This Eastern US Destination Is A Must-Visit For The Ultimate Fall Hiking Adventure

Crisp air, colorful leaves, post-summer stillness — there's no time quite like autumn to go hiking. The Eastern United States boasts some of the most impressive spots to view fall foliage, especially in the Central Appalachians. With close to 100 miles of trails, Rocky Gap State Park is the ideal destination for the ultimate fall hiking adventure.

Located in Western Maryland's Allegany County, the park spans more than 3,000 acres blanketed by hemlock forests, rhododendrons, and wildflowers that change in hue with the seasons. Some of the park's rugged mountains have superb overlooks that allow you to take in fall colors. The park also features Lake Habeeb, a sparkling body of water surrounded by dense forests that overflow with vibrant orange, red, and yellow leaves during autumn. If you're looking to fully immerse yourself in the picturesque Appalachian wilderness, Rocky Gap State Park has unique trails that are suitable for families, solo travelers, and hikers of all skill levels.

Hike near the scenic Lake Habeeb

Per its moniker, the Lakeside Loop Trail takes you on an easy hike that envelops the 243-acre Lake Habeeb. Over the course of 5.3 miles, you will cross over 4-foot bridges, stroll through parts of Rocky Gap's lush flora, and even hike right along the lake's shoreline. On average, this casual hike takes around two hours to complete.

Another popular trail that nears Lake Habeeb is the Rocky and Lakeside Trail Loop. Unlike the Lake Habeeb loop, the Rocky and Lakeside Trail Loop diverges from the shoreline for part of the hike. This allows you to venture further into the forest under the canopy of striking autumn colors before leading back to the lake. Though it does not gain much in elevation, this 5.5-mile loop is considered moderately challenging and takes the average hiker around two hours to complete.

After completing your hike, spend time at Lake Habeeb to make the most of your trip; though it may be too cold for swimming, you can canoe, kayak, or even go boating to enjoy the fall foliage from the clear waters.

Trekking up the Appalachians

For hikers seeking a more challenging route that offers a bird's-eye view of Rocky Gap, Evitts Homesite Trail is a worthy trek. The out-and-back trail is around 5 miles long and climbs over 1,000 feet in elevation in just 2.5 miles. At the beginning of the trail, you will cross a footbridge situated above a small stream, walk through the untouched forests, and then begin to climb up Evitts Mountain. Near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, the famous Evitts Mountain provides sweeping sights of Rocky Gap State Park. Set aside at least a couple of hours if you plan to hike the Evitts Homesite Trail, and prepare for some uneven terrain.

If you want to take in the magnificent fall foliage without enduring a strenuous hike, set off on the Canyon Overlook Trail. About halfway into this quarter-mile loop, you'll reach an overlook that has unobstructed views of a mile-long gorge cutting through the park's landscape. 

Want to turn your trip to Rocky Gap State Park into a multi-day fall getaway? The park has 278 campsites, mini cabins, and other overnight accommodations you can reserve online. Not to mention, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources releases a Fall Foliage Report newsletter every week, so you can determine the best time to plan your visit. For hikers and nature lovers alike, Rocky Gap State Park is the perfect spot to experience the changing seasons in the Central Appalachians.