With summer finally at an end, hikers and nature lovers alike are preparing to once again hit the trails. This is one of the busiest seasons for local, state, and national parks, as crisp fall winds and changing leaves provide the ultimate scenic experience. The United States is rich with hiking trails for adventurers of all experience levels, with paths ranging from simple day trips to week-long excursions. That said, there are a few stand-out locations that offer fall foliage views even the most inexperienced hiker shouldn’t miss.
1.The Appalachian Trail
Spanning over 2000 miles through 14 states, the Appalachian Trail provides the most varied and engaging hiking experience east of the Mississippi. Beginning in Springer Mountain, Georgia and terminating at Mount Katahdin, Maine the path travels through many unique environments. While peak viewing times vary by region, hikers looking to take in the Trail’s fall colors can do so reliably from late September into early November.
At its northernmost section, the 22-day segment from Baxter State Park to Andover, Maine offers stunning views of New England’s autumn landscape, allowing hikers to look down up the changing colors from 3000 foot peaks. At its southern end, the Hot Springs, North Carolina to Springer Mountain, Georgia path takes hikers up ridges only to plunge deep into Georgia’s river valleys bright with fall colors. While these paths cover a broad distance, the trail’s multiple entry and exit points means day trips are just as possible as longer treks.
2.Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park offers a rich hiking experience year-round, but the park truly shines during the autumn months. Fall typically lasts in the Tetons from early September into the middle of October, with peak foliage colors occurring during the third week of September. The varied landscape is packed with deciduous trees that transform to bright yellows and oranges, while the willow trees and shrubs of the park’s valleys add a touch of red and gold. Rich with fauna as well, lucky hikers might catch a glimpse of the local elk and moose population among the fall foliage. The Hidden Falls Trail in particular provides some of the best autumn views and at 5 miles is perfect for a casual afternoon hike.
3.Acadia National Park, Maine
With over 3 million visitors a year, Maine’s Acadia National Park is one of the East Coast’s most popular hiking destinations, a fact which hold true well into the autumn months. The park covers about 49,000 acres, leaving plenty of room for the thousands of adventurers who come from September through November to take in the fall sights while enjoying a bit of solitude. Generally speaking, the peak time for autumn foliage viewing is mid-October. The Jordan Pond Full Loop is a short hike, measuring in at about 3 and half miles and covers some truly incredible views of the park’s dense woodland. As an added bonus, the trail even permits dogs, making it an excellent fall hike for pet lovers.
4.Forest Park, Oregon
This aptly named park lies in the state’s Tualatin Mountains, a rocky range of hills with peak elevations of about 1200 feet. While only covering about 5,000 acres, Forest Park is rich with both new and old growth trees that are populated by more than 100 avian species, making it an excellent fall destination for hikers who also have a keen interesting in bird watching. 40 miles of trails loop through the park, with the Wildwood Trail showing off some of the landscape’s most intense and stunning views of the autumn foliage, particularly the park’s maples which offer shades of red and gold. The Wildwood Trail covers about 3 miles, leaving plenty of the park to explore on return visits.