Ways To Enjoy The Fall Color

Here are five ideas for enjoying fall color and some of the places to do these activities around the country.

By Courtney Johnson
Explore Ambassador

Some of the best outdoor adventures happen when the leaves begin to turn gold, red and orange. There is no need to put away the equipment yet, from your mountain bikes to saddles and fly fishing poles. Here are five ideas for enjoying fall color and some of the places to do these activities around the country.

(Photo: National Park Service/Jett)

Fly Fish

Whether you want to catch chinook salmon, trout or steelhead, the fall offers some of the best fishing all year.

  • Black Hawk Lake – Lake City, IA

From crappie to bluegill and catfish to walleye, the fish are biting in the fall at this 957-acre lake. Peak fall color is in late September, including oak and maple.

  • Cache la Poudre River – Fort Collins, CO

Running 126 miles from Poudre Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park to the South Platte, the Poudre is known for world-class trout fishing, from rainbow and brown to cutthroat and cut-bow. Fall color is abundant all along the river.

  • Chesapeake Bay – MD and VA

Come October, the water temp drops and the air becomes crisp. This makes it a great time to fish for striped bass (rockfish), bluefish and white perch. Hickory, oak and maple trees are just a few of the trees that bring out the yellows, oranges and reds.

  • Devils Lake – Devils Lake, ND

Peaking in late September, the maple, aspen, beech and birch trees bring color all around Devils Lake. Fall fishing is abundant in this 330-mile lake with crappie, northern pike, white bass and walleye.

  • Deschutes River – Bend, OR

Rainbow trout, chinook and coho salmon are the main attractions besides the changing leaves when fishing the Deschutes in the fall. Aspen trees and willow bushes are the main source of color along the 252-mile-long river.

  • Farmington River – CT

September into mid-to-late October is the best time to catch both the leaves changing and trout, including rainbow and brown, fly fishing along this 47-mile river.

  • Green River – Green River, UT

The river may be full of rainbow and brown trout, but the cottonwoods and aspens brighten the landscape with bright yellow. Along this river that flows for 730 miles through parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, the best fall fishing and leaf spotting happens in October.

  • Tuckasegee River – Bryson City, NC

Enjoy the blazing colors of poplar trees, oaks and sugar maples along the banks of the Tuckasegee River. Also fish for brook, rainbow and brown trout in this trout lovers’ haven.

(Photo: National Park Service)


Lace up the boots, put on some layers and take in autumn’s bliss via foot.

  • Cook’s Meadow Loop Trail – Yosemite National Park, CA

Along the border of the Merced River, this 1-mile hike offers a lot of bang for your buck, with views of various shades of orange, yellow and red along with Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome. The 6.5-mile (half-loop) Valley Loop trail is fairly flat with amazing views if you are looking for a longer hike.

  • Mount Monadnock – Jersey, NH

Follow the 2-mile White Dot Trail to the 3,165-foot peak of Mount Monadnock for 360-degree views of almost 100 miles on clear days. Not only will you see stunning fall colors, you can see the six New England states from the top.

  • Old Man’s Cave Trail and Cedar Falls Trail – Hocking Hills State Park, OH

Waterfalls, caves and the changing leaves of sassafras, oak, maple, hemlock and even hickory trees await you on this popular hike. You can make this hike a 6-mile loop by beginning at the visitor center.

  • Ramona Falls Trail – Rhododendron, OR

This 7-mile loop is a popular summer destination, but it is also a gorgeous spot to catch fall color. Enjoy the reds and yellows of the vine maple and even go mushroom hunting along the way to the crown jewel of this trail: the 125-foot Ramona Falls.

  • Raven’s Rock Trail – Coopers Rock State Forest, WV

The Raven’s Rock Trail is a 2.5-mile round trip out and back with endless views of the changing leaves and the Cheat River Canyon. The trail is steep but short. Considering the park has 21 trails and 50 miles you can tackle, you can also pick another trail to hike to enjoy fall’s splendor.

