Fall is one of the best seasons for hiking. Cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage draw more people to the trails than most other times of year. Knowing what gear to bring, when to go, and the best trails in your area can make your fall hiking season one to remember.
When and Where
The first step to enjoying a great fall hike is finding a trail and knowing the best time of year to hike it. Sometimes waiting a week can dramatically change the experience by letting the foliage hit its peak of autumn colors. And the best tool for knowing when to go where is the Weather Channel Fall Foliage map. This map provides weekly updated status of the fall colors across the country, as well as lots of more detailed regional maps.
Going on a great fall hike doesn’t always mean a road trip. Sometimes the best trails to hit during the shorter days of fall are the ones right in your own backyard. Plus, you can visit the same place easily throughout the season to see the full spectrum of leaf colors. Finding the best local spots is as easy as typing your city/state and “fall hiking trails” into Google. A quick search near our offices in St. Louis shows a piece published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch just last month with a few of our local favorites. RootsRated is also an incredible site for finding trails and outdoor adventures near you. If you are hitting the road for greener (or browner in this case) pastures, definitely check out RoadTrippers.
With the cooler weather, you’ll want to change up your pack from your summer adventures. Fall weather is notorious for changing rapidly, so layers are a must. A light but solid water-proof out shell is recommended even if rain isn’t in the forecast; nothing ruins a hike more than a little drizzle making you soggy and uncomfortable for the rest of day. Muddy conditions and debris on the ground call for more heavy-duty footwear than the summer months. For day hikes, packing as light as possible is idea. A lightweight backpack and compact gear can make day-hiking in the moderate fall temperatures a lot more enjoyable since you won’t need to pack all the heavy-duty cold weather gear just yet. For some specific recommendations, check out Switchback Travel’s Fall Hiking Gear Essentials. One last piece of gear you should never leave home without is, of course, sunglasses.
Get the Best View
The main reason most people love fall hikes is the view. Rich, vibrant colors that can only be seen during a few months of the year combined with some cooler temperatures after a hot summer makes for some of the best hiking conditions of the year. To get the best view, and to protect your eyes, sunglasses are a must. Even on overcast days, harmful UV rays can still penetrate cloud cover and damage your eyes. One of the best solution are sunglasses with brown lenses. Brown lenses provide enhanced contrast with less tint, perfect for the constantly changing conditions of fall. You can read more about the benefits of brown lenses here.
Have a great fall hiking season and remember to Pack Small and Live Big!