Top 5 fall hikes

Kick up leaves, splash through a creek, and take in the views during nature’s most spectacular season

Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO

Photo by Tyler Stableford Photography, written by Ted Alan Stedman

Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO

Popular for a reason: Colorado’s most photographed landscape is even better in living color, when the distinctive symmetry of snow-dusted Maroon and North Maroon Peaks are framed by a ribbon of aspens, all reflected on shimmering Maroon Lake. Of course you won’t be alone, but still it’s worth the crowds. To reach the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness, head to Maroon Lake Trailhead ($10/vehicle; fs.usda.gov/whiteriver).

Don’t miss: The Aspen Brewing Company’s new downtown tasting room (304 E. Hopkins Ave.; aspenbrewingco.com).

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain N.P., CO

Photo by Ron Niebrugge/www.wildnatureimages.com, written by Ted Alan Stedman

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain N.P., CO

The park’s crown jewel: The dazzling corridor of aspens along Bear Lake Road (via U.S. 36, west of Beaver Meadows Entrance Station) is just a prelude. Beneath Hallett Peak sits Bear Lake ($20/vehicle; nps.gov/romo), an aqua-blue gem framed with aspens that glow in the crisp 9,475-foot air. Meander the 0.5-mile lakeshore trail to gaze at ever-changing panoramas worthy of an IMAX trailer.

Don’t Miss: Estes Park Brewery’s Colby-jack chili burgers and house-brewed pumpkin ale (470 Prospect Village Dr.; epbrewery.com).

June Lake, CA

Photo by Thomas J. Story, written by Mackenzie Geidt

June Lake, CA

True weekend escape: It’d be worth a trip to this corner of the Eastern Sierra for the flaming trees alone. But June Lake also has lakes, waterfalls, jagged peaks, and a little something for everyone. Rent a pedal boat at Gull Lake Marina ($20/hour; gulllakemarina.com) to take in the views with resident ducks. For aspens, hike the 4-mile round-trip Parker Lake Trail.

Don’t miss: The Double Eagle Resort & Spa (from $199; doubleeagle.com), with luxe rooms and cabins, free yoga, and a sleek restaurant ($$$).

Oak Creek Canyon, AZ

Photo by Ron Niebrugge/Alamy, written by Adam Klawonn

Oak Creek Canyon, AZ

A red rock backdrop: Oak Creek’s crimson canyon walls and sun-dappled stream dazzle year-round, but fall takes views to another level with turning maples and gamble oaks. Head 13 miles north of Sedona on U.S. 89A to the Oak Creek Vista overlook. The 3-miles-one-way West Fork Trail ($9/vehicle; trailhead between mile 384 and 385; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino) crisscrosses the West Fork of Oak Creek (read: splashy boulder hopping).

Don’t miss: For healthy après-hike food, hit Heartline ($$; heartlinecafe.com).

Wildwood Trail, Portland, OR

Photo by Ron Niebrugge/Alamy, written by Bonnie Henderson

Wildwood Trail, Portland, OR

Bite off a little piece of Portland's 30-mile Wildwood Trail where it winds through Hoyt Arboretum; with Douglas fir flanking the narrow path most of the way, you'll be sheltered even if it's raining. (Likely.) For a 4-mile loop, start just above the Oregon Zoo; glimpse the Japanese garden, then turn left onto the Redwood Trail through a sequoia grove. Cross Fairview Boulevard and follow signs to Overlook Trail; turn right on Wildwood and you're back where you started ― and ready to eat. 4000 Fairview Blvd.; www.hoytarboretum.org.

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