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10 of the Best Fall Hikes in America

11/6/17 by Cinnamon Janzer

Fall visualizes change in a way the other seasons don’t. The warmth of summer fades as leaves begin to fall from the trees one by one until, before you know it, winter is upon us. But before all the leaves fall, the foliage changes colors. And the best way to appreciate the brilliant display Autumn brings is with a good hike.

Thanks to the temperate and continental climates that characterize most of the U.S., there are more great locations for fall hikes than you can count. Here, however, are 10 of the best.

1. Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota

The view from Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota.
The view from Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. Chris Drumm

Talk about epic hikes. The Superior Hiking Trail stretches for some 300 miles across northern Minnesota, from its Canadian border to its boundary with Wisconsin, and maintains about four feet of width throughout. The trail is entirely nonmotorized (solitude, ahoy!) and passes through oak, maple, and basswood forests, to name a few, so you’ll find a variety of fall foliage on display.

2. Ice Age Trail, Wisconsin

Camping is allowed in some places along the Ice Age Trail, such as at Jerry Lake, Wisconsin.
Camping is allowed in some places along the Ice Age Trail, such as at Jerry Lake, Wisconsin. The Cut

Another great Midwestern choice is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin. This beauty clocks in at 1,000 miles and traverses the path of a glacier that carved the region over 12,000 years ago. The trail is curated to include the best of the best geography that the ice left in its wake. So if you want to take in fall leaves in tandem with some seriously unique backdrops, this is the trail for you.

3. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

There are stunning views within the Taos Ski Valley of New Mexico.
There are stunning views within the Taos Ski Valley of New Mexico. YoTut

The Taos Ski Valley is chock full of trails, but a couple stand out. The Italianos Trail is super scenic. It’s just 3.6 miles long, but it does climb quickly, so be prepared to take your time. Italianos has plenty of trees that change color as well as pines that will hold their green all winter, making for a nice contrast. If you want to sweat while you leaf watch, get on the Manzanita Trail. It’s the most difficult hike in the region, characterized by 45-degree climbs in some areas.

4. Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada

There's near limitless hiking possible within Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
There's near limitless hiking possible within Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Susan Elliot/U.S. Forest Service

At 6.3 million acres, this national forest is a force to be reckoned with. With that kind of size, the choices for stellar fall hikes are almost limitless. And with the warm desert temps that keep it accessible nearly year round, Humboldt-Toiyabe is hard to beat. When it comes to fall, the Mount Charleston National Recreation Trail just outside of Las Vegas boasts an easy climb through a meadow that bursts with color later in the season.

5. Naches Peak Loop, Washington

The Naches Peak Loop in Washington is part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Naches Peak Loop in Washington is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Michael Camilleri

Part of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail, the Naches Peak Loop is a trek through a wildflower-filled valley, plenty of grassy meadows, and with Mount Rainier in the background at just 3.2 miles round trip. Pro tip: Tackle it counterclockwise for the best views of the distant mountain.

6. June Lake, California

California's June Lake lies within the Inyo National Forest.
California's June Lake lies within the Inyo National Forest. Allie_Caulfield

Located in the Inyo National Forest in the Eastern Sierras is June Lake. Again, there’s plenty of incredible hiking to choose from, but Rush Creek is the choice for a fall hike if you’re looking for something strenuous, and the 20 Lakes Basin Trail is the choice for something easy that will showcase the leaf cover (don’t worry, it won’t disappoint). Bonus: There’s tons of camping if you really can’t pull yourself away in a day.

7. Maroon Bells, Colorado

The Maroon Bells are a must-see outside Aspen, Colorado.
The Maroon Bells are a must-see outside Aspen, Colorado. W.G. Dayton

Just outside of Aspen, Maroon Bells is exactly what you picture when you imagine Colorado: lush landscapes, plenty of trees, and mountains everywhere. Besides being wonderful all year long, when the leaves start to turn (about the same time that you’re getting your skis or board out of storage), there’s nowhere else to be. The area is home to several trails that range in length from one to 13 miles, so there is really something for everyone.

8. Looking Glass Falls, North Carolina

A short family friendly trail leads to the Looking Glass Falls in North Carolina.
A short family friendly trail leads to the Looking Glass Falls in North Carolina. Matthew Blouir

How about waterfalls with your fall foliage? Glass Falls is surrounded by trees that light up when the weather drops. And if you time your trip before it gets too cool, you can take a dip amidst that foliage. It’s just a short jaunt to the falls themselves, so it's perfect for a family excursion or with a group composed of a range of ages and abilities.

9. Mount Hunger, Vermont

A falls at Mount Hunger, Vermont.
A falls at Mount Hunger, Vermont. walknboston

While this beauty is often passed up, Mount Hunger takes the cake when it comes to hiking in the fall. There’s a nice four-mile trail locals love, not only for the stunning leaves but because it’s totally dog-friendly.

10. Birchtoft Trail, New Hampshire

Thirty-five miles of trail can be found around Monadnock, New Hampshire.
Thirty-five miles of trail can be found around Monadnock, New Hampshire. chipmunk_1

Among the 35 miles of trail Mount Monadnock has to offer is the Birchtoft Trail, a 3.5 miler that kicks off at a pond, weaves around some cross-country ski junctions, and generally keeps it relaxed and easy with moderate grades and killer fall views.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.