7 Spectacular Hikes to Explore This Fall

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Million Mile Secrets reader Karey commented on our recent post with a list of best places to see fall foliage.  She asked for popular fall hikes, so we put our thinking caps on to create a list!

We agree with Karey that fall is a phenomenal time to experience nature on a hike.  There’s nothing like hearing the sound of the trees rustling in the wind while getting an up close look of the leaves changing colors to different shades of yellow, orange, and red!

Some of the hikes on this list require travel to a National Park.  Be sure to check out our post with the best travel credit card offers to learn how you can save money on a trip to a National Park or other terrific destinations!

Dawn at Maroon Bells – It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This!
Here’s a list of our 7 favorite fall hikes we highly recommend!  If you have any additions, let us know in the comments below! 

1.   Niagara Gorge, New York

Niagara Gorge is a 6.8 mile gorge carved by the Niagara River.  The trail system is made up of a series of small trails that parallel the gorge.
Beautiful Fall Colors Along the Niagara River!
Fall is the most beautiful and picturesque time to visit the Niagara Gorge and offers visitors a chance to see wildlife and a sea of golden trees as far as the eye can see.   There are a multitude of hikes for all ability levels.  So if you’re not looking for a strenuous day you can wander around and enjoy the vistas without wearing yourself out.    We recommend the Niagara Gorge Rim Trail which is 5.4 miles and an easy 2% grade.  The trees along this route are spectacular and it’s a must do if you’re in the area. If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, we recommend the Whirlpool Rapids Trailwhich involves some stairs and boulder hopping, but there is no shortage of insane foliage along the way.

2.   Maroon Bells, Colorado

The Maroon Bells are some of the most stunning and iconic mountains in the country.  Plus, the easy access to them also makes them one of the most visited, especially during the fall months.   The sprawling Aspen groves below the mountains and around the lake make for one of the most beautiful fall foliage scenes my eyes have ever seen.
Autumn Colors at Sunrise in the Elk Mountains
Access to the bells during peak season is only available via bus from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  But if you are feeling ambitious, we recommend making the trek up for an early morning hike to catch the sunrise on Maroon Lake before starting your hike. There are a number of hikes you can easily access from the Maroon Bells parking lot.  From a 1 mile jaunt around Maroon Lake, to multi-day backpacking loops that lead you back to the Bells.  The Maroon Creek Trail is an easy day hike that leads you through the trees and alpine meadows behind Maroon Lake and along Maroon Creek. 
If You Decide to Hike Maroon Bells, Be Sure to Check Out  the Crater Lake Trail!
Another great hike from Maroon Lake is the steeper, almost 4-mile round-trip up to Crater Lake.  If the fall leaves are turning, this is the hike to do!  The views of the bells and the vast national forest from Crater Lake are stunning.  And if you are feeling up for it, we recommend packing a suit and a towel and taking a freezing cold dip.  It will be a swim you’ll never forget. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled as you are guaranteed to see some wildlife along the creek.

3.   Aspen Vista, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico

The Aspen Vista Trail in Santa Fe National Forest is a fall hike you don’t want to miss.  Just look at the name!  The 11.5 mile trail is lightly trafficked and drop-dead gorgeous the ENTIRE way. The hike is fairly easy and worth every minute of your time.  Don’t let the 2,175 feet of elevation gain steer you away.  Because you won’t even feel your feet since you will be too awe struck by the array of colors. The trail is kid, dog, and horse friendly.  Along the way you will walk by the river, gaze at blue lakes, pass waterfalls, and see fields of wildflowers.  You will also mostly likely see wildlife throughout your hike. If you have time, go explore more in the Santa Fe National Forest where there is endless adventure, hiking, camping, streams, lakes, and over 1,000 miles of trails to explore.

