There’s something simplistically beautiful about fall that makes us want to do just one thing: look. As we move into cooler weather, here are ten hikes across the country to take in autumn’s colors before winter hides them in white.
Mount Greylock: Adams, Massachussetts
At 3,491 feet, Massachusetts’s tallest peak inspired minds like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau (look for a rock inscribed with some of Thoreau’s writing at the summit.) Carriage roads, waterfalls, and the view from the top—Vermont’s Green Mountains, the Catskills, and—on a clear day—New Hampshire’s White Mountains—reveal what all the fuss is about.
Mount Mansfield: Underhill, Vermont
It’s hard to say what’s more picturesque: the northern Vermont forest of Mount Mansfield, popularly known as Stowe, or the romantic journey there—think country roads, streams, and covered bridges. Summit via Sunset Ridge, which, mostly above tree line, practically guarantees views. Once you’re up top, then look west toward the colors of Lake Champlain. Dreading the hike down? Don’t—you can take a chairlift.
Acadia National Park: Bar Harbor, Maine
One of the country’s most-visited national parks provides fall sights aplenty: namely, the sought-after leaves of red, orange, and yellow. But there are other wonders, too, like South Bubble’s glacial erratic, a rock formation that seemingly clings to the mountain’s edge, and, for the experienced hiker, near-vertical climbs on Champlain Mountain’s Precipice Trail.
Breakneck Ridge Loop: Putnam, New York
Thanks to its trailhead being close to a namesake Metro-North railroad stop, Breakneck attracts a New York City crowd itching for an easy car-free escape. But the steep, strenuous hike is one of the most common in the Northeast for more reasons than just its accessibility: Strategic rock scrambling rewards with panoramic views of the Hudson River Valley.
Niagara Gorge: Niagara Falls, New York
At Devil’s Hole State Park and Whirlpool State Park, you’re only minutes from the famous falls; but a tourist trap this is not. Trek to the gorge toward Niagara’s rapids: Here, you’re surrounded by trees with turning leaves; roaring waters; and fishermen taking advantage of one of the best spots in the region.
Maroon Bells: Aspen, Colorado
Stripped of its fancy downtown shops or luxury hotels, Aspen would still attract big crowds. Its prize possessions? Perhaps Maroon Bells, two 14,000-foot peaks high above the White River National Forest, home to hikes for every kind of nature enthusiast. Don’t forget to look down: Maroon Lake reflects the Bells, wildflowers, and aspens galore.
Aspen Vista: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Before Santa Fe’s ski basin draws a winter crowd, it erupts in golden aspens. See the sight yourself by climbing the Aspen Vista Trail. It’s steep, but travels through ponderosa and aspen trees to a chairlift, where you can continue to take in the views as you ascend up the mountain—without all of the work, that is. The descent is a popular ride for mountain bikers, too.
Silver Lake/Ontario Loop: Park City, Utah
Traffic on this foot-designated hiking trail only means peace and quiet—and, in this land of mountain bikes, no one buzzing by on two wheels. Head up Bald Mountain on this 0.9-mile loop, where you’ll see wildflowers, aspen, and views of the Jordanelle Reservoir. History buffs, keep your eyes open for old mining equipment along the way.
Grand Teton National Park: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
On this 5.5 mile loop, you’ll see a little bit of everything: snow-capped peaks (Grand Teton high above sagebrush flats); a rushing creek; two glacially-formed lakes; wide-open terrain; and, of course, bright yellow aspen. Keep your eyes peeled for moose and deer. Horses, too—they’re allowed on the trail.
Kebler Pass, Dyke Trail: Crested Butte, Colorado
Kebler Pass’s claim to fame is that it’s home to the biggest aspen grove in North America. The sight never grows old, though. Every fall, hikers (and photographers) take to Dyke Trail—a six-miler that meanders the sea of yellow and crosses the rocky ridge from which it takes its name. (You can drive or bike, if you’d prefer.)