Across the country, leaf peepers everywhere live for that time of year when the temps cool off just enough to make the trees come to life with color. Here’s our picks of a few of the most stunning hikes to view fall foliage.
Geyser Valley, Olympic National Park, Washington
While there are no actual geysers, you will find the recently undammed Elwha River lined in stunning red and gold during the fall. This 7.8 mile out and back low elevation stroll takes you through a brilliant forest of vine maple, cottonwood and alder, backdropped by the muted evergreen hills. As a bonus, Roosevelt elk sightings are common in fall on these protected lands.
Bell Mountain, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri (and Arkansas)
Autumn colors on the Ozark Trail are widely known as wildly gorgeous and the 8.4 mile Bell Mountain section is the must hike route. The climb up the forested ridge among the blazing orange, yellows and reds of oak, hickory and sumac is otherworldly. Once you reach the summit you’ll be rewarded with outstanding views of the St. Francois Mountains. This trek can be done as an out and back, but the shuttle option is even better.
Red Pine Lake, Lone Peak Wilderness, Utah
Aspens—golden aspens—are why people flock to the Wasatch in fall, and Red Pine Lake is one of the best hikes to see them. Just shy of seven miles roundtrip to Lower Red Pine Lake, gorgeously set in a cirque, you’ll find broad stroke views of the gilded canyon below. Additional trails lead to the upper lake and the off-trail excursion to 11,326 foot Pfeifferhorn is just 1.5 miles of serious climbing away.
Camel’s Hump, Camel’s Hump State Forest, Vermont
There are several routes available to summit Vermont’s highest peak (without a structure on top) and all will take you on a spectacularly colored path. The moderate 6.6 mile climb on the Monroe trail is straightforward, while a detour on the Alpine Trail will take you by the wreckage of a WWII plane. If you don’t mind scrambling and exposure the Dean Trail is the adventurous route up. Regardless of the path you choose, the real show is at the summit where you’ll find a breathtaking view of fiery red and burning orange reminiscent of embers in a campfire.
Chapel Loop, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Possibly Michigan’s most picturesque day hike period, as Chapel Falls and Beach are worthy destinations any time of year. In autumn the crimson and amber hues highlight the impressive sandstone sculptures and picturesque beaches of this 10.4 mile loop on Lake Superior. For a longer trek, the 42.4 Lakeshore Trail from Grand Marais to Munising is a fantastic fall backpacking trip.