Crunch those leaves: Fall activities in our favorite destinations
The crisp air of fall signifies all sorts of cozy things: colorful leaves, sweaters, Pumpkin Spice Lattes...the list goes on and on. But you know what else that gorgeous weather allows for? Amazing outdoor action—free of snow and sweat. We've rounded up the best autumn activities in some of our favorite cities. Get ready: Fall's here.
1. Mammoth, California
Do the Thousand Island Lake Hiking Loop
The Thousand Island Lake hiking trail is a 17.6-mile loop where you meander through meadows filled with corn lilies and up craggy hills and granite shelves. Come here to soak up views of the lake dotted with tiny islands and backed by snowcapped peaks—a view even more gorgeous with the foliage of fall. Along the way you might see wildlife like marmots, deer, and long-tailed weasels. Start at the trailhead at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center and take the shuttle to Agnew Meadows. The lake is about 7 miles from the trailhead.
Visit Hot Creek Geologic Site
The Hot Creek Geological Site is just 15 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes, and it's home to hot springs, fumaroles and craters created 750,000 years ago after a giant volcano erupted. The boiling water and steam that come up from the creeks is heated by hot magma that lies about 3 miles below the Earth’s surface. Many people snowshoe, snowmobile or cross-country ski in the winter—hike or mountain bike here during the off season to see the bubbling action.
See Rare Rock Formations
Located in the heart of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, Devils Postpile is a unique rock formation: hundreds of intriguing basalt columns roughly 60 feet tall and hexagonal in shape. The columns formed when lava cooled and cracked more than a million years ago—talk about old school. After visiting Devils Postpile, make the trip to Rainbow Falls just two miles away. This impressive 101-foot waterfall was named after the rainbows that form in its mist on sunny days.
2. Park City, Utah
Explore the caves and waterfalls at Timpanogos
If you’re up for some hiking, head for the Timpanogos Wilderness Area of Uinta National Forest for some of the best trails in the area. The two-mile Timpanogos Falls Trail starts in a meadow and takes you deep into the woods to a gorgeous waterfall situated on the east side of Mount Timpanogos. A short scramble down some rocks will get you to the base of the falls. More experienced hikers can tackle the 12.7-mile Timpanogos Trail that takes you around a lake and through some seriously steep terrain. Don’t miss a guided tour of the Timpanogos Caves, where you can check out helictites, spiral-shaped cave formations that look like they developed in zero gravity.
Bike the Mid-Mountain Trail
Up for a mountain biking challenge? Try the Mid-Mountain Trail, one of the most popular routes in the area. Mid-Mountain is mostly singletrack, with tons of ups, downs and ridge-tops to ride along. Take in spectacular scenery along the way: you’ll spot aspen groves exploding with color during the fall. Mid-Mountain is also known as the 8,000-Foot Trail, so allow some time to get used to the altitude before starting to pedal.
Do stand-up paddleboard yoga
The warm waters of Homestead Crater are protected from the elements, making it possible to do stand-up paddleboard yoga any time of the year. This geothermal yoga experience is perfect for a chilly fall day: effervescent carbon dioxide bubbles in the water naturally exfoliate dry skin and the warm mineral water soothes tired muscles. Book a tour with Park City Yoga Adventures and an instructor will lead you on a hike to the crater for a relaxing hour of paddleboard yoga. Ahhhhh…
3. Boulder, Colorado
A peek from above at Eldorado Canyon State Park
Rock climb until your muscles cramp at Eldorado Canyon State Park, just south of Boulder. This expansive canyon features 500 rock-climbing routes, which means you'll never run out of adventures, even if you set up a tent and move in. First-timers should try Bastille Crack and the Redgarden Wall, two of the best spots in the canyon. Enjoy the stunning scenery of red and golden sandstone walls as well as the sounds of South Boulder Creek below. North-facing cliffs can heat up in the summer, so autumn's the perfect time for a climb.
Get lost and found at Chautauqua Park
Sitting on 9th Street and Baseline Road in Boulder is Chautauqua Park, which offers a strong dose of wilderness for those seeking urban asylum. Here you can find culture by attending a live music performance or watching a silent film outdoors. This century-old park is a National Historic Landmark and features a General Store that sells coffee, baked goods, and homemade ice cream. Avid hikers who have adjusted to Boulder's altitude can tackle the park’s three-mile Royal-Arch trail or almost 10-mile Green Mountain trail. Afterward, satisfy your hunger with lunch at one of the picnic tables that dot the Green and North Lawn. Or, if you're looking for an excuse not to cook, enjoy a sit-down dinner at the Chautauqua Dining Hall, an elegant but quaint restaurant with a cozy stone fireplace and wraparound porch that features spectacular mountain views.
Raise a glass at Boulder Beer Brewery
Sip on some Buffalo Gold, Singletrack Rye Pale Ale and Shake Chocolate Porter at Boulder Beer Brewery. Started by two University of Colorado professors back in 1979, the state's first craft brewery offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewing process Monday through Saturday. Check the event calendar before you go to time your trip to arrive in time for a chili cook-off, beer and cheese tasting, or release party for a new brew.
4. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Dig into natural history
Forget those memories of boring museum field trips—the Cape Cod Natural History Museum in Brewster has more than 80 acres of marshland and forest for visitors to explore. Take a guided walk along the museum’s trails or sign up for “Tuesday Tweets,” a weekly bird-spotting tour. Check out the three working beehives and visit during the fall for golden and orange leaves with wildlife buzzing all around.
Bike the Rail Trail
You really haven’t experienced Cape Cod until you’ve biked at least part of the Rail Trail, and the fall is a prime time to do it. The trail used to be a railroad path winding through Brewster, Eastham, Harwich and other small towns as it makes its way from South Dennis to South Wellfleet. You’ll see all the classic elements of the Cape along the way: cranberry bogs, salt marshes, beaches and quaint villages. We recommend stopping in Orleans for a quick lunch or shopping break. Winter means snowshoeing along the path and summer can be too hot—but October is just right with a light jacket.
Take a sunrise or sunset paddle
Get away from it all and take to the water with a sunrise kayak tour in Sandwich. You’ll spend three blissful hours on the water surrounded by the Cape’s diverse wildlife. Check out gorgeous beach roses in bloom and keep an eye on the sky for osprey along the way. Tours vary in length and difficulty, but there are plenty of options for both beginners and seasoned kayakers. Try the sunset paddle for a new take on date night.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Spot alligators in rice fields
Hike and learn about antebellum history at Caw Caw County Park on Highway 17, just 15 miles south of downtown Charleston. The swampy site dates back to the 18th century, when slaves carved rice fields from cypress swamps. Thousands of naturalized tea plants leftover from former plantations still grow here. Hike through six miles of boggy, forested trails and keep an eye out for the otters, deer, American alligators and bald eagles that live in the wetlands. Pause to read up on plantation life along the way—the trails are lined with educational exhibits.
Walk through the “boneyard” beach trails
Escape civilization for a day at Edisto Beach State Park, located an hour south of Charleston in Colleton County. When tourists fill up the Charleston beaches, this area is often free of crowds and it has some great car camping spots. Walk along the shore at sunrise or sunset to snap dramatic photos of the area's "boneyard trees." Created by coastal erosion, these once-living trees have been whitewashed by the sun and sand. On your way out, check out the Edisto Mystery Tree where Hwy 174 intersects with Botany Bay Road. Adorned with generations of clothing that change with the seasons, this tree looks like a giant coat rack. No one knows who decorates it...or who immediately replaced it after some troublemakers uprooted the original years ago.
Sip Sweet Southern Tea
Get to the roots of southern sweet tea—literally—with a trip to Wadmalaw Island and Bigelow Tea Blender’s Charleston Tea Plantation, located just off Maybank Highway. Historic Wadmalaw Island, a 10-by-6-mile undeveloped strip of sandy soil, has the perfect subtropical conditions for growing Camellia sinensis, the evergreen shrub we call "tea." Visitors can explore America’s largest working tea garden, learn firsthand how the tea is made on a factory tour, ride on a trolley to view the sweet tea fields—all while consuming as much iced American Classic Tea (straight from the source!) as your caffeinated heart desires.
6. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
Explore Trails on Two Wheels
Cyclists love exploring the 200-plus off-road trails that snake their way through the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area. Whether you’re an intermediate or advanced rider, the North Shore Trail along Grapevine Lake has earned its place as the most popular route. Its terrain includes smooth bends and rock gardens. Big Cedar is another prime cycling spot located atop an escarpment at the highest elevation point in Dallas. The trails at Big Cedar wind their way through hardwood forests and into a valley of cactus and mesquite trees, and although they are always open to the public, cyclists must first file a waiver with the trail steward.
Go Rock Climbing in Cattle Country
Located just 45 minutes west of Fort Worth, Lake Mineral Wells State Park offers fabulous opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. But it’s particularly well-known among rock climbers for Penitentiary Hollow, an area of craggy sandstone walls ranging from 20 to 40 feet in height that's one of the only natural spots to go rock climbing in North Texas. Climbers must sign in at park headquarters before harnessing up, and it should be noted that the rangers don’t allow climbing during wet weather.
Visit Stockyards Station
Celebrate the spirit of the wild west at Stockyards Station, located in Fort Worth's historic district. This was once the biggest and busiest livestock center in the Southwest, and since its inception in the late 19th century, more than 160 million heads of livestock have been sold here. Today, visitors can witness twice-daily cattle drives, explore the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, and visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Browse more than 25 shops and nom on BBQ, burgers, burritos and other Texas fare.
The fall months are all about outdoor adventures and getting cozy with Mother Nature's explosive colors. These fall activities in our favorite cities are just the beginning.
Check out our other weekend getaway guides for travel ideas and city guides to all your favorite spots around the country: