Fall is the perfect hiking season. The air is crisp, the sun is shining, and temperatures have dipped below the sweltering summer averages. Grab an adventurous pal and take advantage of all the hiking opportunities in the United States. From the West Coast to the North Atlantic Seaboard, here are nine of our favorite hiking trails to check out this fall.
Champlain Mountain via South Ridge Trail, Maine
Cozily tucked away on the northeast Atlantic coast near the quaint town of Bar Harbor, Maine, Acadia National Park welcomed a record 3.5 million visitors in 2018. Experience what all the fuss is about and get a sampling of the highlights with a five-mile, out-and-back hike up Champlain Mountain, Acadia’s second-highest peak. The Champlain Mountain via South Ridge Trail offers arguably the best ocean vistas of Maine’s iconic coast and sweeping panoramas of nearby peaks including the highest in the park, Cadillac Mountain.
Blodgett Canyon to Waterfall, Montana
Just as its name suggests, this 8.5-mile, out-and-back trail’s midpoint is a tumbling waterfall. The trek out to the main attraction carries hikers along switchbacks through the Ponderosa Forest and along the Bitterroot Valley (keep your eyes open for daredevil climbers along the cliff faces) with the Sapphire Mountains as a stunning backdrop. The sprawling views across Blodgett Canyon draw folks year-round, but go in fall and you’ll witness something a little extra. The needles from the birch and aspen trees will have turned gold and dropped to the ground — paving a gilded road all the way to the waterfall.
Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail, Colorado
Catch Aspen, Colorado in fall and you’re in for a real treat. There are about five trails in the Maroon Bells area, but if you’re looking for a quick walk that yields the most rewarding views, look no further than the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail. This easy, 1.9-mile loop trail meanders along a creek and through meadows as it leads to Maroon Lake, a picture-perfect reflecting pool edged in glowing fall foliage and framed by the towering Maroon Peaks.
Welch and Dickey Loop Trail, New Hampshire
This difficult, four-mile, loop hike first leads through the sloping valley for over a mile before giving way to open-face granite cliffs on the way to the summits (yes, there are two). It’ll be a literal scramble to reach the top, but the unbeatable 360-degree views over the brightly-painted palette of autumn leaves make it all worthwhile.
Dyke Trail, Colorado
This 6.5-mile loop trail blazes above the tree line with sharp inclines from the get-go, but it touches on all the sought-after Colorado highlights. It starts by winding through the largest aspen grove in the state, climbs to roughly 1,700 feet, and boasts breathtaking views of vertical, jagged cliff faces that have made Colorado famous. Keep your eyes peeled since mountain bikers have free range on this trail as well.
Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail, California
This 7.6-mile, out-and-back trail leads you along the coastal cliff tops of northern California with spanning views across the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Montara Mountains on the other. Since it's an easy-going walk, the Coastside Trail provides opportunities for wildlife viewing and beach access along the way. While the flat ground is anything but strenuous, most people enjoy this trail for the peace and serenity it offers.
Skyline Divide, Washington
Blooming fields of wildflowers at 5,900 feet framed against snow-capped mountains and an impossible blue sky make the Skyline Divide in the North Cascades worth the climb. And that’s not even the best part. Upon reaching the top of the trail, a 2.5-mile trek across a ridgeway at 6,000 feet takes hikers over rolling knolls and offers breathtaking views of the neighboring mountains. You won’t be disappointed.
The Emerald Outback, North Carolina
Boasting seven miles of trails and over 5,000 feet in elevation, the Emerald Outback Trail System is a favorite park among hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. The uniquely gnarled trees, lush forest, and scenic overlooks makes this Blue Ridge Mountains destination a bucket list topper. The park and its trails are free to access and are open year-round, seven days a week.
Pothole Point Trail, Utah
Shake up the backdrop and scenery with a hike through some of the most fascinating landscapes in the Southwest. With over 60 miles of connecting trails and otherworldly rock formations, it can be hard to choose which direction to trek off towards first. Strictly for views, the 0.6-mile, loop Pothole Point Trail leads through diverse pothole communities and ends with views of Canyonlands National Park's famous Needles.