The 17 Best Hikes For Fall Foliage

The 17 Best Hikes for Fall Foliage

This is the time to go hiking in the countryside – the weather is enjoyable and the colors are bright, stunning, and most importantly, diverse. Heading out to explore expansive and inspiring landscapes with spectacular panoramas is a popular family-fun activity. But you won' regret going by yourself either. If the scenery is at least half of the reason you go hiking, the following places are worth your time and effort.

Paris Mountain, Greenville, South Carolina

The park was once a rural retreat that is now most popular among bikers, hikers and those visiting Camp Buckhorn. They keep the park bustling year round. Witness the stunning fall foliage from a canoe; canoe and kayak rentals are available on weekends. Or go on a classic hike—there are 15 miles of hiking/biking trails at your disposal.

Winner Creek Trail, Girdwood, Alaska

Winner Creek is families' favorite mostly because it's only 45 minutes from Anchorage and it's very well-developed. Most people hike the lower Winner Creek Trail, an easy 3-mile hike on a wide trail that begins just behind the Alyeska Tram building and ends at Crow Creek Road, just below Crow Creek Mine. The Upper Winner Creek Trail is a bit more challenging. It leads 9 miles through high country into spectacular mountains. It's a stunning out-and-back hike.

Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

This is one of the toughest trails in this incredibly picturesque park. The trek up Old Rag is a classic eight-mile hike that has it all. Panoramic views of dramatic fall colors and a tough rock scramble make it one of the most popular routes in the mid-Atlantic. This day hike is an exciting adventure, but come early or during the week to avoid the big crowds.

Breakneck Ridge Loop, Hudson Highlands State Park Reserve, New York

Although the hike is only about 3 miles long, it's widely considered one of the most difficult in the area; it's very steep. The best views of changing leaves, the Hudson River and Storm King Mountain make this strenuous hike well worth the effort. Some of the highlights are insane views and rock scrambling. Spend some time at the top taking in the view before you make your way back down the sheer trail.

Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

This popular hike is not for you if you are afraid of heights. Everyone else will love the regal peak that overlooks Sand Beach. The hike up the Beehive Trail, which is also referred to as the Beehive Cliffs Trail, is an exhilarating Acadia classic. The moderate to difficult hike includes granite steps, iron stairs, and several railings for exposed rock scrambling sections.

Blackwater Canyon Trail, West Virginia

While the total length of this path is 10.2 miles, four parking lots along the trail let you choose the distance you'll hike and the scenery you'll see. Depending on the section you choose, you might pass under the Big Run Archway—a landmark built by Italian stonemasons in the 1880s—or the 35-foot Douglas Falls.

Ozark Highlands, Arkansas

Arkansas isn't the first place that comes to mind when you consider top-notch backpacking destinations, but the Ozarks definitely deserve some top-ten list credit for long treks like this 14-miler (turning back at Cherry Bend) through lush, dogwood-studded forests with quiet trailside camping. Prepare for moderate climbs and a gorgeous view from the top of White Rock Mountain.

Long Trail, Vermont

You can't go wrong with hiking in Vermont in the fall. For an absolutely crazy adventure, try completing all 273 miles of the Long Trail, known as Vermont's "footpath in the wilderness, all in one trip. It'll take about a month; you'll enjoy every bit if this gnarly trail that is quintessentially New England. The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the country.

Appalachian Trail, Tennessee and North Carolina

You don't have to tackle the entire 2,200 miles of the iconic trail; opt for a small but spectacular section within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited in the country. Drive to the parking area at Newfound Gap and take the Appalachian Trail to Indian Gap. The 3.4-mile roundtrip will give you a taste of this historic route and allow you to see beautiful fall foliage. The best time to see the changing leaves is typically from mid-October to early November.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

The nearly 1,200 mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, established in 1980, traces the edge of a glacier that dates back to 15,000 years ago during the Ice Age, according to NPS. A hike along the trail will treat you to many lakes, river valleys, gently rolling hills, and ridges. Devil's Lake State Park is one of nine Ice Age National Scientific Reserve units.

Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

This is among the very best waterfall hikes to be found in all of North America. The nine-mile Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park will take you past a series of gorgeous cascades accented with the vibrant oranges, reds and yellows of fall. Day-use permits are required year-round and can be purchased at the park entrance booth. The elevation gain is about 1,300 feet and the difficulty level is moderate.

Horseshoe Lake Trail, Denali National Park, Alaska

This short but popular trail starts easy – you walk on a developed trail down to the lake – but then it gets tricky. After you reach the Overlook, the trail drops sharply. Along the way, especially at the overlook bench, you'll have a panoramic view of the Nenana River and surrounding mountains. The trail is 3 miles long, roundtrip, and it takes about an hour and a half to complete.

Silver Lake/Ontario Loop, Park City, Utah

This enjoyable hike features two foot-traffic-only trails into a loop with stunning views to the east and west. Along the way you'll get to see Jordanelle Reservoir, the Uinta Mountains and Deer Valley. Dogs are not allowed. You can take Park City's free bus service to Deer Valley Resort's Silver Lake Lodge to start the trail. It winds its way up Bald Mountain, climbing 1,300 feet in a two mile stretch.

Aspen Vista, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. See the leaves changing color on a perfect sunny day for a perfect day trip. It gets busy so plan accordingly. The 11.5-mile out and back trail features a waterfall and is rated as moderate, according to All Trails. It is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, birding, and horses and is best used until October.

Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado

This is Colorado's most photographed mountain landscape, but the hike is not to be overshadowed. Standing at more than 14,000 feet each, the six peaks draw scores of experienced hikers. With the popularity of the area, you won't be alone in your adventure, but it's still worth the trip. Explore the Rockies' most gorgeous wildernesses in the Maroon Bells.

Mount Greylock, Adams, Massachusetts

Mount Greylock, located in the Berkshire Mountains, is the highest point in the state at 3,491 feet. You can see as far as 90 miles away from its peak on a clear day. The trails at Mount Greylock Reservation vary in difficulty from casual to extremely difficult. The legend of the mountain is that Mount Greylock's long, saddle-like shape inspired Herman Melville to write "Moby Dick."

Greenleaf Trail, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Greenleaf Trail is a 6.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Franconia that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate, according to All Trails. The trail is less crowded than many other in the state. The hike is enjoyable, but it gets a little tough as you go up.  It's mostly just climbing upward, even though it doesn't feel like that right away.