Skip to main content

5 spectacular fall hikes on the Appalachian Trail

The best spots to hike on this well-known trail in autumn

Male hiker walks along cliff with view on Appalachian Trail, Maine.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Stretching for 2,193 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail threads some of the East Coast’s wildest spaces — and each year, millions of people hike at least a portion of the trail (and approximately 1,000 people manage to hike the entire length).

During the fall, the epic footpath is a portal to some spectacular leaf-peeping spots. In fact, fall is one of the best times to hike the Appalachian Trail, as the lush green of the forest turns into a riot of autumn colors. Here are just a few of the best fall hikes for leaf peepers to enjoy the best foliage this autumn.

Autumn road on Mount Greylock.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mount Greylock, Massachusetts

Mount Greylock is among the highlights of Massachusetts’ 90-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The highest point in the state, the 3,491 Mount Greylock has been enticing climbers for almost 200 years — and has even served as a muse for the likes of Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau. It’s the centerpiece of the Mount Greylock Reservation, the oldest wilderness park in Massachusetts, created in 1898 to protect the mountain from regional logging operations. Today, the Appalachian Trail threads the whale-backed peak, with 11.5 miles of the footpath traversing the 12,500-acre Mount Greylock Reservation, and it is a great place to hike the Appalachian Trail in fall.

For a fall hike with unsurpassed foliage views, make the 7.2-mile out-and-back trek to the summit from Jones Nose. The Jones Nose Trail meets the Appalachian Trail after just 1.2 miles, on the crest of Saddle Ball Mountain — the first 3,000-foot peak on the trail north of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. From Mount Greylock’s summit, views extend to four different states and include Vermont’s Green Mountains, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and New York’s Catskills. For an overnight getaway, the historic Bascom Lodge is perched on the summit. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s, the stone-hewn lodge offers both shared bunkrooms and private rooms, with the season extending from May through October.

Northbound on Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob VA.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

McAfee Knob, Virginia

Containing more mileage of the Appalachian Trail than any other state, Virginia’s 531-mile portion of the trail is loaded with spectacular spots — but McAfee Knob still stands out. The craggy promontory jutting dramatically from the flanks of Catawba Mountain rewards hikers with 270-degree views extending to the Roanoke Valley to the east, Tinker Cliffs to the north, and the Catawaba Valley and North Mountain to the west.

McAfee Knob, along with Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs, has also been dubbed Virginia’s “Triple Crown” of hiking, a nickname bestowed on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail near Roanoke. However, for day-trippers, the shortest route to McAfee Knob is the 3.2-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail from the Catawba Valley, but the recently opened Catawba Greenway provides another option for reaching the top and cobbling together a 10-mile loop.

Vast View Mt. Minsi.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mount Minsi, Pennsylvania

Anchored by a dramatic mile-wide rift in the Kittatiny Ridge carved by the Delaware River, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is stunning in the fall. The 70,000-acre recreation area spread along between New Jersey and Pennsylvania is blanketed with oak-dominated hardwood forests, providing plenty of seasonal flourish — and the park’s panoramic mountain ridges offer a bird’s-eye view of the river-threaded natural wonder.

For hikers, the Appalachian Trail dishes up some of the protected area’s most spectacular vistas. For a photogenic taste of the park’s 28-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, tackle the 5-mile out-and-back hike to the summit of Mount Minsi. The 1,461-foot peak provides expansive views of the Delaware Water Gap overseen by Mount Tammany, and along the way to the summit, hikers also skirt the shores of Lake Lenape, an idyllic spot to stop and photograph the fiery fall foliage.

The Appalachian Trail at Max Patch Bald west of Asheville, NC.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Max Patch, North Carolina

A quintessential southern Appalachian bald, the treeless summit of Max Patch presides over North Carolina’s Cherokee National Forest. Once a grazing ground for sheep and cattle, the 4,629-foot summit is blanketed with expansive wildflower-sprinkled meadows and is still maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. And, from the peak’s grassy crown, hikers get an unsurpassed 360-degree view dominated by the Great Smoky Mountains to the south and the Black Mountains to the east, capped by Mount Mitchell, the highest summit east of the Mississippi River.

While there are shorter routes to the summit, the Appalachian Trail also threads the treeless peaks, offering a bounty of options for day hikers. To escape the crowds, climb Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail beginning at Lemon Gap. Along the 10.8-mile out-and-back trip to the summit, the Appalachian Trail weaves through creek-threaded hardwood forests tufted with rhododendrons. And, to make the trip an overnight excursion, the Roaring Fork Shelter is just 1.9 miles north of Max Patch’s summit on the Appalachian Trail.

