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Our Favorite Early-Season Fall Hikes

September has arrived, which means that spectacular fall color will be starting soon in some areas. To kick off the season, the REI Blog asked trail-loving REI staff in our northern and high-elevation stores to share some of their favorite early-season hiking trails. We'll run suggestions for other regions in later posts throughout the season.

You can find more information on these hikes by clicking on the trip names or searching the thousands of trips displayed on REI Guidepost. Please chime in and share your own favorites, too.

ALASKA
Fall color peaks as early as mid-September in low-elevation areas around Anchorage. Mike, a self-described "slow-moving outdoor adventurer" from the REI Anchorage store, suggests 2 winners in nearby Chugach State Park. The Williwaw Lakes trail "becomes especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing colors and the tundra turns red and yellow. Moose tend to congregate in this area in the fall." The Anchorage Hillside Trail System, which includes the Middle Fork Loop trail, is another great choice for viewing fall colors and wildlife: black and brown bears, moose, lynx and more.

Anchorage Hillside Trails and Flattop
Anchorage-area fall color. Photo courtesy of Carl Battreall of photographalaska.com.
 

COLORADO
Several staffers recommend a visit to 10,000-foot  Kenosha Pass, which is described as one of the highlights of the Colorado Trail. "The best time is the last two weeks of September through the first week or two of October," says Greg from the REI Englewood store, "to catch the fall bright golden aspen change and the best weather, as long as you like brisk mornings and warm afternoons in the sun." Per Liz from the REI Denver store, the trail west is beautiful all the way to Jefferson Lake (6 miles), but one should feel free to turn around at any time. Kenosha Pass is easily accessible from Hwy. 285, so do expect company in the first couple of miles.
 
MASSACHUSETTS
Joel, an "avid Massachusetts hiker" from the REI Framingham store, notes that nearby Mt. Monadnock is claimed by some to the "second most climbed mountain in the world" after Mt. Fuji in Japan. His insider tip: See the views but avoid the crowds by hiking the Wapack Trail instead. He describes it as a beautiful hike with fantastic views of Monadnock to the west and vast open areas of central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.
 
MONTANA
Teresa from the REI Bozeman store has been hiking, running and skiing in the region for more than 25 years. One of her fall favorites is right in Bozeman: the family-friendly Sourdough Nature Trail. As she says, "the bugs are gone and the autumn oblique lighting is ideal for photography." In addition to "blazing golden leaves" in the fall, Teresa also notes that the local Aududon Society lists this as a great spot to see flycatchers, thrushes and warblers. Her tip: Bring binoculars!

Autumn trail in Bozeman

Bozeman-area fall color. Photo courtesy of Gallatin Valley Land Trust.

UTAH
The higher elevations of the Wasatch Range typically feature spectacular fall color by the third week of September. This short hike to Willow Lake starts out at just under 8,000 feet, so don't wait too long to go. Suggested by Daniel from the REI Salt Lake City store, the trail not only takes you past brilliant aspen trees, but quite often offers deer and moose sightings as well. The small mountain lake is an added bonus.

Fall color on Willow Heights Trail, Utah

Got boots? For all your hiking gear needs, check out the REI Keep Hiking This Fall page. For a list of what to bring, print out our day hiking checklist.

Pictured below: Colorful aspen trees at Kenosha Pass, Colorado.

 

Posted on at 3:17 PM

Tagged: Autumn, Colorado, Fall, Hiking, Massachusetts, Montana, alaska, backpacking and utah

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Nordman

While I second the recommendation on the Wapack trail, it's odd that you have placed it under Massachusetts. While your employee's REI store is located squarely in Massachusetts, close to 90% of the Wapack trail that he recommends is in New Hampshire - one of the best states in the U.S. for fall hikes.

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