Fall is when most hikers, backpackers, and campers really get motivated to get out into nature and soak in all the colors of the Season. So we put together the top 5 backpacking destination to see spectacular fall colors and hike some amazing trails. We stayed within the Midwest, and Southeast and judged on easy to park, trail head access, and fall views.
- The Appalachian Trail – The Appalachian Trail is a National-Scenic Trail and the first one completed in the U.S. Finished in 1937, the trail starts atop the suitably epic-sounding Mount Katahdin in Maine and terminates 2,175 miles later, on Springer Mountain in Georgia. Try the 104-mile section that winds through the Shenandoah Valley National Park in Virginia. With neither the humidity of Georgia nor the arduous climbs of New England, it’s gentle and addictive. The great thing about the AT, it covers 13 States, so almost anyone living in any one of them has no excuse to trek out on an adventure. You can backpack or just enjoy a day hike on the AT, as there are many trail heads and parking areas for easy access. The best resource for accessing these parking areas is the AT Trail Guide, used for Appalachian Thru-Hikers
- Hoking Hills State Park – Not everything in Ohio is flat. Hocking Hills, an hour south of Columbus, is every bit the equal of better-known parks, and threaded with waterfalls, towering hemlocks, and limestone gorges. Hike the plunging gorge of Conkle’s Hollow, opting for the Rim Trail for a thorough work out. Southern Ohio has some of the best backpacking around. Fall is one of the most beautiful times in Southern Ohio as the colors are brilliant and and scenery is stunning. If you want to experience some beautiful scenery, and peak fall colors, this is the place to go in the Midwest. Unless you are in Ohio, you probably have never heard of this place. But once you do your research, we bet you make an effort to visit the Park. It’s one amazing hidden gem right smack in the Midwest. Hocking Hills State Park is located within the Zaleski State Forest. If you go backpacking, hike the Zaleski State Forest Backpack Trail which is a 23 mile loop hike.
- Smoky Mountain National Park – Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best places in the country for viewing fall colors. Due to the diversity of trees and its broad elevation range, leaf peepers and hikers can usually enjoy the beauty of fall colors for several weeks in the Smokies. Of course. you will be competing with large crowds in the month of October which is their busiest months of the year. Even though it’s hard to predict the exact dates of “peak” colors in advance. It’s a good bet that the middle of October is a good time to go. Get away from the crowds and camp at the Cosby Campground and hit the trail from there. Cosby Campground is high in elevation and smaller than the rest of the campgrounds. Make Cosby your base camp and go on a 2 night backpacking trip, you won’t be dissapointed.
- Porcupine Mountain Wilderness in the U.P of Michigan – This maybe one of our favorite places in the entire country to visit during Peak Fall. The Porkupine Mountain Wilderness covers 60,000 acres and is Michigan’s largest state park. Going backpacking in this wilderness is a real treat. With creeks, and stream crossings, along with remote cabins to rent, this is one amazing place to be outdoors. The cabins have no running water or electricity. The best part, is they are on your backpacking route if you choose the right trail. Backpack along the Lake Superior Trail and camp along Lake Superior to watch the sunset. This forest makes for some particularly attractive color during the fall. You can get some of the best fall color pictures in the Upper Peninsula. Visit the Lake of the Clouds overlook and see Fall colors forever. Easy access to the Trail Heads by car.
- Charles Deam Wilderness – If you are traveling or living in Illinois or Indiana, this is a MUST for Fall. Lots of trees make for great fall colors! The Charles C. Deam Wilderness is our top pick for underestimated Peak Fall hikes. This is a great place to hike in the Hoosier National Forest about an hour south of Indianapolis near Indiana University just outside of Bloomington.
Enter the Wilderness and drive to Tower Ridge Road about five miles from Knightridge Road lies a fire tower, which is excellent for leaf viewing. Climb the fire tower and see reds and oranges visible to make the scenery spectacular. There is plenty of backpacking opportunities to take advantage of. Backpack on the many trails in Charles Deam and you won’t believe you are in Indiana.