Top 16 fall hikes
Kick up leaves, splash through a creek, and take in the views during nature’s most spectacular season
Don’t miss: The Aspen Brewing Company’s new downtown tasting room (304 E. Hopkins Ave.; aspenbrewingco.com).
Don’t Miss: Estes Park Brewery’s Colby-jack chili burgers and house-brewed pumpkin ale (470 Prospect Village Dr.; epbrewery.com).
Don’t miss: The Double Eagle Resort & Spa (from $199; doubleeagle.com), with luxe rooms and cabins, free yoga, and a sleek restaurant ($$$).
Don’t miss: For healthy après-hike food, hit Heartline ($$; heartlinecafe.com).
For a civilized coastal inn-to-inn trek, begin along Newport Bay and follow the ferry to Balboa Island. Then it’s south to the tidepools of Corona del Mar State Beach. Tom Courtney’s Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast (Walkabout California Press, 2014; $17; walkaboutcalifornia.com) will give you mile-by-mile guidance for this hike. You can also purchase a digital edition of the Orange County chapter for $6.99.
STAY: Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel, Newport Beach. One block from the beach, with an ocean view on the roof deck. From $149; thebestinn.com.
Start with a fish taco at The Beachcomber Cafe, then admire the cottages of Crystal Cove and the palm-shaded paths of Heisler Park (pictured). Tom Courtney’s Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast (Walkabout California Press, 2014; $17; walkaboutcalifornia.com) will give you mile-by-mile guidance for this hike. You can also purchase a digital edition of the Orange County chapter for $6.99.
Head from Salt Creek Beach Park (pictured) to unspoiled Dana Point Headlands Preserve. Final stop: San Clemente, home to good waves and a great pier. Tom Courtney’s Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast (Walkabout California Press, 2014; $17; walkaboutcalifornia.com) will give you mile-by-mile guidance for this hike. You can also purchase a digital edition of the Orange County chapter for $6.99.
The easy 4-mile round-trip takes you across the remnants of a 500,000-year-old rockslide at the McDowell Mountains’ base. Interpretive signs explain the geology, and sculptural granite boulders provide plenty of photo ops. mcdowellsonoran.org. For a reward, book the 80-minute hiker’s massage at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale’s spa. The luxe leg-centric splurge also gives you license to loll around the pools and indulge in the sauna and steam room. $225; fourseasons.com/scottsdale.
The moderate to challenging 6.6-mile (one way) trail winds up the Santa Catalina Mountains, but most hike just the first 2.8 miles to Romero Pools, an oasis of swimming holes in canyon streams. Catch city views below and possible glimpses of bighorn sheep, reintroduced to the area last year. $7/vehicle; azstateparks.com. Afterwards, opt for an any-day breakfast of mesquite pancakes or Sunday brunch with huevos rancheros and prickly pear mimosas at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro, in a botanical garden and cultural park. $$; tohonochulpark.org.
For stunning Napa Valley views, follow this moderate trail along Ritchey Creek through coastal redwoods to the forested summit of Coyote Peak, then loop back via the South Fork Trail, a total of 4.5 miles. $8/vehicle; napavalleystateparks.org. Calistoga is the capital of mud baths; you and your hiking companion can go for a “Mudslide” treatment at elegant Solage Calistoga to soothe your hike-weary muscles. From $180/couple; solagecalistoga.com.
A classic Mt. Tam hike, this 7.3-mile challenge delivers golden grasslands, dense redwoods, and coastal views. From Stinson Beach, hike 1.3 miles on the Dipsea Trail to connect to Steep Ravine Trail, which makes a redwood-shaded ascent along Webb Creek. At Pantoll Ranger Station, pick up Matt Davis Trail, which curves a long, graceful arc back to Stinson. parks.ca.gov. Refuel with fish tacos or oysters on the patio at Parkside Cafe. $$; parksidecafe.com.
Just east of Grand Junction, bands of wild horses roam the flanks of Mt. Garfield, and winter’s onset urges them to the lower elevations surrounding the Coal Canyon Trail, where they’re easily spotted. The easy 5-mile round-trip (open to four-wheel-drive vehicles until December 1) meanders between crumbling mesas peppered with juniper and sagebrush. From Grand Junction, take I-70 east to Cameo (exit 47) and drive 2 miles west to the trailhead; blm.gov. Continue the equine theme at nearby Plum Creek Winery, where a junk metal sculpture of a galloping horse welcomes you to the tasting room (don’t miss the Cabernet Franc). Free tastings; plumcreekwinery.com.
By midwinter, this guest ranch near Winter Park offers more than 80 miles of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, accessible with a $20 day pass. Early-winter snowstorms usually get Ranch Walk (2.4 miles) and Left Field (2 miles) open by November 15. Kick and glide beneath the treeless summits of the Continental Divide, or try snowbiking or skijoring with your dog. devilsthumbranch.com. When you're done, head to Heck’s tavern at the ranch for a warming bowl of curry carrot soup, or relax in the 18,000-square-foot spa: Its outdoor hot tub is the perfect prequel to a restorative massage. Heck’s: $$, massage from $125; call (970) 726-1054 to book.
This moderate 7-mile round-trip climbs about 2,100 feet; even if an early-season snow turns you back before you reach the top, the views of Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille along the way are worth it. cityofsandpoint.com. Reward yourself at local favorite Eichardt’s Pub, Grill & Coffee House, where you can choose regional craft beers, burgers with garlic fries, or drip-brewed Evans Brothers joe—but go for all three. $$; (208) 263-4005.
The moderate 10.4-mile round-trip starts off a bit above sea level and ends up at 1,900 feet, with views of Puget Sound, Mt. Baker, and British Columbia’s Coast Mountains. co.whatcom.wa.us/parks. Afterward, kick back with an oatmeal stout or a Scotch ale at Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, housed in a 1922 warehouse downtown. $$; bbaybrewery.com.