There’s no arguing that fall is one of the best times of the year to hike. While some backpackers may prefer the blooming flowers in the spring or the freezing peaks of the winter, it’s hard to deny that hiking alongside the leaves changing colors in the brisk autumn wind isn’t anything short of amazing. While seeing fall foliage typically means going on a leisurely hike, these destinations provide the same gorgeous scenery without sacrificing the challenges of the backcountry that we desire most.
Enchantment Lakes, Washington
This hike isn’t just a brief walk admiring the seasons changing. It’s a ten mile hike along trail 1553 where the elevation rises 6,000 feet quite fast. If you’re looking for something difficult without having to step out into total wilderness, this hike is one of the best. Beginning at the Snow Lakes, you’ll be able to admire the yellow autumn leaves surrounding the trail, and camp out a night or two next to the alpine lakes, seeing the reflection of the colors in the water when you wake up the next morning.
Trail of Ten Falls, Oregon
The Trail of Ten Falls is one of the best places to catch the fall foliage. With the incredible scenery and amazing paths that make up a semi-challenging 8 mile loop hike, backpackers will be able to see the reds, yellows, oranges, and golds of the cascades below. Of course, this trail didn’t get its name for no reason; each of the ten falls located here in Silver Falls State Park will be an unforgettable sight as the water rages down surrounded by the fall colors.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Although this park is more popular among travelers during the summer months, true backpackers come here as the crowds clear out in the beginning of autumn. In your backpack, you might as well pack an easel and canvas, since here at Glacier National Park is a view you can’t get anywhere else. Throughout your hikes here, you’ll be able to see vast landscapes of the larch trees changing colors among the evergreens. Wildlife below will be enjoying the atmosphere just as much as you, and you’ll be sure to catch a glimpse of some beautiful aspects of nature while you’re here.
Stowe Pinnacle Trail, Vermont
Up here in the wilderness of Vermont is one of the best places to hike during the fall. Though Stowe Pinnacle Trail might be overlooked for other hikes in the US, during the fall, it should be at the top of your backpacking list. While the trail itself isn’t long, there is a summit to climb up, giving backpackers somewhat of a challenge. From the peak, you’ll be able to see the seasons changing for miles in every direction, and it’s absolutely worth the trip.
Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
This 8 mile, uphill hike in Shenandoah National Park is not for someone looking to go on a casual autumn walk. This trail is certainly a more difficult one, and hikers will have to put in a bit more effort if they want to see the reward at the top. However, once you complete the trek, you’ll be glad you made it. The panoramic views from Old Rag Mountain are absolutely incredible in the fall. Just make sure you’re prepared for the scrambling and maneuvering of this trail on your way up.
Breakneck Ridge Loop, New York
Anywhere in upstate New York, or in the Northeast for that matter, is a perfect spot to wish a farewell to summer. But, if you want to head to one of the best spots, then set out to the Hudson Highlands to take on the stunning Breakneck Ridge Loop. Don’t let the name scare you; just let it motivate you. While the trail isn’t the longest, it is rugged, steep, and uneven, making it very difficult to climb at various points. if you think you’re up for the challenge, then you’ll be handsomely rewarded with views of the fall foliage across the Hudson River; a place that is most picturesque at this time of the year. Just don’t break your neck before you can see it all.
Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail, Utah
Located in Bryce Canyon National Park, backpackers who have hiked this area before might be wondering what fall foliage there could possibly be to see in the middle of the desert. Well, surprise! (Or should we just say, ‘peek-a-boo’?). This trail is a great option for backpackers who need the thrill of doing a difficult hike, but don’t want to miss their chance to see the beautiful autumn colors. That being said, this hike is far from easy, at nearly 6 miles of a rapidly, greuling, ascending and descending trail. Despite the leaves changing colors, fall has not quite arrived here as it has in other parts of the country. It’ll still be hot, so make sure you’re prepared.