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These 8 Scenic Hiking Destinations Showcase Everything Autumn Has To Offer

Photo: Getty Images / Melpomenem
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the great outdoors, providing health benefits for the body and mind alike. In recent years, several studies have found that spending time in nature and partaking in physical activities like hiking can help alleviate stress and anxiety, reduce the risk of heart problems, and boost happiness. While hiking makes for an excellent, wellness-supportive activity year-round, it’s especially great come fall.

According to Wesley Trimble, Communications and Creative Director at The American Hiking Society, the cooler weather that the fall season brings to many areas of the country means that hikers will sweat less and, thus, will be “less likely to experience dehydration” or get overheated, as they may in the summer. In addition to temperature being lower than it is in the summer, foliage being more plentiful than in the spring, and daylight hours being longer than in the winter, the season perhaps marks the perfect sweet spot for visiting fall hiking destinations.

Environmental conditions aside, fall hiking destinations also often see fewer visitors than they might in the summer, when people are looking to make the most of warm weather and seasonal vacations. That makes fall perhaps a more peaceful time for hiking, absent of crowds and with even better photo opportunities, sans photo bombers.

So, with this in mind, you’ll likely have more room to (safely) roam and explore freely come fall. Up for the adventure? Keep reading for some of the best fall hiking destinations in the country, for hikers of any skill level.

8 scenic fall hiking destinations to visit

1. Mount Greylock State Reservation: Massachusetts

Photo: Getty Images / DenisTangneyJr
Bellows Pipe Trail

At nearly 3,500 feet tall, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. To reach the summit on foot—where you can see as far as 90 miles out on a clear day—travelers can choose from dozens of trails, depending on their skill and fitness level. One option is the 6.5-mile Bellows Pipe Trail, which winds through cascading waterfalls. No matter which route you choose, expect gorgeous forest views and colorful leaves all around.

2. Upper Piney River Falls Trail: Colorado

Photo: Getty Images / Adam-Springer
Upper Piney River Falls Trail

The Upper Piney River Falls Trail near Vail is among Colorado’s most scenic fall hiking destinations. At the start of this moderately challenging 6-mile route, hikers are treated to pristine Piney Lake views. From there, they’ll make their way through meadows and forests before reaching an awe-inspiring waterfall. Expect plenty of towering aspen trees decked out with eye-catching golden and yellow leaves.

3. Mount Mitchell: North Carolina

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Mount Mitchell Trail

Located about 30 miles from Asheville, North Carolina, Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of Mississippi River at almost 6,700 feet. Visitors will find a whopping 40 miles of hiking trails here, with easy, moderate, and strenuous options from which to choose.

For example, the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail—22.9 miles one-way—is among the most challenging, while the 2-mile Commissary Trail is easier. Also, the summit, which is surrounded by balsam trees, provides the perfect vantage point for admiring the changing leaves that make up the valleys. Just be sure to bring a jacket, with weather skewing chilly due to the high altitude.

4. Lake Geneva Shore Path: Wisconsin

Photo: Visit Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Shore Trail

Strolling along the Lake Geneva Shore Path allows travelers to admire historic estates and manicured gardens along the waterfront, which, in autumn, is lined with lush foliage. The path spans over 25 miles, meandering through the shoreline and wooden areas. The Lake Geneva Public Library in Downtown Lake is the recommended starting point; we suggest strolling at sunset when the sun hits the colorful leaves at just the right angle. Keep in mind that if you were to walk the entire route, it’d take anywhere from eight to 10 hours, so plan accordingly.

5. Camelback Mountain: Arizona

Photo: Getty Images / BCFC
Cholla Trail, Echo Canyon Trail

For iconic red rock views and an excellent workout—that is, sans the sweltering summer heat—consider hiking Camelback Mountain this fall. At just over 2,700 feet, this mountain is among Arizona’s most popular hiking destinations. Here, you’ll find two trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla; both are difficult, with Echo Canyon being steeper (while it’s just about 2.5 miles round-trip, it ascends about 1,280 feet) and Cholla being longer (just over 1.4 miles). The Cholla Trail has also recently reopened to the public for the first time since 2020 due to construction. Hikers should be prepared to spot desert flora such as cacti, saguaro, and mesquite trees, as well as animals like tortoises, lizards, snacks, and rabbits.

Green Lake to Round Lake Trail

Photo: Getty Images / Barry Winiker

Located near Syracuse in central New York, Green Lakes State Park gives off a fairytale-like quality, thanks to its two glacial lakes—aptly named Green Lake and Round Lake—which boast otherworldly-looking blue-green waters.

Surrounding the lakes is an easy and peaceful paved trail loop lined with trees. Come autumn, the leaves on the trees transform into a fiery blaze of reds, oranges, and golds, which, when combined with the emerald waters, make this locale look and feel all the more magical.

7. Ocean Path Trail: Maine

Photo: Getty Images / Scott Smith
Ocean Path Trail

With its abundance of natural beauty, ample outdoor activities, 158 miles of hiking trails, and an abundance of flora (over 1,000 species) it’s no surprise that Acadia National Park is among the top-visited national parks in America. A great way to experience it is on foot, by hiking the Ocean Path Trail.

Along the 4.4-mile route, hikers are treated to postcard-worthy vistas featuring slabs of pink granite, towering cliffs, and, as its name suggests, prime ocean views. Just be sure to bring a comfy pair of sneakers: The trail is rocky, steep, and uneven. Noteworthy spots along the trek include Sand Beach (famous for its mountain views and rocky shores), Thunder Hole (an underwater sea cave—visit a few hours before high tide to hear its namesake thunder sound), Otter Cliff (surrounded by round rocks and boulders), and Otter Cove (where you’ll find some of the best sea views).

8. Trail of Ten Falls: Oregon

Photo: Getty Images / Nick Wiltgen
Trail of Ten Falls

As its name suggests, the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park gives hikers an up-close view of the park’s 10 waterfalls. The moderately challenging loop spans a little over 7 miles and ascends about 800 feet. Plus, the hike is even more beautiful when fall foliage is in full bloom. Along the trail (parts of which are unpaved, FYI), you’ll also come across magnificent fir trees, pedestrian bridges, and babbling creeks.

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