4.   Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

One of the most stunning mountain ranges in the US is at Grand Teton National Park.  And inside the park are some incredible fall hiking trails.  One of the most traveled trails in the park is the Cascade Canyon Trail.  This trail brings hikers through the rugged, gorgeous Cascade Canyon and past Lake Solitude, one of the most stunning alpine lakes in the park.  Each step you take along this trail, the canyon walls get steeper, and the views of Grand Teton get more and more spectacular.
Autumn Colors Surround the Valley Below Grand Teton Peak Along The Snake River
If you are in the mood for gaining a new perspective on the dramatic mountain range, we recommend the 7.6 mile loop around Jenny Lake.  Starting at the gorgeous shoreline of Jenny Lake, and climbing into the dense surrounding forest, you will get incredible views of the backside of the Grand Tetons the entire way.  If you want to take your trip to the next level, try reserving a camp spot at the Jenny Lake Campground, one of the best, most stunning campgrounds in Wyoming.
Kayaking The Beautiful Jenny Lake Grand Tetons, Wyoming

5.   Olympic National Park, Washington

With nearly 1 million acres of National Park to explore, the hiking opportunities in Olympic National Park are endless, and picking a hike can be overwhelming.  There are a number of great day hikes that lead you through the dense rain forest and along the gorgeous coastline, with no shortage of bright and beautiful trees.
Fall Colors From South Shore Road, Olympic National Park
First on your list should definitely be the Enchanted Valley to Pony Bridge hike.  This incredible hike leads you through the world famous Pacific Northwest rain forest, through 4,000 foot high glacier carved canyon walls, bounding across countless interconnected streams and, you guessed it, waterfalls!   This region is known for its incredibly dense, and wet forests making the fall one of the best times to explore.  Although it gets cold at night, the days exploring these seas of fall foliage are well worth it.

6.   Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park has the most dramatic and beautiful views of New England’s coastline.  The fall here is off the charts and worth traveling to see the magnificent colors within the fall foliage.  Acadia is known for its incredible hiking trails, with all levels of difficulty, so depending on your level of motivation, there is something for everyone in this park.
Jordan Pond In Autumn From The Top of South Bubble!
I recommend checking out some of the Summit hikes.  These treks will take you to the tops of the coastal mountains for some of the most stunning views of the Maine shoreline.  The Beachcroft Trail is one of the most hiked in the park, and for a good reason.  Hikers get to take in an incredible view from the summit of the entire sprawling park, the rocky coast line, small alpine lakes, and surrounding coastal towns.  A quick 3-mile hike, The Beachcroft Trail is definitely a great “bang for your buck”. If you are in the mood for a more casual stroll, check out the densely forested Carriage Roads that connect the entire park.  In the early 1900s, workers with their horse drawn carriages would use these roads to access the entire park.  These “broken-stone” roads are motor vehicle free and sprawl nearly 57 miles of the park. Be sure to stop by Jordan Pond House Restaurant to try their world famous tea and popovers, with homemade Maine Jam once you’re finished hiking!

7.   Telluride, Colorado

If leaf peeping is your goal this fall, then Telluride, Colorado should be on your must-visit list.   The hikes in the area range from easy to advanced.
Autumn Scenery in the San Juan Mountains in Autumn
The Jud Weibe trail is one of the most classic fall hikes in the state of Colorado.  Starting and ending in town, it is an easy to access loop without getting in your car, and has incredible views of the entire box canyon, the aspen groves and the ski resort.   The 3-mile loop is a moderate hiking trail due to the steep incline, but is well worth the effort.  The entire trail is covered in sprawling aspen groves, which make for one of the best fall hikes around.  If you want a little extra hike, try heading up the Sneffels highline trail for some more great views and remote backcountry or continue up Tomboy road and check out the old mining town, and the rich Telluride history.   Bear Creek Trail is another fall classic, that starts in downtown Telluride and ends at Bear Creek Falls.  The easy hike along the wide Bear Creek trail leads hikers through Bear Creek Canyon.  With the steep an exposed canyon walls to either side of hikers, the views and setting are surreal, and allow for great leaf peeping access.  
Fall is My Absolute Favorite Time of Year!
If you have the time, make friends with a local and have them lead you down to Little Hawaii, the secret waterfall sanctuary along the riverbed. What are your favorite fall hikes?  Let us know in the comment section below!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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