Best Affordable Fall Adventures
Go biking, hiking, and boating among the fall colors—all for a great price.
The reds, yellows, and oranges of the Great Smoky Mountains explode all around you as you hike
the Appalachian Trail up Clingmans Dome, then ridge-walk through hardwood forests, emerging on top
of treeless mountains. Fog floats among the trees and settles in the valleys, adding a mystical
feel without diminishing the powerful colors. Says Tim Loftus of REI Adventures, which operates several fall hiking trips
in the area: “It’s like a fireworks show out there.”
The changing leaves are just one lure for outdoor adventurers during the fall season. The
tourist crowds of July and August have dissipated, and in many spots, the blistering summer heat
has passed. And happily, an abundance of premier tour operators offer ready-made autumn adventures
that are relatively easy on the wallet. They bring expert guides and top-quality gear and arrange
all meals and accommodations—you just bring your thirst for adventure.
Many fall travelers, of course, want to experience the color transformation. And Vermont, like
Tennessee, serves up a scarlet- and rust-filled landscape. Go with Vermont Bicycle Tours’ Champlain Valley
excursion and you’ll ride through the falling leaves into a quieter, antique way of life,
with jaunts to a horse farm and pewter workshop. You’ll even drop by the Shelburne Museum to
see its brilliant collection of folk art and Americana.
For other travelers, adventure is just about exploring someplace new. That’s why Austin-Lehman Adventures is one of the first outfitters to
offer a trip into South Dakota’s pine-covered Black Hills, a strikingly isolated mountain
range rising from the heart of the Great Plains. Bicyclists navigate the hairpin turns of the
otherworldly Needles Highway, passing through a landscape of granite spires, then looping around
herds of huge animals. “Pedaling around a bend and seeing thousands of shaggy bison grazing
on windswept prairie grass gives you a sense that little has changed for thousands of years in the
West,” says Dan Austin, owner of Austin-Lehman.
Other trekkers want to walk in the footsteps of long-forgotten cultures, or forge a connection
to the frontier. Ecohike’s Kayenta Passages trip
offers the chance to see ancient Anasazi rock art, etched into the serpentine red rock canyons of
Utah’s Escalante National Park.
If you feel like getting away from it all as the weather turns cooler, these guided excursions
will get you into the great outdoors without breaking the bank.