All things considered, fall’s really the perfect time to hit the hiking trail in nearly every part of the country. With temperatures easing off the sweltering highs of summer but still nice and balmy, you couldn’t ask for better conditions. Throw in the fact that many areas see impressive displays of fall foliage, and you’ve got a recipe for top-tier family trail-bagging this time of year!
The following routes aren’t necessarily intended to be considered the best fall family hiking trails in the country, but rather awesomely representative fall hikes in different corners of the United States. Think of them as prime examples of family-friendly hikes that aren’t too difficult yet rewarding with incredible scenery, including the potential for knockout fall colors!
Fall HIkes - Kilburn Crags Trail (New Hampshire)
This easy, all-ages 1.4-mile round-trip hike in the White Mountain foothills of New Hampshire shows off one of the country’s preeminent destinations for leaf-peeping. The whole crew will love the woodsy ramble up to the 1,300-foot vantage of the Kilburn Crags, which has family photo-op written all over it.
Enjoy a spectacular prospect of the highest crest in the Whites—the epic Presidential Range, which tops out above 6,000 feet on Mount Washington—as well as fine views overlooking the valley of the Ammonoosuc River. In October, those sightlines should include some awesomely vibrant canopies.
Fall HIkes - Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (North Carolina)
Accessed right along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which offers a fantastic option for a leaf-peeping family road trip in the fall, the lookout tower atop 5,340-foot Fryingpan Mountain along the Pisgah Ridge not far from Asheville, North Carolina, delivers a stunning panorama for minimal effort. The 1.5-mile round-trip trail is an easy one, suitable for young children, and the tower itself—built in 1941 and the tallest in western North Carolina—is its own impressive attraction.
But the real star of the hike is the viewshed up top, which includes such grand Southern Appalachian ranges as the Great Balsam Mountains and the Black Mountains, the highest mountain group in the eastern U.S. This 360-degree magnificence is all the more impressive clad in the region’s ace fall colors.
Fall HIkes - Hawksbill Crag (Arkansas)
One of the most photographed sites in Arkansas, Hawksbill Crag (also known as Whitaker Point), looms as a symbol of the rugged beauty of the Ozark Plateau. The three-mile round-trip trail to its dramatic ledge on the brink of the Buffalo River’s gorge system will immerse you in the fall-painted loveliness of Ozark hardwoods, and the prospects from the Crag itself will show off all the more. Just be mindful of younger kids on this one, and keep them well away from the cliffy drop-offs!
Fall HIkes - Parnell Observation Tower (Wisconsin)
The rolling, glacially sculpted country of southeastern Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest offers some of the Midwest’s richest opportunities for leaf-peeping—and a whole slew of family-friendly hikes. Set along the North Kettle Interlobate Moraine, the Parnell Tower at 1,300 or so feet marks the state forest’s highest elevation, and its 60-foot vantage delivers a splendid view out across the eskers, drumlins, kames, and other subdued landforms testament to Pleistocene ice sheets. Needless to say, the views also encompass loads of fall color!
The walk up to the Parnell Observation Tower is a short one aided by wooden stairs, but you can also wander the surrounding woods on a pleasant 3.5-mile loop that’s partly on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Fall HIkes - Maroon Lake (Colorado)
The quaking aspens of the Southern Rockies mount one of the continent’s great fall-color displays, not least because their golden extravagance comes framed against the highest peaks in the entire Rocky Mountain chain. Easily one of the most famous expressions of this autumnal scenery is the prospect of the Maroon Bells—a pair of red-tinted “Fourteeners” in the Elk Mountains—from Maroon Lake, with yellow aspen, stands interwoven with the more somber greens of conifer forest. The easy, milelong Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, just a stone’s throw from the town of Aspen itself, is a must-do, all-ages walk in the full glory of the Colorado fall.
Fall HIkes - Eagle Creek (Oregon)
One of Oregon’s best-known and most popular trails, the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, demonstrates that the evergreen-dominated Pacific Northwest nonetheless delivers its own fine flashes of fall color. Edging basalt walls and hitting up multiple great waterfalls for which the Columbia Gorge is renowned, the Eagle Creek Trail runs some 13.1 miles into the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness up to Wahtum Lake, but many day hikers turn around at Tunnel Falls a bit more than halfway in.
However far you and the gang hike along this celebrated path, relish the striking fall yellows of bigleaf and vine maples under the shady gloom of Douglas-firs, western hemlocks, red-cedars, and other noble conifers.
Our Trekking Poles See You Along the Trails For your Fall Hikes
While goggling at fall colors from the Oregon Cascades to the Blue Ridge Mountains, make sure you and the rest of the gang come armed with our adjustable hiking poles!