Trip Finder: Indian Summer Hikes

Fall camping season seems to go on forever with these fair-weather weekend trips.
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Fall camping season seems to go on forever with these fair-weather weekend trips.

Northeast | West | Midwest

NORTHEAST

2 Days

Bigelow Mountain Preserve, ME

This lollipop loop in the Bigelow Preserve packs open alpine meadows, rocky ridgelines, two 4,000-foot peaks, and a stretch on the Appalachian Trail into 13 easy miles. Start on the Bigelow Trail and climb to scenes of sparkling Flagstaff Lake and the Bigelow Range from Avery and West Peaks. Then trek the AT .4 mile west to the Maine Appalachian Trail Club campsites above the southeast shore of The Horns Pond. Sugarloaf Mountain shows off the Northeast's famous cherry-red fall foliage on the downhill stretch of Horns Pond Trail. state.me.us/doc/parks

3 Days

Moshannon State Forest, PA

Dive into Pennsylvania's autumn kaleidoscope along this 40-mile loop on the Allegheny Front Trail. Begin at the Black Moshannon State Park office and hook south to Sixmile Run Trail. Trace a trout stream, then descend into a 500-foot-deep gorge of hemlock and rhododendron. Camp near Moshannon Creek. On day two, warm Indian summer temps will make you shed layers on a 400-foot ascent to a campsite by Rock Run Trail. Ogle fiery views on the Allegheny Front on the return. dcnr.state.pa.us/Forestry/stateforests/moshannon

4 Days

Catskill Mountains, NY

Put on your game face for the Devil's Path, a Catskills legend boasting nearly 18,000 feet of elevation gain over 14 miles. Launch from Devil's Tombstone Campground into a boreal forest with colors so varied Crayola would have a hard time naming them. You'll bag four peaks and camp by calm and desolate lakes on this quad-killing 28-mile out-and-back. catskillhighpeaks.com

Northeast | West | Midwest

WEST

2 Days


Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness, OR

Fall's diffused light and dry conditions show off the best of the Cascades on this 13-mile loop. Launch from the Hershberger Mountain trailhead and stroll through the tall grasses of Highrock Meadow before descending through deciduous forest, where vibrant yellows surround stands of spruce, fir, and incense cedar. Pass Fish Lake and buttonhook east to the Rocky Rim Trail, camping near the Palisades. A saddle-crossing with stellar mountain views leads back to the trailhead. fs.fed.us/r6/umpqua

3 Days

Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

Summer here can scorch, but it's cool and crowd-free after the first frost. This 18-miler starts at Summit Lake Ranger Station and climbs to views of Chaos Crags (five lava domes) before dropping to a campsite between Upper and Lower Twin Lakes. Pass an ancient lava flow on day two and camp by Snag Lake. Then climb to scenes of Rainbow Lake on the return. nps.gov/lavo

4 Days

Yosemite National Park, CA

Go Ansel Adams on this 35-miler through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. White Wolf Trail dips into a flower-filled meadow to an incense cedar campsite in Pate Valley. Day two, track riverside cliffs to Muir Gorge, camping at Waterwheel Falls. Day three, wander recently-burnt woods to a tent site at McGee Lake. Hike out three miles on the Murphy Creek Trail. nps.gov/yose

Northeast | West | Midwest

MIDWEST

2 Days

Clark State Forest, IN


The Knobstone Trail is Indiana's longest (58 miles), and this 12-mile stretch is the toughest–and coolest–section. It's a roller coaster of wooded knobs and deep ravines showing off autumn's fire along the Knobstone Escarpment, a 100-mile-long snake of rock in southeastern Indiana. Climb 150 feet up and around Round Knob (you can see Louisville, KY, on a clear day). With summer's crowds (and humidity) gone, claim a choice campsite near the Virginia Pine-Chestnut Oak Nature Preserve. Continue the next day to the highest point on the KT (1,017 feet), and play dot-to-dot with a few more hills before the final descent to the New Chapel trailhead. in.gov/dnr/outdoor

3 Days

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, WI

With winter temps just one Alberta clipper away, sunny days on Lake Superior's most celebrated islands are a rare treat in late autumn. Get there before October ends. Push off from Bayfield and paddle the blue-green waters 12 miles to Oak Island. A four-mile trek from the take-out leads to a prime basecamp at North Bay, with unobstructed vistas of 10 neighboring isles glowing like embers with their red foliage and sandstone. Day two: Hike the 14-mile Loop Trail and skip agates from your beach campsite after dinner. Backtrack to the island's dock for the return trip to Bayfield on day three. $10 permit required. nps.gov/apis

4 Days

Black Elk Wilderness, SD


Spilling southwest from Mt. Rushmore, the Black Elk is a land of gnarled peaks, dense ponderosas, and granite spires. Have it all to yourself under warm, late-fall sun on this 35-mile loop from the Centennial Bypass trailhead. Camp at Willow Creek Rushmore Trail, Norbeck Preserve, and Grizzly Bear Creek Trail. Summit 7,242-foot Harney Peak on day three. fs.fed.us/r2/blackhills