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The Best Fall Trail Runs

Few things fill the soul more than soaking up the last of the year’s gold while working up a sweat. From Maine to Oregon, easy outings to mountain escapes, we’ve scoured the trails around the country to round up our favorite places to lace up your sneakers this fall.

Check out this national foliage map crafted by the team at SmokyMountains.com to ensure you hit the trails during prime time.

Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine

Climb to the highest point along the eastern seaboard and be rewarded with views of crimson, vermillion, and gold juxtaposed against the ashen waters of the Atlantic as far as the eye can see. If you go after October 7, you will be the first person in the US to see the sunrise (not to mention the light bring the fiery hillsides to life).

At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest point in Acadia National Park, and accessible via car as well as foot. For the intrepid, choose from three different hiking/running trails to reach the top, each of which affords spectacular and unique views of America’s easternmost point.

Franconia Ridge Loop, Lincoln, NH

Waterfalls, alpine terrain, spectacular views of arguably the best foliage in the world (the author may or may not be from the Live Free or Die state)-- this loop has it all. With 3,705 feet of elevation gain in 8.6 miles, this iconic White Mountain loop is not for the faint of heart! About three-quarters of the way from the top, you’ll reach Greenleaf hut, the perfect spot to refill bottles with potable tap water and to stock up on some snacks. We recommend starting in the direction of Old Bridle Path trail that goes to the summit of Lafayette; the water refill stops and views seem to come at just the right times.

Stowe, VT

“Falls Color Capital” has no shortage of scrumptious trails to soak in the best autumn has to offer. Head over to the Trapp Family Lodge (founded by the von Trapp family à la The Sound of Music) for a plethora of trail running options ranging from mellow to intense routes that bring you directly into autumn’s heart.

Lower Loop Trail, Crested Butte CO

Soak in the splendor of Crested Butte’s Aspen-infused mountainsides on this mellow trail that follows the Slate River meandering through the valley. Take in the views of Gothic Mountain, whose vibrancy perfectly reflects into Peanut Lake, before diving into the aspen groves. This 6.4 mile loop is easily accessible from downtown (in fact you can start there), and the mild slopes are a perfect entre point to Crested Butte’s thin air. You can easily extend this run by jumping onto side trails like Woods Walk (2.8 miles) and Budd Trail (1.4 miles).

Four Pass Loop, Aspen CO

Starting at the iconic Maroon Bells, the Four Pass Loop is hands-down the most stunning trail run in Colorado-- during any time of the year. But fall lends an electric, ethereal beauty to this famed loop: deep maroon mountains framed by streaks of green and gold; turquoise alpine lakes surrounded by vibrant green fields and pearly white peaks. While a popular two to four day backpacking loop, ambitious runners can (and should!) tackle the 27 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing in one day. Replete with four mountain passes above 12,000 feet, waterfalls at the Bells,mountain lakes circled by wildflowers in summer and honey gold aspen groves in the fall, this classic run ventures deep into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness (in fact, you come so close to Crested Butte you can also start the loop from there!).

If starting in Aspen, take the loop at Maroon Lakes in either direction. Most backpackers do it clockwise for the mellower warmup and most beautiful views at the end. This author just completed the loop counterclockwise, and appreciated getting over half of the climbing out of the way before hitting the halfway mark. Pro tip: bring a water filter so you can take advantage of the numerous stream crossings to rehydrate!

Apple Orchard Run, Berkshires MA

Start from the hilltop winery in Richmond and run through apple orchards, past rainbow and purple-colored hills all around. You can pick and choose from these hilly cross country ski trails to run as short or as far as you like. Enjoy apple picking, a hayride, and (if you time it right) live music afterward.

Forest Park, Portland OR

Portlanders will find this an obvious choice, but for others unfamiliar with this city gem, Forest Park’s splendor cannot be underestimated. The largest city park in the country, Forest Park provides an unexpected oasis into an amazonian rainforest-like jungle with 70 miles of perfectly groomed trails meandering up, down, and around this verdant, rolling hillside perched just above the Willamette River.

While Oregon is known as the evergreen state, the maple tree reigns supreme in Forest Park. Bathe in this canopy splendor on the Maple Trail loop.

Peaks of Otter, VA

Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 86, Peaks of Otter has served as a destination since the inn first opened in 1834. Although people have travelled through this area  for over 8,000 years, when Native Americans started hunting here, now it’s a prime spot to watch in wonder at the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountain range. Choose from a network of trails, including Sharp Top Trail, a short, steep route whose peak affords views of the mountains and valley. Plunge into the forest on Harkening Hill Loop (3.3 miles), and run along the cascades on Fallingwater Cascades Trail.

After your run, check out the Johnson Farm, a living history farm where you can play games, help out in the garden, or just sit back and relax on the porch.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH

While the major metropolitan centers of Cleveland and Akron are conveniently close, Cuyahoga Valley National Park transports you to a far away land of long ago. The meandering Cuyahoga River leads to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. The gem of the park is “The Ledges,” a 2.2 mile loop featuring fantastical geologic features, ancient petroglyphs, and an overlook prime for viewing the popping colors. You can easily continue your exploration on adjacent trails to make your run longer.

White Clouds, Ketchum ID

Admire the sea of gold from a birds eye view on this enchanting, mellow 4.2 mile loop that traces the bluff, offering views of the valley and mountains. Stop for a minute (or several) on one of the benches dotting the trail to soak in the splendor a little longer .

Hidden Valley Trail, Moab, UT

If you’re over watching the foliage change  (or want to escape some early cold weather), venture down to the red, purple, and orange rockscape of Moab for views of some iconic slickrock. Fall is time for reflection, and as a tiny spec in a vibrant expanse you will gain a sense of your miniscule place on the planet. At four miles out and back, the Hidden Valley Trail provides the perfect slick rock cliff fix. While the beginning is tough (you climb almost 600 feet over the first 0.6 mile), take it easy and you’ll be compensated with panoramic views, peace and quiet, and ancient petroglyph art.

To find the petroglyphs: deviate to the right of the trail, following a small path to a wall of sandstone heavily decorated with rock art. Remember just to look; these ancient etchings are federally protected.

Do you have a favorite Fall running or hiking trail in your area? Send us a message via the Contact Page - we’d love to hear about it. Happy trails!

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