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Favorite Fall Hikes, Part 3

Love autumn? Then it's time to lace up your hiking boots, clear some space on your camera's memory card and hit the trail. Fall color is now peaking in some areas and just about to take off in others.

Earlier this month, we shared some of REI staff's favorite early-season fall hikes and a second round of favorite fall trails focused on early-fall color regions. For this report we again checked in with our staff for more of their most-loved trails of the season.

Hiking near San Jose, Calif. Photo by Ron Horii

Tarantula in Sunol Regional Wilderness, Calif.Autumn provides a offbeat reason to hike at Sunol Regional Wilderness east of San Jose: It's tarantula mating season! "Observant hikers may witness frenzied, but harmless, male tarantulas dancing across the trail," notes Steve from the Bay Area chapter of the REI Outdoor School. If you'd rather avoid tarantulas, that's OK, too, because the park's many trails offer a delightful mix of oak woodlands, grassy fields and expansive views.  Try the Ohlone/Cerro Este/McCorkle loop of about 4 miles which includes a visit to "Little Yosemite Valley" along scenic Alameda Creek. Steve's tip: "Bring binoculars for the views on the backside of Mission Peak." Photos above courtesy of Ron Horii.

Fall's cooler temperatures make this an ideal time to hike to Liberty Cap (below) in the Colorado National Monument. Marea of the REI Grand Junction store says, "I love this trail (4 miles roundtrip) because it switchbacks up the cliffs, where it seems no path could go, to an amazing cap of sandstone with views over the valley and the monument." She adds, "The descent via the Corkscrew Trail leads through completely different rock bands." (Note: Dogs are not allowed on this trail.) If you want to extend your trip, a side-trail up quiet Ute Canyon makes a scenic destination.

Liberty Cap - Colorado National Monument

Devil's Den Preserve, Conn.CONNECTICUT
With more than 1,700 acres and 20 miles of easy to moderate trails, scenic Devil's Den Preserve comes highly recommended by Katie from the REI Norwalk store. Managed by the Nature Conservancy, the preserve between Weston and Redding (it's the largest such preserve in the state) features colorful hardwood forests, granite ledges, a boulder ravine and several historical points of interest. It's a great place for birdwatching and other wildlife viewing, too.

The Seaman's Gulch Trail (below) in the semiarid hills west of Boise is a fine place to view wildlife and go hiking or mountain biking year-round. But the cooler temperatures of fall make now one of the most enjoyable times of year to visit. Sylvia from the REI Boise store frequents the 2-mile loop trail (there are several options here) to view hawks circling overhead and deer and rabbits in the brush below. The top of the loop trail offers expansive views stretching to downtown Boise.

Seaman Gulch Trail

Fall color near Asheville, N.C.The Shining Rock Wilderness Area off of the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Brevard offers numerous hiking options. Ching from the REI Asheville store recommends the Art Loeb Trail for its incredible views of fall colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hikers can summit several rocky outcroppings and balds on the way to Shining Rock, with all of the quartz that provides its name. Her tips: Bring a map, stay on the main trail and pack extra clothing layers since weather can change quickly above 5,000 feet. Access the trail at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 420.2.

Smithville Park in Burlington County (east of the Philadelphia metro area) makes an excellent outdoor destination for the whole family and is a favorite of Charles from the REI Marlton store. In addition to historic Smithville Village, the park features relaxing trails (below) through wetlands, woods and meadows. Check out the Butterfly Garden at Smith's Woods and the 600-foot floating trail on Smithville Lake, too. Photo courtesy of Jen Bulova.

Trail in Smithville Park, New Jersey

Laura from the REI East Hanover, N.J., store is an intrepid hiker who "can't get enough of the Poconos." While she says there's no shortage of great hikes in the Wyoming Valley, her fave is the Seven Tubs Nature Area outside of Wilkes-Barre. She says, "This short hike is extra-special given the glacial history. I love hiking along the trail and discovering each of the 7 'tubs' (pools) and their connecting waterfalls." The first 0.2 mile is paved for stroller or wheelchair access, and the start of the trail offers a nice waterfall view from the bridge.

For camera-toting Tracy of the REI Fairfax store, a "must" hike every autumn is Old Rag Mountain (below) in Shenandoah National Park. This challenging hike (7.2-mile roundtrip, 2500-feet elevation gain with a long rock-scramble section) "takes in the best colors of autumn that nature has to offer."  The summit affords 360-degree views of the yellow, orange and red hues of the tree-covered Blue Ridge Mountains. The scenic beauty here is no secret, so plan an early start on weekends or try going during the week, if possible, to avoid crowds. First timer? Heather from the REI Columbia, Md. store suggests watching this NPS video for safety tips.
Old Rag Mountain, Virginia 

Below: Fall colors reflecting on Smithville Lake, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Jen Bulova.

Posted on at 4:16 PM

Tagged: Autumn, Fall, Hiking and backpacking

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great stuff here and quite a few places I was not aware of
I am planning on hiking Old Rag Mountain after reading your description here and doing a bit of internet research

I'd like to offer up Forbes State Forest in Western PA, it's one of my favorite places in Pennsylvania to hike this time of year, over 250 miles on 100+ trails, it's simply some of the best scenery around

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The Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan are the most underrated places in the United States. Thanks Detroit!


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