Glastenbury Mountain, Vermont
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Glastenbury Mountain, Vermont

In the early 1800s, Vermont’s Glastenbury Mountain was fodder for the regional mining and timber trade. But, after its forests were clear-cut and the mining industry began to fizzle, the wilderness gradually bounced back. These days, the Glastenbury Wilderness is the second largest in Vermont, a montage of hardwood forests of spruce, fir, birch, and mountain ash capped by 3,748-foot Glastenbury Mountain.

For hikers and backpackers, the Appalachian Trail cuts a path through the peak-rippled wilderness, sharing a path with Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail, the oldest distance trail in the country. For a sampling of the 22,425-acre wilderness area, hike the Appalachian Trail to the crest of Little Pond Mountain. The 11-mile out-and-back includes generous Green Mountain views from the Little Pond Lookout and the peak’s crest. For a longer overnight outing, continue 4.6 miles on the Appalachian Trail to the summit of Glastenbury Mountain.

The refurbished fire tower perched atop the peak provides expansive views extending to the Berkshires in Massachusetts and New York’s Taconic range — and just below the summit, the Goddard Shelter provides a convenient spot for backpackers to spend the night.

Appalachian Trail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Be prepared

One of the keys to having a great fall hike on the Appalachian Trail is to be prepared for anything. Besides making sure you have a camera in your pack, you should also be prepared for unpredictable weather, especially in the Northeast, where a sunny day can turn into freezing rain in no time.

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it’s not uncommon to have snow on sections of the trail in New England in September or October. That’s why when you set out to hike the Appalachian Trail in fall for a foliage hike, you should have the proper gear for inclement weather, even if the sky looks clear.

Dressing in layers is the best way to stay ahead of the weather, so you can easily regulate your body temperature as you warm up during your hike. Make sure you have a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece-lined hat, gloves, and a raincoat in your pack, so you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

Now get out there and enjoy fall!

Editors' Recommendations

Nate Swanner
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
Snow is falling: These 7 workouts will get you ready for skiing and snowboarding in no time
Toning up will prevent injuries. Trust us, we know
A man skis on a clear run, with mountains and trees behind him.

As winter approaches and the snow starts to fall, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts eagerly await the chance to hit the slopes. But before you strap on your skis or snowboard, you've got to prepare your body for the physical demands of these exhilarating winter sports. Don't worry! We'll guide you through a comprehensive eight-week exercise plan with ski workouts designed to get you in peak condition for skiing and snowboarding.

Fitness goals of ski training
Skiing and snowboarding require a unique set of physical attributes, including strength, balance, and endurance. To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience on the mountain, let's delve into each of these fitness goals.
Increasing strength
Skiing and snowboarding rely heavily on leg and core strength. Building strength in these areas will help you maintain control and stability while navigating the slopes. That's why you need to incorporate exercises into your routine to target these muscle groups effectively.
Improving balance
Balance is a key component of these popular winter sports, as you'll constantly need to adjust your position to stay upright on varying terrains. Poor balance can result in more falls, possible injuries, and a pretty unpleasant time on the slopes. Balance-focused exercises will help you develop the stability required for success and safety before you head to the ski lifts.
Building endurance
A day on the slopes is not for the faint of heart. Endurance is crucial for enjoying a full weekend (or even a full day) of skiing or snowboarding without getting fatigued or feeling muscle weakness too quickly. There are excellent workouts that work well at enhancing your cardiovascular endurance, ensuring you have the stamina to make the most of your time on the mountain.

Read more
Canyon bikes introduces all new Lux Trail mountain bike lineup with 4 unique models
There's a lot to unpack with this Canyon
An image of the all new Canyon Lux Trail CFR

Canyon has introduced the latest edition of its trail-destroying cross-country mountain bike. Taking inspiration from World Cup race bikes, Canyon’s redesigned Lux Trail brings new levels of speed to a mountain bike created for all-day riding.

The Manual is no stranger to Canyon bikes. Over the summer, we had the opportunity to put Canyon’s long-travel trail bike through its paces. We're excited to share the updates the speedy younger brother to the Spectral has undergone.

Read more
This easy trick tells you which merino wool base layer is right for your activity
Here's how to choose the best merino base layer for your outdoor activities
Man at the top of a mountain wearing a Merino wool sweater


When it comes to preparing for outdoor adventures in cold weather, selecting the right clothing can be the difference between a comfortable and enjoyable experience and a chilly, miserable one. Among the essential pieces of gear for staying warm is a merino wool base layer, and one crucial factor to consider when choosing a base layer is its weight. In this article, we'll break down base layer weights and share a nifty trick to help you choose the right layer weight for your outdoor needs.
Understanding merino wool base layer weight
Merino wool base layers, also known as thermal underwear or long underwear, come in various weights, typically categorized as lightweight, mid-weight, and heavyweight.  That said, some manufacturers don't tell you what weight their wool is, so here's where you can use our fancy trick: a higher weight means a warmer layer.

Read more