Across the U.S., locals and tourists alike can enjoy cooling temperatures and changing colors as temperate climates move firmly into fall. Whether you’re giving yourself a quick break in lieu of a longer vacation or you’re looking for an addition to a larger holiday, make the most of autumnal weather near you with a day hike.
Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine
Maine is practically synonymous with outdoorsmanship, and the rugged natural beauty of Acadia National Park only furthers that reputation. For a jaw-dropping view over the changing colors of Acadia, take the challenging scramble up the 1.8 mile Precipice Trail. Iron rung gripping and boulder hopping up the thousand-foot ascent of Champlain Mountain will give you a hearty workout with a spectacular payoff of looking out over the varied terrain of Mount Desert Island.
Zion Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
You’ll need a permit and two days to cover the full 16 mile length of these incredible Western canyons, but a single day hike from the bottom up will take you to the Narrows’ iconic sights. A trip out to Orderville Canyon and back is just four miles, and no special technical equipment is necessary, although you may find a wading staff helpful. This is one hike best taken earlier in fall, rather than later. The Virgin River flowing through this narrow gorge can get very cold. You also must pay close attention to weather forecasts before hiking to watch out for flash flood dangers.
Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Stretching from Jenny Lake westward to to Lake Solitude, Wyoming’s Cascade Canyon Trail has some of the U.S.’ best panoramic views to break up its over 14 mile length. Perhaps the greatest highlight is the view of the Cathedral Group, comprised of Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point both lie within the trail’s first mile. If you’re pressed for time, however, you can boat across Jenny Lake and start the trail on its western shore, cutting two miles off the start of your journey.
Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is a nature lovers’ mecca, in no small part thanks to the year-round delights of Olympic National Park’s temperate Hoh Rain Forest. This is one of the most enjoyable easy hikes in the country, with just over 6 miles of mossy wood to cover on a mostly level trail. Wander among spruce, fir, hemlock, and maple trees until you’ve had your fill of fresh air. If this trail isn’t enough on its own, you can continue up to 17 more miles to Glacier Meadows.
Halemau’u Trail, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
The continental U.S. doesn’t hold a monopoly on superb hikes. When it gets too cold to trek across the mainland, Hawaii’s national parks have plenty of trails of their own. The otherworldly landscape of the Halemau’u Trail is especially worth a visit. Its 7.5 mile length includes swaths of native scrub forest, stunning views from Crater Rim Overlook, and a thrilling 1,400 foot descent into Haleakala’s crater.