11 Mountains on the Ultimate American Autumn-Hike Tour
Looking for a place to get some fresh air and enjoy the fall foliage? Set a course for one of these can’t-miss mountains.
1. Great Smoky Mountains
This mountain range along the Tennessee and North Carolina border offers hundreds of great fall foliage spots to hike, but try the moderately easy 3-mile hike along the Sutton Ridge Overlook in Hartford, Tennessee for some amazing views. The Smoky Mountains are home to about 100 native tree species—which is more than in all of northern Europe—so be sure to enjoy the variety.
2. Black Mountain, New York
This New York peak is part of the Adirondacks and is even accessible by boat. Once you get to the top, you can get a breathtaking look at the northern part of Lake George. Be sure to check out the fire tower—abandoned since the ‘70s—which served as a way for fire wardens to spot potential forest fires on the horizon.
3. Bald Mountain, New Hampshire
Take the 1.5 mile round trip hike up this New Hampshire summit for the excellent views of the picturesque Franconia Notch, the mountain pass once home to the famed Old Man of the Mountain rock formation that collapsed in 2003.
4. Sleeping Giant, Connecticut
Even the least-experienced hikers can manage the trek up Sleeping Giant (aka Mount Carmel) in Hamden, Connecticut. While at the top you can see the autumnal splendor of the ridge, Long Island Sound, and nearby New Haven. When you get down the mountain and far enough away, be sure to look back—the two-mile stretch of mountain resembles a large figure sleeping in its side, hence the nickname “Sleeping Giant.”
5. Black Rock Mountain, Georgia
If New England peaks aren’t your thing, try hiking up Georgia’s 2380-foot Black Rock Mountain—part of the Blue Ridge Mountain range—which includes a six-mile loop of foliage, streams, and waterfalls. The hike itself is strenuous, but the views are worth it.
6. Cadillac Mountain, Maine
If you can make it to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park you’ll be standing on the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard - it’s 1530 feet tall. In fact, Cadillac Mountain is so tall that from early October to early March each year it is the first place early birds can view the sunrise in the United States.
7. Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont
You get a three-for-one deal when you hike Vermont’s Smuggler’s Notch. Though known mostly for its winter ski resort, the area boasts three interconnected mountains (Sterling, Morse, and Madonna), all of which offer a range of hiking options that show off Vermont’s fall foliage and scenery. The area’s name comes from smugglers using the mountain ranges to easily transport illegal goods across the border into Canada.
8. Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
This mountain, located in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park among the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, is one of the park’s most popular destinations—but also one of its trickiest to hike. The eight-mile hiking loop includes a three-mile section with a 2200-foot elevation change, equivalent to nearly the height of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
9. Granite Mountain, Washington
Get to the top of Washington State’s Granite Mountain and check out the view from inside the 5629-foot summit’s lookout tower, including a clear look at Mount Rainier. In the summertime, the trails are lined with huckleberry bushes; if you trek up the mountain in early fall, you might still be able to snag some that are ripe.
10. Talcott Mountain, Connecticut
Another Connecticut mountain that is beautiful and relatively easy to climb, Talcott Mountain only requires a 1.25-mile trail hike to summit and features a unique destination at the top. Heublein Tower, a 165-foot German lodge house structure, was built in 1914 by wealthy importer/exporter Gilbert Heublein as a summer home for his family. Now it’s open to the public; a 1000-foot high promontory allows for uninterrupted panoramic views of the Connecticut landscape.
11. Mount Mansfield, Vermont
Set among the Green Mountains, Vermont’s Mount Mansfield is the highest point in the state at 4,393 feet, and the highest point in the famed Long Trail. The mountain is actually comprised of a series of peaks named because they resemble a human face, including Adam’s Apple (4,060 feet), Chin (4,393 feet), Nose (4,062 feet) and Forehead (3,940 feet). It is the most frequently visited mountain in Vermont, and even if you can’t make it there this fall, it’s still worth the trip - in the winter it is one of only two places in the state where arctic tundra can be found.
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