6 Trails for Beautiful Fall Foliage


Trails for Beautiful Fall Foliage

The fall equinox has come and gone. Depending on where you are located, fall foliage may only have a couple weeks left until trees shed their leaves. Although warmer temperatures and longer days are coming to end, that doesn’t mean that hiking can come to a halt as well. Hiking in the fall gives you a chance to see the last beautiful and colorful notes of life before winter comes and blankets everything with snow and ice.

Check out this map to distinguish where and when peak fall foliage will be in the United States.

fall foliage map in united states

Photo: Strongbad1982 via Wikipedia

Below you will find the top ten spots to hike to catch the coolest and most vibrant fall colors this autumn season. Since everyone wants to catch a glimpse of gorgeous fall foliage, trails will still be busy, especially in national parks. Hit the trail early and make sure to wear layers to have a peaceful experience all to yourself. And, remember, peak foliage can vary depending on weather, location, and elevation. Trees in higher elevation will start changing earlier in the season.

1. Appalachian Trail (AT)

The Appalachian Trail spans 2,189.2 miles from Georgia to Maine in the eastern United States. You can definitely catch fall colors along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from September to November but the best times and places will vary depending on which of the 14 states you decide to hike in. The higher north you are, peak foliage will be earlier than the peak foliage date in the southern states.

long distance hike plan for appalachian trail

Fall foliage along the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Photo: @madidragna via Instagram

When: September – October
Where: Eastern United States; Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

Other Options: These parks along the trail are sure to boast beautiful fall colors: Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Baxter State Park, White Mountains National Forest.

2. Colorado Trail (CT)

Colorado’s autumn foliage is focused on the bright yellow aspen trees. Each year these green-leafed trees explode with bright yellow hues during the autumn season. Although there are a variety of places in Colorado to experience the aspen trees, the Colorado Trail sure hosts a great display.

Hope pass fall foliage aspens in colorado

Climbing up Hope Pass in late September. Photo: Zach Davis via AppalachianTrials.com

When: Mid-Late September, early October
Where: The Colorado Trail is from Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. You should find beautiful views along the entire length especially Hope Pass (if you are looking for a strenuous ascent) or find a nice hike near Molas Lake Campground.
Other Options: You can find aspen hikes all over Colorado, not just along the Colorado Trail. Aspen, Colorado is sure to have bright yellow aspens around this time. Don’t have time to hike? Skip the Colorado Trail and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a scenic drive up Trail Ridge Road.

3. Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

The Pacific Crest Trail is a lengthy long-distance trail that travels from Mexico to Canada in the western United States. However, check out the northern Cascades section in Washington and Oregon to see some great fall foliage.

fall autumn foliage grasshopper pass trail pacific crest trail washington

Grasshopper Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington. Photo: Benjamin Scott via Flickr

When: late September – early November
Where: Washington and Oregon, United States
Other Options: The Grasshopper Pass section of the PCT is a great option but also find more fall foliage off the PCT at North Cascades National Park and Skyline Divide.

4. Big Mountain Summit Trail

Hit this 8-mile long summit trail to catch beautiful views of fall foliage. If you aren’t up for this challenge, check out Whitefish Trail for an easier walk.

Fall foliage along Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo Credit: Jeremy Yoder on Flickr

Fall foliage along Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo: Jeremy Yoder via Flickr

When: Mid September – early October
Where: Montana, United States
Other Options: Glacier National Park has great fall foliage views. Drive Going-to-the-Sun road for an effortless and scenic ride.

5. Trail Creek Trail

This beautiful trail will definitely showcase Alaska’s incredible scenery in this fall season. Alaska’s fall foliage starts early so make sure to plan ahead, even when it is summer in your neck of the woods.

fall autumn foliage in alaska

Trail Creek Trail in Alaska. Photo: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve via Flickr

When: August – September
Where: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, United States
Other Options: Alaska is teeming with great fall foliage hikes. Check out other places such as Chugach State Park, Lake Clark National Park, McCarthy-Kennicott Park, and Denali National Park.

6. Larch Valley Trail

In Canada, the larch trees create a magical yellow glow to the forest during the autumn season. The Larch Valley Trail is an extremely popular trail during this time of year. Make sure to get an early start.

yellow autumn fall foliage larch trees alberta canada banff national park

Larch Trees in Banff National Park. Photo: Andy Simonds via Flickr

When: September – early October
Where: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Other Options: Banff National Park isn’t the only place to catch the larch trees changing. You can definitely check out Kananaskis Country, which is sure to provide views of fall foliage that will not disappoint.

 

Fall foliage is the last burst of color we see before the chill of winter arrives. These trails are not the only trails to catch your fix of fall foliage. Check out the map above to find the perfect place and time to view autumn colors near you.

Where do you like to hike to see fall foliage?

Madison Dragna

Madison Dragna

Madison is a long distance hiker and devoted yogi. She completed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and Corsica's treacherous GR 20 in 2014. When she's not traveling, she enjoys life as a freelance writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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