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Trip Ideas

The Best Fall Hikes in the U.S.

With fall foliage in full effect, there's no better time to pull on your boots and take a hike. After all, unlike the heat and humidity that come with summer, autumn's brisker, cooler temperatures make it easier to tackle longer walks. Luckily, the U.S. offers plenty of hiking paths from coast to coast. From Maine's Acadia National Park to California's Yosemite National Park, we rounded up some of the best trails around the country. And while they range in skill level (some are short and easy; others are strenuous and sweat-inducing), all offer spectacular views. So get to it before the landscape is covered in a blanket of snow.

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1

Sleeping Beauty Mountain and Lake George Trail, New York

Located along the eastern side of the Adirondack Mountains, the Sleeping Beauty Mountain and Lake George Trail offers top-notch views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Periodic switchbacks keep the steepness levels in check, making it a manageable trek for novice hikers. Folks can even bring their four-legged friend for moral support on the seven-mile, dog-friendly route.

Difficulty Rating: Moderate

Where to Stay in New York
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2

Three Rivers Heritage Trail, Pennsylvania

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail, a 24-mile rail-trail in Pittsburgh, runs along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. On any given day, you might spot folks walking, jogging, cycling, or rollerblading in the area, which comprises several segments. For example, the North Shore Trail, which follows a portion of the Allegheny River, serves up views of the water as well as of developments in the city's North Side. On the north bank of the Ohio River sits the Chateau Trail, which runs through an industrial neighborhood and also offers views of the river. Plus, not that you need another excuse to stop by the sprawling urban metropolis of Pittsburgh, but fall is an exceptionally beautiful time to visit the Rust Belt city and watch the seasons turn.

Difficulty Rating: Easy

Where to Stay in Pennsylvania
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3

Bear Lake Nature Trail, Colorado

Tucked into spruce and fir forests at the base of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, this 0.8-mile route is one of the area's most popular trails – and with good reason. It’s an easy loop around the crystal-clear lake, making for a quick fall hike no matter your skill level. Tip: start early in the morning to skip the crowds.

Difficulty Rating: Easy

Where to Stay in Colorado
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4

Fiery Gizzard Trail, Tennessee

With 32 state parks and 13 state forests, Tennessee has plenty of options for the outdoors enthusiast. South Cumberland State Park, which is situated atop the Cumberland Plateau, is a top choice. During a hike through the park's 12.5-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail, expect to stumble upon stunning rock formations, cascading streams and waterfalls, rocky gorges, and lush woodlands. Begin on the top of Monteagle Mountain and make your way down into Savage Gulf, a gorgeous wilderness area. The trail itself is categorized as strenuous due to the rocky and rugged nature of the terrain.

Difficulty Rating: Strenuous

Where to Stay in Tennessee
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5

Lake Solitude Trail, Wyoming

Nestled in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, the 16.4-mile Lake Solitude Trail is one for seasoned hikers and intrepid trailblazers. The trek kicks off at Jenny Lake Trailhead. From here, hikers can choose between taking the trail around the south end of Jenny Lake or taking a shuttle boat across to the Cascade Canyon Trailhead. Then, folks will continue the voyage to the crystal-clear Lake Solitude. While the trip can be rigorous at times, the rewards of stunning scenery, including a waterfall, might be worth the burn.

Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Where to Stay in Wyoming
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6

Ocean Path Trail, Maine

Stretching over four miles of rocky coastline between Sand Beach and Otter Point, the Ocean Path Trail is one of Acadia National Park’s most beautiful and easily accessible hiking paths. Bonus: the trail takes hikers past Thunder Hole, a natural rock inlet where you can experience Mother Nature at work as the waves crash with a thunderous boom at high tide.

Difficulty Rating: Easy

Where to Stay in Maine
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7

Sentinel Dome Trail, California

Hiking to the top of Sentinel Dome is one way to experience the grandiose splendor of Yosemite National Park. With 360-degree views (you'll see Yosemite Valley to the west, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls to the north, and Nevada Falls and Clouds Rest mountain to the east), this two-mile trail offers beautiful photo ops from every angle. Fun fact: The granite dome became known for a Jeffrey pine tree that grew from its summit, and was later the subject of a popular photograph by Ansel Adams.

Difficulty Rating: Easy to Moderate

Where to Stay in California
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8

Horseshoe Lake Trail, Alaska

Located in Alaska's Denali National Park, the Horseshoe Lake Trail is (not surprisingly) a popular pick among hikers. The path, which meanders through aspen and spruce forests for about one-and-a-half miles, can be easily accessed near the entrance of the park. Highlights along the leisurely 90-minute route include views of Horseshoe Lake and the Nenana River. Plus, be on the lookout for beavers and moose, which frequent the area along with jumping graylings in the lake.

Difficulty Rating: Easy

Where to Stay in Alaska
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9

Wildwood Trail, Oregon

Less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Portland, the three-mile Wildwood Trail in Forest Park is an easy-in, easy-out trail that's also dog-friendly to boot. Starting from the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial, near the Oregon Zoo, the trail is marked every quarter-mile. Look for blue, diamond-shaped blazes stenciled onto trees about six feet from the ground.

Difficulty Rating: Easy

Where to Stay in Oregon
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10

The Enchantments, Washington

Granite peaks, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and mountain goats make for breathtaking scenery on this rugged trail in Washington. With steep climbs and drops, the 35.9-mile hike is best suited for advanced hikers and backpackers. Autumn is considered to be one of the best times to visit as you can see the colors change on the larch trees. As for where to enter, choose between the Snow Lake entrance, which is longer and less picturesque, or the Colchuck Lake entrance, which is shorter, steeper, and slippery, but also beautiful.

Difficulty Rating: High

Where to Stay in Washington
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11

Stony Man Trail, Virginia

With more than 500 miles of trails to explore, Shenandoah National Park is a hiker's dream. Those looking for an easy trek should opt for the 1.4-mile Stony Man Trail, which displays panoramic views of Shenandoah Valley, the town of Luray, and the Massanutten and Allegheny Mountains.

Difficulty Rating: Easy

Where to Stay in Virginia

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Read the original story: The Best Fall Hikes in the U.S. by Michelle Gross, who is a regular contributor to Oyster.com