When you think of beautiful hiking trails, scenic views, and fantastic weather from the first step to the last, you probably picture states like California, Washington, and Oregon.
But when fall rolls around, the east coast is often the place to be.
The leaves change from vibrant green to a collage of reds, yellows, and oranges, and the air becomes dryer and crisper. It’s the perfect time to slip on a pair of hiking boots and head for the following hiking trails.
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McAfee’s Knob, Roanoke, Virginia
The overlook at McAfee’s Knob has been called one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail, so much so that if you see it, you’ll probably recognize it.
It’s a fairly strenuous hike to get to the overlook and will take you a couple of hours, but it’s suitable for intermediate hikers. You’ll pass through wooded areas and will see all of those beautiful fall colors up close.
Gorham Mountain Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is one of the most-visited national parks in the United States and is a must-do experience for east coast hikers.
There are several different hiking trails here, including the Champlain Mountain’s Precipice Trail and the Ocean Path Trail, the former of which is one of the most strenuous hikes on the mountain.
Our personal favorite hike at Acadia National Park is Gorham Mountain Trail. It spans a couple of miles, is easily accessed, and is suitable for all experience and fitness levels. The hike starts at Park Loop Road and includes some stunning views of this beautiful national park.
The Sunset Ridge Trail, Mount Mansfield, Vermont
The Sunset Ridge Trail takes you above the treeline and provides beautiful views of the epic landscape below. It’s a picture-perfect snapshot of Vermont that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island
A unique east coast hike that spans around 3.5 miles of rocky coastline. It’s a moderate hike that begins at First Beach and offers several exit points.
Whiteside Mountain, North Carolina
You’ll be charged $2 for the nearby parking lot, but this NC hiking trail is well worth it.
It will take you on a 2-mile loop with views of the amazing Blue Ridge Mountains. If the skies are clear, you’ll even catch a glimpse of neighboring states, including South Carolina.
White Dot Trail, Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire
The White Dot Trail is a very popular hike that attracts over 100,000 people a year. It takes you over about 2 miles of terrain and finishes at the summit of Mount Monadnock. There are other routes to the top, but if you’re looking for a short yet challenging hike, this is perfect.
Skyline Trail Loop, Blue Hills Reservation, Massachusetts
A fantastic hiking trail that’s located just half an hour’s drive away from Boston. This is a popular spot for bikers, runners, and hikers and it’s a good option for beginner hikers as well as intermediate ones.
Franconia Ridge Trail, New Hampshire
The Franconia Ridge Trail is a loop that spans about 8.5 miles and will take you a few hours to finish. There is a waterfall on the way and some breathtaking views throughout.
Bellows Pipe Trail, Mount Greylock, Massachusetts
Take a hike to Massachusetts’s tallest peak and be inspired by the amazing fall colors, ones that are said to have inspired great minds like Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
There are a few different hiking trails here but Bellows Pipe Trail is probably the best of them all.
Monroe Trail, Camel’s Hump State Park, Vermont
The Monroe Trail is one of the toughest but best hikes on this list. It takes you to the top of Camel’s Hump and will test you every step of the way.
You’ll need to be pretty fit and experienced to finish this hike, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and a huge sense of accomplishment.
Maryland Heights, Harpers Ferry National Park, West Virginia
The Maryland Heights hiking trail is one of the most popular hikes on this list, but it gets a little quieter during the fall months and is a good hike if you want to avoid the crowds.
It’s a five-mile loop that takes you past some historic buildings.
Annapolis Rock, Boonsboro, Maryland
Annapolis Rock is one of the best fall hikes in Maryland and culminates in one of the state’s most bucolic views.
The hike that takes you to the rock is about 5 miles long and if you still have some energy left, you can hike another mile to Black Rock Cliff.
The Annapolis Rock hike is part of the Appalachian trail and there is a free campground nearby.
The Best National Parks for Fall Hiking on the East Coast
If you’ve already ticked the above hikes off your bucket list, pay a visit to the Shenandoah National Park, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. You’ll see some beautiful fall foliage and can hike through Cedar Run Falls or take your car along the scenic Skyline Drive.
The Great Smoky Mountains are also worth a visit. It is the most-visited national park in the country and is known for its diverse animal and plant life, making it a great hiking destination for outdoor lovers and adventurers.
The Blue Ridge Parkway also has a number of great hiking trails, with options for hikers of all experience levels.
What Should I Wear for a Fall Hike on the East Coast?
Whether you’re hiking a long trail filled with steep inclines and challenging terrain or a short hike that can be completed in an hour or two, make sure you’re properly prepared.
Some of the hiking gear you need for fall hiking includes:
- Durable Hiking Boots or Shoes
- Warm, Moisture-Wicking Socks
- Warm Base Layers
- Fleece Jacket/Softshell Jacket
- Rain Jacket
- First Aid Kit
- GPS Device/Smartphone
- Hat and Gloves
- Day Pack
- Trekking Poles
If it’s very cold, you should add some extra layers or pack an additional outer layer. Proper preparation is key for any hike, as you never know what will happen on the trail.