Something about cool, fall weather makes you want to hike farther. Now that that weather has finally arrived, we’ve got some of those longer trails we think you might like. Here are 11, including nine in the Piedmont and two along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. (We’ll talk long trails at the coast in coming weeks, once the weather turns from cool to cold.)
If fall is nature at its showiest, winter is nature at its most honest. Minus her canopy, her understory, her ground cover, she has little to hide. Stone foundations from homesteads long abandoned lie exposed. Distant mountaintops are revealed. Critters have nowhere to hide. It’s the perfect time to be in the woods, a time when you can peer deep into nature’s soul. Especially if you seek a more true form of adventure — the type of adventure that doesn’t exist on a blazed trail marked on a map. That’s why we go wild over winter.
Editor’s note: This post originally ran at the start of last fall. We’ve tweaked it, and will continue to run a version of it at the start of every fall hiking season to help you avoid crowded trails in the most popular hiking season.
Officially, fall starts tomorrow, Sept. 21, officially at 3:21 p.m. EST. Appropriately, a rainy front is ushering in cold air about the same time that will drop temperatures about 15 degrees, into the low 70s initially. By the weekend, expect highs in the upper 70s, lows around 50.
It snowed Wednesday night, you had to work Thursday and today. Alas, the meager yet magnificent snowfall will be gone by the time you can hike it this weekend.
Or will it?
Cold temperatures Thursday and today mean there likely will be some snow left along the trail come Saturday — if you know where to look.
In the early 1980s I lived in Loveland, Colo. On weekends, I would drive up U.S. 34 along the Big Thompson River toward Estes Park, into the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest. I would typically stop well short of Estes, sometimes not even making it to the tiny crossroads of Drake. I’d find a roadside pullout, get out and start hiking: there didn’t need to be a trail, as long as the terrain was passible. It wouldn’t be long, scrambling up the steep canyon walls, before I’d start fantasizing that I might be the first person to have ever made it to the ridge above. Hey, I was in my 20s. What did I know?