Outdoor Guide

8 Outstanding Autumn Hikes

El Capitan Yosemite Valley

8 Scenic hikes that are great to experience in the fall. The fall colors, and crisp fall air make these trails all the more spectacular.

El Capitan Yosemite Valley

There is nothing quite like stepping outside your front door and breathing in the fresh, crisp air and beholding the gorgeous colors of change. Autumn is one of the most peaceful seasons that we experience, and there is no better way to enjoy it than going out on a hike through the trees. Not only does autumn present us with wonderful views, but it gives a reason to get outside, reflect on the change it brings, and enjoy the calm before winter arrives. With this said, we’re going to outline some of the best places to hike in the United States during this fall season.

The Appalachian Trail – Eastern United States:

Is the longest hiking-only trail in the world spanning 2,189.2 miles, meaning that it winds through several states along the eastern United States. If you live anywhere between Georgia and Maine, you have access to this footpath hiking only trail that spawns gorgeous views during the fall. The farther north you live, the earlier you should go to enjoy the autumn foliage, but typically the best time to go is anywhere between September and October. If you are looking for a little bit more, you can always travel into several of the parks that are along the trail which includes: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Baxter State Park, White Mountains national Forest and the Shenandoah National Park. Keep in mind though that some of the National Parks have scenic drive-only trails.

Trail Creek Trail – Alaska:

If you live in Alaska or are in Canada and want to check out this magnificent U.S trail, then head to the Trail Creek hike during August to September. Since Alaska is located so far north, you are going to want to go as early as possible as the autumn foliage begins much earlier than the lower 48 United States. What makes this trail unique is that it runs along a stream in the Chugach Mountains near Moose Pass, Alaska and if you follow the trail all the way down you will come to Kenai Lake where you can fish for various species of trout.

Kennesaw Mountain National Park – Georgia

Is an extremely challenging hike located in the Keenesaw Mountain National Park which is about five miles long. But what makes this hiking trail standout is that it has extremely interesting history considering it is a landmark of the Civil War battles. If you hike all the way up to the top of the mountain, you will encounter cannons that were used during the Civil War which is a nice surprise. Be wary though that it will take you a couple of hours to complete the entire hike, as you will go through two mountains and loop around in a circle. The reason that the hike is so challenging is that you will travel about 700 feet upward in one mile – which is extremely steep for a hike.

Pacific Crest Trail – Western United States:

Now if you live along the Western United States, namely Washington and Oregon, than heading out to the Pacific Crest Trail is a great way to spend your autumn hikes. It is a long-distance trail that travels all the way from Mexico, up the Western side of the United States, up to Canada. One of the better places to see foliage is near the Cascades sections in Washington and Oregon. However, if you are looking for some parks to travel into to see more foliage, than going into the North Cascades National Park and the Skyline Divide are great options.

Pisgah National Forest: Brevard – North Carolina:

This is one of the more well known hiking places to go if you live near or in North Carolina, because it is a hiker’s paradise. Not only are the trails challenging, but there is over 200 miles worth of hiking opportunities. Plus, the Pisgah National Forest is known as the “land of waterfalls” as there are waterfalls littered throughout the park. This means that no matter what trail you pick, you’re going to come across some fantastic views involving gorgeous autumn colours and the thundering of magnificent waterfalls. There are over sixteen single-track trails with the best rated being: Coontree.

Zion National Park – Utah:

Is a bit different than the previous trails we have talked about, as this one features a shuttle system that lets you get to your designated trail rather quickly. It also lets you overlook parts of the park, which is perfect for taking some marvellous photographs of the autumn foliage. I will make note though that this park is for more experienced hikers, as the landscape is dotted with canyons and cliffs, plus there are backpacking options for those who want to do overnight hikes. The hiking options in the park are challenging, do have risks depending on the weather and time of year, and may cause you to get wet, so take appropriate clothing. Popular trails include: Angels landing which is one of the most challenging due to its heights and narrow pathways, West Wall of Zion Canyon which has several trails that split off from it, and the Narrows which is a popular hike that travels to the Virgin River; some parts of this require hiking gear.

Yosemite National Park – California:

One of the unique aspects about Yosemite is the fact that it has over 800 miles of trails that span from a relaxing walk to a hardcore challenge because they are unmaintained trails. So whether you are an inexperienced hiker who wants to take their family out for a relaxing fall walk, or an experienced hiker who wants a challenging workout, Yosemite has everything. Plus, there is nothing more beautiful than getting to see 200 foot waterfalls, hundreds of lakes and prehistoric trees changing colours with the season. You can choose from paved trails which may be more crowded than unpaved, or you can choose remote trails where you won’t be around a lot of people. The popular trails include: Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Road, and Mariposa Grove.

Glacier National Park – Montana:

Is located in Northern Montana, which is great for those who live either in Montana or along the Alberta and British Columbia border, who want to experience a hike set amongst rugged mountains, lakes, meadows and forests. It is a popular national park, but its trails do not become over crowded, so its perfect if you just want to get away from people and enjoy a relaxing or challenging hike in solitude. The park has over 700 miles of hiking trails and is rather massive in scale, so it’s important that you actually plan out what portion of the park you want to explore before actually going. If you’re looking to hike alone, than choosing the Two Medicines region is filled with hikes that explore meadows, and mountain passes. The other more popular area is the Many Glacier Area which provides hikers with gorgeous viewpoints of mountains.
What makes this list great is that it covers a large range of hikes across the United States and has options for both inexperienced and experienced hikers. If you are looking for a days walk out in the autumn atmosphere, than choosing a short <5 mile hike will give you a few hours of wonderful hiking views. However, if you want more challenging hikes, or overnight backpacking options, we have included a few trail options for those as well. Whether you are located on the Eastern, Western, Northern or Southern hemisphere, there will always be something for you. It’s time to get out and explore the autumn colors, before they disappear and the winter cold sets in!

Chantelle Clark


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