No matter the season or the weather, hiking is incredible exercise and a great way to get away from it all. But like fall camping, hiking in the fall has some distinct advantages: cooler weather, fewer bugs, and fewer fellow hikers. If you’re hoping to hit the trails this fall, here are 15 fall hikes that have beautiful scenery and take advantage of the changing leaves. All distance calculations are round-trip. (Would you rather plan a fall camping trip? Check out our top fall camping destinations.)
- 1 1. Mount Greylock (Massachusetts)
- 2 2. Whiteside Mountain (North Carolina)
- 3 3. Fish Creek Falls (Colorado)
- 4 4. Bishop Pass Trail (California)
- 5 5. Bear Lake Loop (Colorado)
- 6 6. Sentinel Dome (California)
- 7 7. Wildwood Trail (Oregon)
- 8 8. Buffalo River Trail (Arkansas)
- 9 9. Cascade River Superior Hiking Trail Loop (Minnesota)
- 10 10. Sleepy Hollow Trail (Illinois)
- 11 11. Rainbow Rim Trail (Arizona)
- 12 12. Tumbling Waters Trail (Pennsylvania)
- 13 13. East Trail (Texas)
- 14 14. Chapel Loop (Michigan)
- 15 15. Old Speck Mountain Trail (Maine)
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1. Mount Greylock (Massachusetts)
This trail will take you to the top of the highest point in Massachusetts (elevation 3,489 feet) as it passes by several creeks and a waterfall. On the way up, you’ll follow the Bellows Pipe Trail and on the way down, take the Gould Trail. (Although an out-and-back is always an option.)
Mileage: 6.6 miles
2. Whiteside Mountain (North Carolina)
The best fall views always require a little climbing. This steep National Recreation Trail winds through hardwood forests as it switchbacks to the top of stunning 700-foot cliffs.
Mileage: 2.5 miles
3. Fish Creek Falls (Colorado)
Escape the crowds in the popular Front Range and head to western Colorado. Each fall, the aspens light up the hillsides around the beautiful mountain town of Steamboat Springs. This trail begins at a trailhead four miles outside of town that offers plenty of parking. (But it’s popular, so arrive early!)
Mileage: 1/2 mile RT to lower falls, 5 miles RT to Upper Falls, 12 miles RT to Long Lake
4. Bishop Pass Trail (California)
If you’re looking for a challenge, this trail’s combination of altitude, rugged terrain, and long distance will make you work for its incredible views. (But you’ll likely find it’s worth it.) The stunning scenery includes mountain views (Mount Goode and Mount Agassiz) and many lakes and rock formations.
Mileage: 10 miles
5. Bear Lake Loop (Colorado)
The network of Bear Lake trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are usually packed with tourists. (In the summer months, there’s even a shuttle because of parking challenges.) That said, if altitude is an issue or you’re looking for an easier trail, you can’t beat the short hike that loops around scenic Bear Lake. There are also benches around the lake if you need to rest.
Mileage: 0.6 miles
6. Sentinel Dome (California)
For a breathtaking view of the Yosemite Valley, try this lesser-traveled trail. (Its views are similar to the more popular Glacier Point Trail.) At just over two miles, it doesn’t take much time to reach an amazing 360-degree panorama overlooking one of our country’s most iconic valleys.
Mileage: 2.2 miles
7. Wildwood Trail (Oregon)
Not all beautiful hikes require a trip to the wilderness. Portland’s Wildwood Trail is the longest urban hiking trail in the U.S. at nearly 30 miles long. Of course, you can choose to hike a smaller segment. Some sections travel through groves of coastal redwoods, others through maple forests, and other sections will take you to impressive overlooks.
Mileage: Varies (The entire trail is about 30 miles long.)
8. Buffalo River Trail (Arkansas)
At 37 miles, the Buffalo River Trail is a longer distance hiking trail, but just like any other hike, you can pick your distance. No matter which segment you choose, the trail follows the Buffalo River, offering views of bluffs and the surrounding forest.
Mileage: Varies (The entire trail is 37 miles long.)
9. Cascade River Superior Hiking Trail Loop (Minnesota)
This hiking trail just off Minnesota’s Highway 61 is deceptive. It’s easy enough to park your car and simply walk a short distance to the first set of waterfalls on the churning Cascade River (and many people do). But if you continue on and walk the entire Cascade River Loop, it’ll be worth the extra effort. (Especially because it means more waterfalls.) If you want to go farther, this section is actually a part of the 310-mile Superior Hiking Trail.
Mileage: 8.6 miles
10. Sleepy Hollow Trail (Illinois)
You probably can’t find a better name for a fall hiking trail than this one. This easy trail in White Pines Forest State Park meanders through deciduous forests and makes a couple of creek crossings before looping back to the trailhead. Good for beginners or kids still testing our their hiking legs.
Mileage: 1 mile
11. Rainbow Rim Trail (Arizona)
If you’re in Grand Canyon National Park, make a stop at the more remote Rainbow Rim Trail. You’ll probably need a high-clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead that begins at an overlook. The better view however is about three miles down the trail. The trail will take its time winding through side canyons but will reward you with a look at the Grand Canyon.
Mileage: 6.6 miles
12. Tumbling Waters Trail (Pennsylvania)
The Pocono Mountains are home to many scenic hikes that are especially beautiful in the fall. For a moderate hike—that comes with a guide to 20 points of interest along the way—try the Tumbling Waters Trail in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Mileage: 3 miles
13. East Trail (Texas)
The East Trail in Lost Maples State Natural Area has a reputation for being the hardest day hike in the Texas hill country—but that doesn’t seem to discourage people. This trail is quite a climb to the Sabinal River overlook but offers an up-close view of the park’s colorful bigtooth maples along with sycamore and cypress trees.
Mileage: 3.1 miles
14. Chapel Loop (Michigan)
This 10-mile hike follows the top of Michigan’s Pictured Rocks for about half of its journey with Lake Superior crashing below. It also heads into the forest and past a couple waterfalls (one of them is its namesake) before it loops back to the trailhead.
Mileage: 10 miles round trip but 2.5 miles one way to Chapel Falls
15. Old Speck Mountain Trail (Maine)
Maine always tops the list for beautiful fall foliage, but more often than not, the recommended destination is Acadia National Park. But there’s more to Maine than its iconic national park and hiking trails abound in this outdoor-loving state. For a moderate to difficult fall hike, try the Old Speck Mountain Trail in Grafton Notch State Park.It’ll take you to the park’s highest point: an ideal place to see fall colors at their best.
Mileage: 6.7 miles