And suddenly it happens: One morning you step outside and something is different. The sun is a bit slower in rising, the morning bird songs are changed, and there’s a hint of mustiness in the air that harkens to something like pages in an old book or fresh wooden pencils.
Watching summer and fall converge is a natural marvel—it’s as though we get to witness Mother Nature battening down the hatches in preparation for the winter to come. She seems to be almost eerily clairvoyant in that way. Even if it’s not the mysticism that enchants you to fall, the changing colors, cooler temperatures, and invariably less crowded trails (thanks to soccer leagues, recitals, homework, and the like) are a serious bonus.
Here, we’re of the conviction that fall is for hiking, and below we’ve listed eight reasons why, though given the time, we could come up with thousands. No matter what has motivated you to get you to the trailhead, though, it’s always imperative that each person that steps foot on the trail practices the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
Every year, it’s the same thing: incredible sweeping vistas awash in colors that put Skittles to shame. The crimson dogwood and sassafras, the scarlet red oak and maples, the golden poplars and birch, and the purple sumac shouldered together over rolling hills is surely one of Nature’s proudest moments. If there’s a better way to take it all in than by lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the trail, we don’t know what that is. So grab your favorite adventure buddy, book a spontaneous ticket, and revel in the spectacle (and don’t forget to share pictures with us)!
RMNP is truly an American crown jewel. Here, the grandeur of the Rockies is purely evident—placid lakes dot quiet meadows, crumbling talus fields hide squeaky pika, and the royal blue sky is like a triumphant, flowing banner over it all. In the fall, it’s so beautiful it’s almost painful (you know the feeling?). Hiking through RMNP in the fall is a treat that everyone deserves to experience. Aspen groves flash their leaves that look like gold coins straight from a pirate’s booty—it’s quite remarkable. Plus, the elk rut typically runs from mid-September to mid-October, and a whistling, bellowing elk call to adds a lovely little melody to the trail.
Dutifully, every year in the fall, millions of birds take to the skies to make the trek from cooler breeding grounds in the north to warmer wintering areas in the south. Because the fall migration lasts longer than its springtime counterpoint, and migrating birds can travel in flocks that number in the tens of thousands, even the novice birder can find delight and excitement in a fall birding hike. Seeing an exceptional variety? Thank the international Migratory Bird Treaty, signed by both the United States and Canada to protect birds and their migratory routes for the century to come.
Is there anything that pairs better with a crisp, fall morning than alpenglow? Our assertion: no. Not every summit is safe to chase in the fall (thinking about mountains like Mount Hood that becomes crumbly and unstable as snow recedes). Those that are present vibrant, colorful tundra foliage, sweeping views, and fewer crowds. Win. Just be sure to diligently check the weather report before you embark; weather during the shoulder seasons can be far less stable.
If there’s anything that affirms our obsession for fall, it’s a dog—an all-out, zany, spastic dog bounding ahead of us on the trail and meeting us at our high energy level then far, far exceeding it. In the heat of summer, sometimes it can be truly unsafe to take your pup on the trail, especially those that lack in shade. Cooler weather is a welcome change for four-legged adventure companions and can open up many trails that might have been no-gos for the preceding several months.
Is it weird to love waking up in a tent dusted in frost? Fall can add a serious touch of delight to a backpacking trip while seriously reducing the crowds. Bonus. Plus, many trips that rely on a lottery system to award permits only do so within the busy season. So that trip that you’ve had a hell of a time winning a permit for might not even require one after Labor Day!
Dendrology: the scientific study of trees. While you might not be raring to apply to a Ph.D. program (or maybe you are, and good for you), one thing is for certain: the next time you’re quietly meandering your way through a golden stand of fall aspen trees, you’ll invariably wonder, “how the hell do they do this?” If, in fact, you want to learn more, your local master gardener extension office is a great place to start. Your local librarian also will probably have some great suggestions for further reading. After all, the rest of the world is headed back to school!
That header image from Kentucky Falls…’nuff said.
In October, Outdoor Project and Team Sierra are teaming up to hike for a cause! All you have to do is hike at least 30 miles in October and get your community to support you. It's that simple.