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Jonathan Stull | 09.12.2017

It’s that time of year again: The sun hangs lower in the sky, shadows lengthen, and light shines in a soft golden hue. Autumn is upon us, and the shortening of the days signal a brilliant seasonal transformation that coats once-green forests in a colorful cloak of scarlet, gold, umber, and ochre.

To each season its own identity, and from the passing of another summer into the cold, short days of winter arises a renewed experience of adventure in a quickly shifting landscape. What better moment will you have to feel the bite of morning frost, the crunch of a dry leaf underfoot, or the honking peals of a flock of geese overhead as they find their way south to warmer climes?

Technically, the geese honk year round, but that’s beside the point. The fall is a time of transformation, and amid a world turning inward toward the hearth and the home there are family-friendly outdoor adventures that celebrate the change. Gather the kids and go for a walk, paddle a lake, and find a place to camp in the gathering leaves of fall.

Christman Sanctuary, New York

The transformation of Appalachia’s broadleaf forests is a stunning display unlike any other in North America. The Christman Sanctuary in upstate New York is a great place to experience the show. A preserve protected by The Nature Conservancy, its short trails and picturesque creeks are ideal for a family romp in the falling forest foliage. All are well marked and maintained, and there is minimal elevation gain.

Gile Mountain, Vermont

Like New York, the Green Mountains of Vermont are carpeted with brilliant colors during the fall. Gile Mountain is a great place to soak in the change with the family. The trail is short, dog friendly, and includes a fire tower with 360-degree views of Mount Ascutney, Mount Killington, and the colorful forest canopy.

*Please note that Gile Mountain is currently closed to road damage. Until it reopens, check out nearby Cardigan State Park for another gorgeous Vermont hike!

Junction Creek Trail, Colorado

While the San Juan Mountains don’t show off the coveted multicolor displays of the eastern forests, the aspen change is a striking contrast in this alpine environment of pines and copper-coated, iron-rich mountains that develop a sea-green, redolent patina. Three-thousand-foot mountain canyons and vertiginous highways help, too. Junction Creek, the southern end of the Colorado Trail, is a level 3-mile hike along Junction Creek with places to pause and overlook the beautiful mountains and the forest foliage.

Paris Mountain State Park, South Carolina

South Carolina is one of the best states in the South to see the forest foliage, and the hickory and maple grow in abundance in Paris Mountain State Park. Find the park’s trails, its lake with canoe rentals, a historic lodge, and a campsite. While the trails are shared with mountain bikers, the park prohibits mountain bike access on Saturdays, meaning that you and the kids can enjoy the autumn without worry.

Red Top Lookout, Washington

Autumn in the Pacific Northwest is a muted affair relative to the explosive color of the Appalachians and the aspen gold of the Rockies. But there are still splashes of color in an otherwise evergreen landscape, and the larch of the Alpine Lakes region mix green and gold when the summer turns. The Red Top Lookout is a great place for the family to take it in. It's a 2-mile round-trip hike, and the fire tower at the end will enthrall the kids with views of Mount Rainier and reddened alpine underbrush. There may just be a volunteer on staff to give you a view from the lookout, too.

Other unbeatable fall family hikes:

The above was produced with our friends at L.L. Bean, who believe that on the inside, we’re all outsiders.


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