Best Fall 2021 Hikes
North America, it's time to get your hiking boots on.
Fall drives are beautiful, sure, but for a real slice of the changing seasons, it's best to lace up those hiking boots, grab some trail mix, and prepare to be wowed by the cornucopia of colors that is fall foliage at its finest.
Whether taken by mountaintop vistas, glass lakes, or roaring waterfalls, these nine hikes will satisfy your outdoorsy wanderlust.
Dismal Trail Loop, Caesars Head State Park: Cleveland, South Carolina
While those who can stand the heat could do worse than hiking in the southern half of the country in the middle of the summer, adventurers not glutton for punishment will be duly rewarded with a visit to Caesars Head State Park just outside of Greenville, a great base for exploring the region. The Dismal Trail Loop is an 8.8-mile loop with some challenging terrain, making it a formidable option for advanced hikers. A suspension bridge and scenic view of Raven Cliff Waterfalls encourage breaking for pictures and giving the legs a rest from all the switchbacks and steep climbs.
Haystack Mountain Trail: Wilmington, Vermont
There's no danger of running out of hiking and trekking options in the Green Mountain State, but while The Long Trail, all 237 miles of it, tends to get all the attention, curious kinds will no doubt delight in the affable Haystack Mountain's 5-mile out-and-back trail. Vermont's mud season, which occurs just after the ski resorts hang up their poles for the year, slowly gives way to lush summer greenery and wildflowers galore, and those in the know agree the best time of year to visit is fall. A trek up to Haystack's summit at this time of year rewards visitors with pops of burnished reds, oranges, and yellows.
La Perouse Bay: Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
You'll need some means beyond good walking shoes to get to the start of this vast hiking trail south of Wailea. Whether arriving by car or bicycle, staring out into the ocean in search of dolphins is this hike's required prologue. As visitors familiar with Hawaii's diverse terrain might guess, this shoreline trek really does have it all. If it's slow-going, it won't be because of any significantly challenging steps — though there are a few rocky areas that should be tackled with reasonable caution — but rather, because of the near-constant breathtaking views.
Laramie Peak: Garrett, Wyoming
The highest and most prominent peak in the rugged state of Wyoming, Laramie is one of this list's more rigorous hikes. It's a 9.9 mile out-and-back with copious chances for wildlife sightings, including black bears, deer, and mountain lions. Like the La Perouse Bay trail, Laramie's base is a bit out of the way; it must be accessed by vehicle along a rough-and-tumble gravel road. Its true off-the-beaten path location, however, means seclusion and mountain zen in spades. The majority of the hike is tree-covered, so fall visitors are pretty much guaranteed a colorful journey.
'Lighthouse Loop' Wild Pacific Trail: Ucluelet, British Columbia
British Columbia has rightly earned its reputation as a terrific place for outdoor lovers, and this hike, accessed through Vancouver Island, is no exception. Still, this trail is a decidedly more chill and approachable hike for all levels. The 1.6-mile loop can be embellished with The Bog Interpretive Loop, Spring Cove mudflats, or via trails off two small beaches, but these extensions, though lovely, aren't required for glorious views of the Lighthouse, which is particularly mesmerizing at sunset or sunrise.
Springwater on the Willamette: Portland, Oregon
Fortunately, visitors to Portland interested in escaping the city for a walk in the wilderness don't need to commit to the popular Spring Corridor's 21.5-mile trek, thanks to the 2005 creation of this 3-mile north–south "Springwater on the Willamette" segment. The easy route takes visitors along unused railroad tracks for a gentle jaunt in one of the Pacific Northwest's loveliest regions.
The Track and Tower Trail: Ontario, Canada
Hiking is often synonymous with mountain-climbing, albeit an accessible climb without hard-core gear, but this hike in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park offers a welcome change of scenery. The loop is just under 5 miles, well suited for families and on-leash dogs too, and instead of grand mountains in the horizon, visitors will be blessed with views of the shimmery Grant Lake. There's more opportunity for water via myriad stream sightings and gushing waterfalls. Peak fall foliage further sets the scene.
Tom's Thumb Trail: Scottsdale, AZ
Located on the north side of the McDowell Mountains, the first of what would become home to many trailheads, Tom's Thumb is oft-praised for its dramatic rock formations. The 4-mile hike is a popular one, but that's understandable, given its phenomenal views. Steep inclines and seemingly endless switchbacks will no doubt give visitors a sense of accomplishment. And anyway, this being Scottsdale, the unofficial spa destination of the U.S., any post-hike activity worth its salt ought to involve a massage at one of Scottsdale's premier resorts.
Virginia Creeper Trail: Southern Virginia
Abingdon, Virginia, a perfectly picturesque town in southwest Virginia, is home to a number of bike rental companies. Shuttles take visitors — and their bikes — 34 miles up to Whitetop for an easy bike ride back down to town. But in spite of this trail's top billing among cyclists, the Creeper Trail, a nickname for the slow Virginia-Carolina Railway, is, in fact, a beautiful and inviting trek for hikers too. Stunning vistas, wooden bridges, rushing streams, charming towns, and miles upon miles of surrounding farmland are what's in store for visitors looking to kill an hour or make a day of it.