Going for a walk doesn’t always have to involve the same stroll around the neighborhood. In fact, getting outdoors can provide an excellent opportunity to overcome a walking plateau, allowing you to connect with nature and feel refreshed. From Glacier National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains, these 10 fall foliage walks with stunning scenery are just the kind of bucket-list adventure you need to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
APPALACHIAN TRAIL TO INDIAN GAP
North Carolina-Tennessee border
Located in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, this short section of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail is one of the best. Start in Newfound Gap and head to Indian Gap along the not-too-difficult 3.4-mile roundtrip route. Though the fall is a great time to visit for the variety of colors, you really can’t go wrong any time of year.
BLUE LAKE HIKE
North Cascades, Washington
The North Cascades are home to one of Washington’s most historic hikes. Blue Lake is easy to access and just 2.2 miles long, perfect for beginners or walking with kids. The forested walk begins on boardwalks before opening up to meadows covered in wildflowers beneath the surrounding pine trees. In addition to the beautiful foliage, there’s a gentle stream along with the lake, which makes for a picture-perfect scene.
Glacier National Park, Montana
While a lot of the hikes on this list can get quite crowded in early fall (for good reason), this trail around Bullhead Lake in Montana is less likely to be buzzing with tourists. From aspens to western larches, the colors surrounding the lake offer some of the most epic views in all of Glacier National Park. The 7.2-mile trail is moderately difficult but doable in a day, with plenty of spots to stop and relax while enjoying the beautiful surroundings.
Watkins Glen, New York
Letchworth State Park in upstate New York is home to the Gorge Trail, which locals call the Grand Canyon of the East. Towering waterfalls, plunging gorges and the Genesee River make the beautiful and diverse colors of the forests in the fall a one-of-a-kind experience. Though this 7-mile trail is probably the most popular in the park, the Highbanks and Hemlock trails are shorter options worth adding to your sightseeing list.
HOYT ARBORETUM LOOP HIKE
Just west of Portland, Oregon, the Hoyt Arboretum in Washington Park is home to one of the most diverse selections of trees in the entire state. Perfect for families, the easy-terrain loop is 4.7 miles long. You can also bring your dog along, as they are allowed off-leash. Also, if you want to extend your hike, you can add several other loops in the arboretum for more terrific scenery.
West Bolton, Vermont
Just a short drive from downtown Burlington, Vermont, this 2.2-mile out and back is an easy hike on wide trails with a gradual incline. Though the walk through the forest is short and sweet, it offers some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. If you head out in the fall, the variety of foliage along Preston Pond is breathtaking.
MARVINE LAKE TRAIL
Rolling forests, canyons, log bridges and river crossings are just a small taste of what you’ll come across during this 12.8-mile trail on the White River plateau in Colorado. Pines, aspen groves and the emerald color of Marvine Lake provide a superb backdrop for an amazing hike in one of the state’s historic treasures. Should you want to make this trip a weekend getaway, there are two campgrounds within 1/2-mile of the hike.
OBERG MOUNTAIN TRAIL
This 2-mile trail is on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, rising 925 feet above the water for some spectacular views during the spring and fall. Marsh marigolds, northern white violets, sugar maple and paper birch are some of the foliage that make this area an extraordinary experience for hikers.
OLD RAG MOUNTAIN
While this 8-mile Virginia state hike is more challenging, it’s also one of the most dramatic. The trail leads up Old Rag Mountain and offers incredible panoramic views of Shenandoah National Park, easily one of the most beautiful spots in the country during the fall. Just keep in mind that the weekends can be busy, and you will need to be prepared for plenty of climbing on this day-long adventure.
The dogwood-studded forests of this 14-mile trail are some of the most gorgeous you’ll find in Arkansas. Though there is some steep climbing, the views from the top of White Rock Mountain make it well-worth the effort. If the length is an issue, trailside camping is an option and can be the perfect way to enjoy the lush fall foliage when the weather begins to cool.
Originally published September 2019, updated October 2022
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