Fall Hiking for Beginners: Embrace the Beauty of Autumn on the Trails

Marti Travis Gonzalez
| December 15, 2023 | 4 Minute Read
woman hiker taking in the fall view Getty

As the sweltering summer days give way to the crisp, cool air of autumn, it's the perfect time to venture outdoors and explore the wonders of fall. One of the best ways to do this is by going on a fall hike. Fall hiking offers a unique experience, with vibrant foliage, comfortable temperatures, and fewer crowds. If you're new to hiking or just looking to make the most of this beautiful season, this beginner's guide to fall hiking will help you get started on the right foot.

family on hiking trail looking at map Getty

Choose the Right Trail

The first step in planning a fall hike is selecting the right trail. You may start off by googling “hiking trails near me,” but, as a beginner, you should opt for trails that are suitable for your fitness level and experience. Look for trails labeled as "easy" or "beginner-friendly" and check the length and elevation gain to ensure they match your capabilities. Websites, apps, and guidebooks can be invaluable resources for finding the perfect trail.

Weather map forecast Getty

Check the Weather

Fall weather can be unpredictable, so it's crucial to check the forecast before heading out. If storms are forecast during your hike, you’ll want to be prepared for flash floods, high winds and other inclement weather that can make an easy hike become dangerous. Also, dressing appropriately is key to a comfortable and safe hike. Layers are your best friend in the fall, as they allow you to adjust to changing temperatures throughout the day. Don't forget a waterproof jacket and sturdy hiking boots for added comfort and protection.

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Timing Matters

One of the highlights of fall hiking is the breathtaking display of colorful foliage. To make the most of it, plan your hike during peak fall foliage season in your region. Research the best time for fall foliage in your area and time your hike accordingly. Generally, this is in September and October in many parts of North America.

Hiking essentials laid out Getty

Pack the Hiking Essentials for Beginners

Packing the right gear is essential to a successful hike. Here's a list of essentials for fall hiking:

  • Footwear: Select sturdy and comfortable hiking boots with good ankle support to ensure your safety and comfort
  • Food: Pack high-energy snacks like trail mix, granola bars and fruit
  • Navigation tools: Bring a map, compass or GPS device
  • First aid kit: Include bandages, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary medications
  • Multi-tool or knife: Handy for various situations
  • Insect repellent: Some fall hikes may still have active insects
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from UV rays, even in cooler weather
Taking a photo of a squirrel Getty

Capture the Moment

Fall hiking offers numerous opportunities for stunning photography. Don't forget your camera or smartphone to capture the vibrant colors and picturesque landscapes. However, remember to stay present in the moment and enjoy the hike rather than focusing solely on photography.

Man sitting in the middle of a swinging bridge Getty

Enjoy the Sights and Sounds

Fall hiking isn't just about the visuals; it's also a feast for the senses. Listen to the rustling of leaves underfoot, breathe in the crisp, clean air, and appreciate the earthy scent of fallen leaves. Take breaks to sit and soak in the beauty around you. Consider bringing a journal to record your thoughts and experiences.

Woman at a farmers market for selecting vegetables Getty

Embrace the Seasonal Treats

Autumn is known for its delicious treats like apples, pumpkins, and warm beverages. Many hiking destinations are near farms or orchards where you can pick your own produce. Plan a post-hike visit to a local market or cafe to savor seasonal delights.

Woman on a hiking trail looking at a map Getty

Finally, Safety First

Planning and preparation are the keys to an enjoyable hike, but it’s crucial to prioritize safety above all else. Experts agree that all hikers should inform someone about planned itineraries and routes before hitting the trail. Making an action plan if something were to happen is also advised. In addition, while hiking, remember to stay on officially marked trails. Not only is it environmentally responsible, straying off the path can lead to getting lost or encountering unexpected hazards. Visit the National Park Service website for more hiking safety tips.

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