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Top 20 Fall Hikes

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

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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).

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Autumn colors at Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

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).

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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 ($$$).

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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).

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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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Newport Beach to Corona del Mar, CA

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.

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Crystal Cove State Park to Laguna Beach, CA

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.

STAY: Pacific Edge Hotel, Laguna Beach. Stylishly beachy and right on the water. From $210; pacificedgehotel.com.

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Salt Creek Beach Park to San ​Clemente, CA

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.

STAY: Sea Horse Resort, San Clemente. Spacious rooms, great location overlooking San Clemente Beach. From $129; seahorsesanclemente.com.

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Marcus Landslide Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale, AZ

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. mcdowell​sonoran.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.

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Romero Canyon Trail, Catalina State Park, Tucson, AZ

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.

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Redwood & Coyote Peak Loop, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Calistoga, CA

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; napavalleystate​parks.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.

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Steep Ravine and Matt Davis Loop, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Stinson Beach, CA

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.

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Ranch Walk and Left Field Trails, Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Winter Park, CO

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.

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Mickinnick Trail, Idaho Panhandle National Forests, Sandpoint, ID

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.

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Chuckanut Ridge Trail, Chuckanut Mountain Park, Bellingham, WA

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.

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West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, AZ

Autumn’s leafy palette attracts a crowd, but even after the willows and oaks are bare, Oak Creek Canyon’s crimson cliffs keep the color show going. Wear shoes that can handle splashes; you’ll cross the creek more than a dozen times. 6.6 mi. round-trip; trailhead: Call of the Canyon day-use area, 9.5 mi. north of Sedona on State 89A; $10/vehicle; fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.

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Bluff Trail, Salt Point State Park, CA

A moderate path starts at Fisk Mill Cove and meanders through a forest of ferns, rhododendrons, and Bishop pines, providing peekaboo views of waves pounding rock-strewn beaches, seals frolicking in kelp beds, and abalone divers plying their trade. Climb the stairs to the top of Sentinel Rock, a dramatic coastal promontory. 3 mi. round-trip; trailhead: on State 1, 20 mi. north of Jenner; $8/vehicle; parks.ca.gov.

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North Head Trail, Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

With two photogenic lighthouses, nonstop Pacific postcard vistas, and the first stretches of the aptly named Long Beach, this park doesn’t disappoint, despite its name. (It was explorer John Meares who blundered past the Columbia River in 1788 without realizing it and who saddled the cape with its name.) North Head Trail passes through old-growth Sitka spruce and offers plenty
of coastal eye candy en route to the 1898 North Head Lighthouse. 3.5 mi. round-trip; trailhead: from U.S. 101 at Ilwaco, take State 100 to the park; $10/vehicle; parks.wa.gov.

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Triple Falls, Columbia River Gorge, OR

A trio of cascades plunges through misty ferns and moisture-dripping maples. From the Oneonta Trailhead, the path climbs, levels, and then climbs again as it passes above Oneonta Falls. In another mile, each of the three white ribbons of Triple Falls pours 64 feet over the mossy cliff. 3.2 mi. round-trip; trailhead: I-84 east to the Bridal Veil exit, then 5 mi. east on the Columbia River Hwy.; no fee; www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa.

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Spectra Point and Ramparts Overlook, Cedar Breaks National Monument, UT

Hike by one of Utah’s largest bristlecone pines to Spectra Point and gape at a 2,500-foot-deep limestone amphitheater lined with golden-hued pinnacles and hoodoos. (Think Bryce Canyon without the crowds.) A mile farther is Ramparts Overlook, for an even closer view. 4 mi. round-trip; trailhead: Cedar Breaks visitor center parking lot on State 148; $5/person; nps.gov/cebr.

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