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Outdoors + Adventure

Hardcore Leaf Peeping

Don’t get us wrong, we love autumn. Cozying up to a mug of cider, wooly sweaters over flannels, logs crackling in the fireplace. There's nothing cozier. But when it comes to fall trips, we want to get out of our comfort zone. We want to take on the great outdoors—not from the porch of some musty B&B, but by air, land and SUV. Colleen Clark rounds up the best autumn trips for adrenaline junkies.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart | Photo by Ira Lippke

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Hang-gliding in Charleston, NH

The plane roars to life, the tow rope in front of you snaps taught as the runway flies by. Suddenly you’re airborne, climbing 100 feet, 200 feet, 2000. The rope falls away and there’s nothing but nylon wings above you and the rolling hills of New Hampshire’s Connecticut River Valley below. Welcome to hang-gliding. Morningside Flight Park arranges high-altitude tandem flights for beginners with a need for speed. Talk about a bird’s eye view.

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Zip-lining in Smugglers Notch, VT

The Green Mountains of Vermont flame into scarlet and amber, vermilion and gold come fall. And that vivid show flares even brighter when you’re flying at 35 miles an hour through the canopy. Arbortrek leads tours through the trees with 4,500 feet of ziplines, criss-crossing above the hemlocks, birches and maples. You’ll fly through the air, cross swaying sky bridges and rappel down to the forest floor.

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Off-roading in White Sulphur Springs, WV

Boulders mount in front of you. Mud sprays, tires spin. You shift into first, you’re climbing the rocks, catching, gaining, summiting. Then it’s all downhill as you fly towards a creek, the water parting for your beast of a jeep. Gulleys, ruts, mud pits. Now, this is our idea of a scenic drive. The Greenbrier hooks you up with a specially equipped Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and off-road lessons to take on their leafy 10,000 acre West Virginia mountain reserve in all of its autumnal glory.

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Tree-climbing in Upstate New York

When was the last time you climbed a tree? Yeah, we thought so. Channel your rough-and-tumble childhood years with a daylong NJNY Treeclimbing Adventures Course. This is souped-up tree-climbing. You’ll strap into ropes and climb 20, 30, 40 feet up. You can learn how to walk on high-up limbs, swing from the tree tops and rappel down. Best of all, you’re secured with a harness so you can let go, hanging upside down like the Technicolor leaves you’ve come to see.

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Via Ferrata in Telluride, CO

There’s a 300 foot sheer drop between the rock face and those pretty little fall trees below, and you’re standing on…a thin steel rung. Behold the Via Ferrata, a series of ladders, rock ledges and cables that stretch for more than a mile, high above Telluride. Swank lodge/glamping outfit Dunton Hot Springs hooks up adrenaline junkies with guides to school them in how to clip into the steel cables that will save your life should you lose your footing on the thin rock shelves or holds along the way. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s possible for novice climbers to tackle. And, if you’ve got the balls to look down, those Technicolor views of Telluride in the fall and the 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls are pretty spectacular.

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Bi-Planing in Rhinebeck, NY

Why battle the fall traffic along all those scenic byways when you can rise above it? Strap on some goggles and take your seat in a 1929 D-25 biplane at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. The wind whips through the open cockpit as you zip above the Hudson Valley and its flaming red sugar maples and sunny yellow hickory trees. You'll soar high above the colors before dipping down to skim close to the canopy. Come during the first two weekends of October for their pumpkin bombing spectacular in which a fleet of planes rain down gourds on the runway.

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Rock-climbing in Shawangunk Ridge, NY

You know what makes a view truly spectacular? Earning it. And you’ll certainly do so if you’re climbing in New York’s famous Shawangunk Mountains (the Gunks to those in the know). Climbers have been scaling the quartz rockface since the 1930s and there are now more than 2,000 climbs. REI and Alpine Endeavors both run guided climbing trips that take you up the rock and above that autumn canopy to survey the patchworks of farmland and forest below. Go ahead, earn that apple pie. And make it a la mode.

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