These Are the Best Trails in the West to See Fall Leaves in All Their Epic Technicolor Glory
Level up your autumn adventures on the trails and in the trees this season with a perfect pair of all-terrain running shoes.
Every year, outdoor enthusiasts throughout the West plan their leaf-peeping trips to get the best views of the trees transitioning into a vibrant rainbow of yellow, turmeric, tangerine, blaze orange, violet, and crimson, to name just a few of the hues that make us stop in our tracks and say wow! For the active traveler, hitting the trails for a run or a hike is by far the best way to get up close and personal and immerse yourself in the sights, and yes sounds and smells of an epic autumn: the leaves rustling, the aroma of wet earth and damp wood, and the feel of a trail underneath your feet.
That’s where LOWA’s all-terrain running (ATR) shoes come in. The Bavarian footwear company has 100 years of experience making rock-solid hiking boots that stand the test of time… and the test of any trail you throw at them. Fortunately for trail runners and hikers, their new line of ATR shoes offers a style for every skill level in a low-profile, lightweight package that will have you nimbly blazing trails, taking photos, and nature bathing at the highest level this fall. LOWA’s ATRs are serious shoes that give you confidence on the trails. With grippy lugs, stabilizing structure, carbon fiber inserts to propel you forward, lightweight construction, and soles that give you just enough protection while letting you stay connected to trail, each of the three styles can be applied to any runner and any trail. Here are the best trails throughout the West to hit for peak leaf peeping, and the perfect LOWA shoe to make your fall color trail running and hiking adventure your most epic yet.
The Trail: Smuggler Mountain
Aspen remains one of the West’s best spots to see fall colors thanks to its numerous stands of the eponymous aspen tree. Conveniently located just on the outskirts of the city, Smuggler Mountain offers a nice long 14-mile out and back for the more distance-inclined runners. The moderately graded path provides a perfect blend of elevations, turns, and terrain that keeps the workout engaging. What sets this trail apart during autumn is the vibrant tapestry of changing leaves. As you ascend, the panorama of aspen trees turning from green to brilliant shades of yellow and orange unfolds, creating a stunning backdrop for your run. Be sure to take a break at the overlook and enjoy the views of the city, along with views of Aspen, Bell, and Red Mountains in the distance.
The Shoe: LOWA Fortux
LOWA’s distance-oriented Fortux will shine on this long trail run. With its padded REPTEX upper and rocker-shaped, high-rebound midsole, the Fortux will let you rack up miles along with the views. The super grippy outsole will give you confidence on some of the more gravelly stretches of the trail.
The Trail: Maroon Creek
For an idyllic run in the popular Maroon Bells Scenic Area just 10 miles outside of the city, opt for the 6-mile Maroon Creek Trail. This trail offers a relatively flat and smooth experience, allowing you to focus on the breathtaking surroundings while you clock some miles. As you navigate the trail that runs along the crystal-clear creek fed by snowmelt, you’re greeted by the spectacular sight of the Maroon Bells, two iconic peaks that are a photographer’s dream. In fall, the trail will be enveloped in an explosion of color, with leaves transitioning to shades of gold, orange, and crimson. Word to the wise: You need reservations to park, so plan ahead and book here. If you don’t feel like driving, you can take the shuttle in from the city and enjoy the views along the way!
The Shoe: LOWA Amplux
The trail is gravelly in some spots and can get muddy after rain, but the versatile Amplux will shine in these conditions. Built with the same durable upper as the Fortux, the Amplux has a high-rebound midsole supplemented with a carbon-reinforced rebound plate that returns energy with each stride.
Eastern Sierra, California
The Trail: June Lake’s Gull Lake and Fern Lake
June Lake is called the Switzerland of the Sierras for good reason, and Gull Lake, located on the edge of town, is an easy and inviting way to take in the sights. The area is primarily populated with aspen, pine, and willow trees, offering a multi-textured landscape that becomes a riot of color in the autumn months. Aspens turn a luminous gold, contrasting beautifully with the evergreen pines and the vibrant hues of willows. Running trails around Gull Lake are not only well-maintained but also varied in difficulty, making them accessible for runners of all levels, though the high-altitude environment adds a layer of challenge. For runners and hikers looking for a tougher trail with all of the beauty but more elevation, check out Fern trail, a short, steep, and technical 3.2 mile out/back. While the incline is hardcore, you’ll be rewarded with a view of pretty Fern Lake at the top. The beauty of the trail makes it quite popular, so go early to make sure you get parking and to avoid the crowds.
The Shoe: LOWA Amplux
The Amplux is going to be your go-to for both hikes. The comfortable but capable shoe will let you enjoy running the easier Gull Lake loop, but it’s got enough support and stability and grippiness for the more technical up-and-down run. The seamless construction combined with the microfiber lining will prevent abrasion and pressure points, a welcome factor on the steep descent down the Fern Lake trail!
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The Trail: Skyline Trail
2 ½ hours from Seattle, the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park is a legendary loop and the perfect place to get your dose of vivid Pacific Northwest fall color. Tackle this nearly 6-mile trail in the clockwise direction so you can get the 1,700-foot elevation climb done first and cruise downhill on the way back. As you ascend, you’ll be greeted by a symphony of colors as the maples take on fiery reds and oranges, while subalpine firs and mountain hemlocks offer a green contrast. The towering presence of Mount Rainier itself, often snow-capped even in fall, provides a breathtaking backdrop that amplifies the beauty of the colorful foliage. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots and the occasional eagle. Stunning natural beauty, challenging terrain, and awe-inspiring vistas make this the must-hit PNW trail.
The Shoe: LOWA Citux
This short and challenging route is perfect for strutting your stuff with the Citux, which excels in speedy and steep settings. The super lightweight, grippy lugs, and snug and supportive construction will aid you on the inclines and descents. Add in the rebound benefit of the nylon and carbon charger plate, and you’ll be king (or queen!) of the hills.
The Trail: Aspen Nature Loop Trail
For Southwestern travelers, the 2.7-mile Aspen Nature Loop Trail, aka the Lollipop Trail, 15 miles north of Flagstaff, is an easy and epic way to see the aspens floridly afire. Winding through fields and clearings and eventually into the trees atop the western incline of the San Francisco Peaks, the Aspen Nature Loop Trail offers unobstructed vistas of the western volcanic field and the Grand Canyon to the north. Towering above, the peaks provide striking panoramas of the adjacent Arizona Snowbowl. Come fall, the aspens turn color, painting swaths of yellow, orange, and crimson amongst the towering pines. It’s one of the most iconic autumn destinations in the southwest, and as a vigorous hike or quick trail run it makes for an invigorating immersive leaf-peeping experience.
The Shoe: LOWA Fortux
Whether you run it or stroll it, you can’t go wrong with this comfortable and capable shoe that can adapt to all conditions. The Fortux is a just-right shoe with a smooth rocker that provides a natural rolling motion hikers or runners will appreciate. It’s just the kind of shoe you’ll happily wear back to the cafe to review all the great photos you took of fall in all its glory out on the trail.