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  1. #1
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    Default Best Section for Fall Colors

    I'm kicking around the idea of backpacking for a couple of weeks this fall with the idea of timing the hike to see the best fall colors. Right now the timing and location is completely open and I'll be looking at covering anywhere between 240-300 miles. I'm assuming that it would make the most sense to hike southbound since foliage tends to peak from north to south (with exceptions related to elevation of course). Ideally I would like to cover some new ground on the hike. I covered the Rockfish Gap to Boiling Springs section of the AT in April.

    I'd prefer to start and end the hike in places with reasonable access to public transportation and it would be nice but not really necessary to have two or three good hostels or hiker friendly trail towns to look forward to as well.

    Any ideas would be helpful, and maybe of interest to others planning a fall hike.
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  2. #2
    Registered User Damn Yankee's Avatar
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    In my opinion, VA does not have the best foliage. I am from N.E. and by far the best colors are from the upper west section of Mass. through N.H., V.T. and M.E. others may have other opinions but, hundreds of bus tours to N.E. from the southern states can't be wrong.

    "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."
    Isaiah 55:12

  3. #3

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    Hard to beat Maine for fall colors, but it's rugged hiking and hard to get to and from. Vermont is nice too, but fewer vistas, especially along the AT section. Timing is everything, but any where in New England from mid September to mid October and you can't go too wrong.

    SANY0083.jpg On the AT near Andover, Maine. Being local, I can time my hike for when the colors peak and we have a stretch of good weather.
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  4. #4

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    I don't like seeing contests over fall colors. New England markets its fall season and part of the appeal is how nice the colorful trees look with the white church steeples and picturesque villages. But it's not the only place with color.

    As far as I'm concerned, the colors in the mid-Atlantic and Virginia are just as vibrant as New England, given seasonal variations such as rainfall, etc. And one of the most colorful fall hikes I ever did was on the Allegheny Trail in the high mountain ridges of Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

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    We hiked southern Vermont last October, with hopes of feasting our eyes on fall colors. There were colors, and they were nice, but I learned that they don't look all that spectacular from underneath. Hiking through the forest doesn't get you a lot of color. Much of the color is way over your head and facing the sky. A mountaintop vista is nice, of course, but if you'd also like some trailside color, I suspect you'll want places that are more open, with low-growing shrubs and trees - maybe even brambles and weeds!

  6. #6
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    I would think the colors would be best in VT, just because it's a state known for fall foliage.

    Other wise, if you want colors and vistas, try the mountain areas of TN & NC. I know the leaves usually start turning in the upper elevations of GSMNP the start of Oct, reaching their peak sometime in the 1st 2 weeks of Oct. The peak season slowly heads down the mountains such that peak season is over for the entire mountain side by the end of October.

  7. #7
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    southern Appalachians usually peak fall colors from mid October to early Nov. New England peaks from late Sept to early October. Fall colors are awesome in both areas. I did the Damascus, VA to Atkins, VA section in mid October 2012, and fall colors were near peak. If you want to do a long hike, do a sobo LT end to end hike in Vermont, start around 2nd or 3rd week of Sept, finish in mid October at MA/VT state line, you'll catch peak fall colors in VT, with some great vistas along the LT.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the suggestions. The long trail did come to mind and is worth a closer look. On timing, I am pretty much open but I'm getting back from my Colorado Trail thru hike right after Labor Day so anything before late September might be a bit soon to get back on the trail. Maybe I should focus on the southern Mountains, possibly section hiking from Damascus to the Smokies starting early October. Lots of possibilities...
    HST/JMT August 2016
    TMB/Alps Sept 2015
    PCT Mile 0-857 - Apr/May 2015
    Foothills Trail Feb 2015
    Colorado Trail Aug 2014
    AT: Rockfish Gap to Boiling Springs 2014
    John Muir Trail Aug/Sept 2013

  9. #9
    imscotty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    We hiked southern Vermont last October, with hopes of feasting our eyes on fall colors. There were colors, and they were nice, but I learned that they don't look all that spectacular from underneath. Hiking through the forest doesn't get you a lot of color. Much of the color is way over your head and facing the sky. A mountaintop vista is nice, of course, but if you'd also like some trailside color, I suspect you'll want places that are more open, with low-growing shrubs and trees - maybe even brambles and weeds!
    Isabelle makes an excellent point. I love the fall colors in scrubby areas with sumacs and blueberries. I have not been there in September, but I suspect the coast of Nova Scotia would be spectacular. Around where I live I have some favorite Fall trips. I like to canoe the Ipswich River about mid-September. The swamp maples are some of the first trees to turn and it is great viewing along a river. First week of October is a great time to head up to the White or Green Mountain National Forests. You will be fighting the leaf-peeping crowds at that time however.

    Fall colors last deep into November if you know where to look and can appreciate the subtle. The shades and subtle golden hues of salt marshes are great late in the Fall. I love to go to Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge this time of year. Great colors, migratory birds, and you can have the beach almost to yourself.

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