  • Split Rock River Loop Trail – Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, MN

Pass by several waterfalls and enjoy a view of Lake Superior, all while under a canopy of autumn color. This 4.5-mile-loop hike is rugged in spots. Another recommended hike to see the ash and birch trees changing color is the 1.5-mile-loop Day Hill Trail.

  • Skyline Trail – Beavers Bend State Park, OK

This 7- to 10-mile trail (depending on the route you take) is for hikers who enjoy a challenge. Waterfalls, multiple creek crossings along Bee Creek and steep terrain await you, as well as the changing hardwoods.

  • Ten Mile Creek Trail – Boise National Forest, ID

With 400 feet of elevation gain, the 4.5-mile out-and-back Ten Mile Creek

Trail is a perfect place to hike to see the fall color. Cottonwood, bush and willow trees become vibrant around the beginning of October.

(Photo: )

Mountain Bike

Head out on two wheels to catch the fall breeze and changing trees.

  • Bomb Dog Loop Trail – Anniston, AL

On Cold Mountain, the Bomb Dog Loop is 10.5 miles of singletrack fun through the woods. The red, crimson, orange and yellow of the trees will streak by as you ride the loop in the fall.

  • Canal Loop Trail – Grand Rivers, KY

Twelve miles of intermediate singletrack with overlooks to the canal, Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake add to the scenery, along with creek crossings and old home sites. Oak and maple trees bring the primary color to this perfect fall trail.

  • Cedar Brake Outer Loop Trail, Dinosaur Valley State Park – Glen Rose, TX

Tour the park, see dinosaur tracks and enjoy the reds, oranges and yellows of fall on the Cedar Brake Outer Loop Trail. This 7.5-mile intermediate loop is best ridden in late September into October for leaf viewing.

  • Europe Bay/Hotz Loop Trail – Newport State Park, WI

One of the best ways to see fall color in Door County, Wisconsin, is via two wheels. The Europe Bay/Hotz Loop Trail is 7 miles of fairly easy dirt with views of Europe Lake and the changing oak, maple and birch trees in late September.

  • Falls Creek Falls Trail – Carson, WA

This 9-mile trail (if you take it all the way to the horse camp) features two creek crossings, cascading water and the 100-foot Falls Creek Falls. The trail takes you deep into the deciduous forest, with plenty of color and even edible mushrooms.

  • Monarch Crest Trail – Salida, CO

Look for peak leaf peeping along the Monarch Crest Trail in Salida in late September to early October. The gold of aspens brings the 36 miles of singletrack to life in the fall.

  • Movil Maze Trails – Bemidji, MN

Loop all five trails together at Movil Maze Recreation Area to make a 7-mile singletrack ride featuring berms, flowy track, descents, climbs and delightful fall color. Maple trees are the main source of color.

  • Winsor National Recreational Trail – Santa Fe, NM

This 9-mile trail takes you into the Santa Fe National Forest. It climbs through aspen groves of yellow and red, crosses a stream and leads up and over Carpenter Ridge.

(Photo: National Park Service)


Take to the kayak, canoe or SUP to catch some fall color.

  • Cedar Creek Canoe Trail – Congaree National Park, SC

The trail travels 15 miles through the Congaree Wilderness. Paddlers can expect to see fall colors, including yellow and brown from oaks and other old-growth trees (some of the oldest in the East).

  • Chattahoochee River – Chattahoochee River Park, GA
    For a calm paddle, head to Chattahoochee River Park to enjoy some time on the Chattahoochee River. Fall color explodes on the Chattahoochee, including the colors of tulip poplar, dogwood and maple trees.
  • Frio River – Garner State Park, TX

In mid- to late October, the cypress, oak and persimmon trees are at peak color around the park. Paddle or float down the Frio River to see a pallet of orange, yellow and red.

  • Jackson Lake and Snake River – Grand Teton National Park, WY

Go for a flatwater cruise around Jackson Lake or, for more adventure, paddle the Snake River from Jackson Lake Dam. Aspens, cottonwoods and willows all are vibrant in yellow, red and gold.

  • Lake Tahoe – CA

Lake Tahoe is home to groves and groves of aspen painting the scenery yellow. The water temperature is actually typically at its warmest in September through October, making it perfect for paddling to take in the changing seasons.

  • Missisquoi River from Highgate to Swanton – Big Falls State Park, VT

Enjoy a paddle or float down this flatwater river surrounded by changing maple trees. The red and orange will follow you on this 4-mile stretch of the river from Highgate to Swanton.

  • Peninsula State Park – Door County, WI

Eight miles of shoreline provide the perfect fall background for those enjoying the waters of Lake Michigan. Besides gorgeous fall color, paddlers can see Horseshoe Island and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse from the waters. Launch at Tennison Bay for an easy in and out.

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Alger County, MI

Explore the caves and rocks of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore while vibrant hues of red and orange dot the shoreline. Fifteen miles of cliffs along the 42-mile lakeshore provide a perfect fall backdrop while cascading waterfalls bring changing leaves into the water.

(Photo: Alexander C. Armstrong)

Saddle Up

Grab the reins and head out on these trails to take in the beauty of the season.

  • Blue Ridge Mountains – Blowing Rock, NC

Peak time for leaves in the Blue Ridge Mountains is from mid- to late October. The Moses Cone Park Carriage Trails are 25 miles of rideable trails with views of Bass Lake, rows and rows of apple trees and sugar maples blazing in the autumn sun.

  • Carson National Forest – Taos, NM

Look for fall color to peak in October in Carson National Forest. Mid-October is the perfect time to saddle up and take in the changing aspens and cottonwoods along the 7.5-mile Picuris Peak Trail #114 or the 8.3-mile Palo Flechado Pass Trail.

  • Hermit Park Open Space and Roosevelt National Forest – Estes Park, CO

Aspens and cottonwoods bring some color mixed in with the green of pine along the trails in Estes Park. Look for peak color typically in October along the Moose Meadow Trail and the Saddle Trail in Hermit Park. Ride up Twin Sisters Peak Trail, the Continental Divide Trail or the Cow Creek trailhead for more fall color in the forest.

  • Huron-Manistee National Forests – Wellston, MI

Within these national forests, you will find over 200 miles of horseback trails taking you through meadows of pine, oak, maple and aspen trees. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is 85 miles long from Empire near Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. The Hungerford Trail is just over 42 miles long and consists of loops, making this a great trail for a ride as long or as short as you want. The mostly flat Marzinski Trail starts at the campground and also consists of various-length loops for a total of 20 miles.

  • Icicle Gorge Nature Loop Trail – Leavenworth, WA

Following the Icicle River, this 4-mile-loop trail offers multiple lookout points to see the gorge and changing colors of the season. An alternative and longer trail is the Icicle Ridge Trail, a 6-mile trail that climbs up a ridge but also offers amazing views of the Cascade Mountains.

  • Ozark-St. Francis National Forest – AR

Head on horseback to the Ozarks in mid- to late October to view the changing oaks, black gum trees, hickories and maples. The most popular horse trail in the Ozark National Forest is the looped 34-mile Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail. Other popular trails in the fall include the 28-mile Moccasin Gap Horse Trail, the four loops of the 89-mile Sylamore Horse Trail and the 27-mile Mill Creek Horse Trail.

  • Shawnee National Forest – Shawnee, IL

Some of the best fall color can be found in the southern part of the state in the Shawnee National Forest between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. With 403 miles of equestrian trails, ride your way into hues of red, orange and yellow from both oak and hickory trees that peak in mid- to late October.

  • Wharton State Forest – NJ

From late October to early November, the foliage of Wharton State Forest comes alive in vibrant colors. Start at the Batsto Village Visitor Center for a 12-mile ride through Wharton State Forest and along the Mullica River. Pass by buildings from the 19th century, when Batsto was an iron- and glass-making hub, while you enjoy the color from cedar trees.

Related Articles

Always be ready to go with the Go Out{side} Email Newsletter

Don’t miss out on new Go Out{side} news, tips and tricks.