With fall officially upon us, cooler weather has begun to set in, and the green leaves of summer have given way to the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn. For many, this is the best time of the year to head out on a trail for a long hike and to take in this annual color show. Hear are some recommendations for the best places to witness nature’s color palette on display.
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is one of the most popular in the U.S., pulling in nearly 10 million visitors per year. But in the fall, the crowds begin to thin out, just in time for the leaves to start changing colors. With over 800 miles of trails to explore, there are no lack of great hikes in this park. Be sure to check out the higher elevation trails, such as Sugarland Mountain and Gregory Bald, which offer stunning views throughout October and into November. With sugar and red maples, hickory trees, and scarlet oaks, you’ll have plenty of eye candy to take in.
Allegheny National Forest
Located in northwest Pennsylvania, the Allegheny National Forest is a bit of a hidden gem and mostly unknown outside of the region, which generally translates to smaller crowds. Each fall the half million acres of oaks, poplars, and white ash trees show off a brilliant range of colors to those lucky enough to experience them. While there are miles of trails to choose from, perhaps the best of the best is the Hickory Creek Wilderness Trail, which is 11 miles in length, and cuts through the heart of the forest itself.
Pisgah National Forest
Leaf lovers in North Carolina have plenty to see when they hit the trail in Pisgah National Forest, found not far from Asheville. With the southern Appalachian Mountains as a backdrop, the forest becomes spectacularly colorful in late October, making all of the trails a good bet for a day hike. Take a stroll up Mt. Mitchell, which at 6089 feet in height, offers views that will take your breath away for more reason than one. But when you get to the top, the view is worth the effort.
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon offers up spectacular scenery all year round, but come fall, the maple trees turn to gold and standout brilliantly against the stark cliff faces. The Gorge has a number of beautiful waterfalls as well, which add even more of allure of a hike through the area. Check out the Multnomah Falls loop trail, which is only about a mile and a half in length, but gains more than 600 feet of altitude along the way. The trail gives hikers a great view of the Gorge, and passes right by one of the most scenic waterfalls in the entire country.
Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula remains a great wilderness escape and one of the best places in the country to enjoy fall foliage. The Escarpment Trail in Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park is amongst the best hikes in the Midwest, and while it is just 4.3 miles in length, it provides spectacular views of the surrounding forest which ring the Lake of the Clouds. In the fall, the hills are ablaze with reds, oranges, and yellows that are just too good to miss.
There you have it. Just a sampling of some of the best fall hikes throughout the U.S. What’s your favorite fall hike? is there a hidden gem that you’d like to share? Leave a comment and tell us all about it!