low water times, but certainly kayak, stand up paddle board and other inflatables that desire class III and IV rapids.

Exit 226, Silver Plume

Bring an appetite!

After summiting the Continental Divide and legendary Johnson Tunnel, the first town with multiple services down the steep descent is Silver Plume, yet rarely visited by locals or tourists. Take advantage of this tidbit and stop at the Bread Bar (1010 Main St.). Housed at the site of an 1800s-era bakery, the eatery entertains a loyal following as a peaceful mountain stop-off for classic cocktails and socializing.

Exit 252, Evergreen

Bring the walking shoes and fishing pole!

Our final ideal refuge from urban and fall color-drive congestion, especially for tweens, is the Wild Game Entertainment Experience in Evergreen. Pair this with a stroll around Evergreen Lake where you can spend some time trout fishing.

A free bonus option exists at Exit 254 near Genesee. The Lookout Mountain Nature Center offers plenty of acreage to stretch the legs and learn about the Foothills ecosystem with interactive exhibits. Kids will even love the hands-on play room and observation room.

Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based writer and regular contributor to EnCompass. She is Colorado’s leading agritourism writer, and her travels throughout the state have frequently led her to uncovered, or understated, locales.