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Looking for a scene that stops you in your tracks? Here are six hikes that deliver the goods during the autumn leaf change. Choosing six was tough! There are a lot of hikes that could easily make the list, but I had to check myself or this list would go on forever…

The truth is, fall color displays change weekly, so knowing where to go is part research and part luck. Before heading out, Google the area where you plan to visit for recent color reports to fine-tune your plan. For example, the high Wasatch Mountains near where I live in Salt Lake City are exploding right now, but the lower trails are still green. In a week or so, I’ll move my runs lower on the mountain to stay in the stunner colors.

This list is pulled from all over the country in an effort to show that there’s color all over the nation, not just in the Northeast, a region famous for delivering miles of red, orange, and yellow landscapes. And with that, I’ll stop stalling and share what you came for, a list of six fall color hikes, or hiking areas, worth making the effort to get out of the car:

1. Bear Lake Loop, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Distance: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy

6 Fall Color Hikes Worth Getting Out of the Car For – Bear Lake, RMNP

PHOTO: Kent Landerholm

This popular hike in RMNP delivers a new kind of beauty in the fall. That said, the entire park is spectacular. I’ve spent weeks hiking the area and never tire of the views. This hike is very short, so I’d add on a jaunt to one of the other lakes in the Bear Lake Corridor.

2. Stewart Falls, Sundance, Utah

Distance: 3.1 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Yes, Utah serves up fall color in a big way. And while I love a hike through yellow aspen, the color change excites me because I know it wont be long before the Greatest Snow on Earth™ replaces the leaves. The hike to Stewart Falls near Sundance Resort is a great way to transition to ski season.

3. McGee Creek Canyon, California

Distance: 6.5 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate

6 Fall Color Hikes Worth Getting Out of the Car For - McGee Creek

PHOTO: Matt Granz Photography

The colors on this hike decorate in tendrils rather than blanketing the canyons. Where the color stops, rugged rocks take over, creating a dramatic image. It’s also dog friendly. While you’re in the area, consider visiting Bishop Lake, another spectacular locations to view autumn leaves.

4. North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota 

This is an area rather than a specific trail. There are plenty of hiking options to choose from depending on your stamina, where the colors are peaking, and which scene appeals to you most. Try the 5-mile Split Rock River Loop for elevated river and valley views.

5. Babcock State Park, West Virginia

6 Fall Color Hikes Worth Getting Out of the Car For - Babcock State Park Grist Mill

PHOTO: A.D. Wheeler

The Glade Creek Grist Mill located in the park is interesting and pretty year-round, but really impresses when surrounds by color. There are a number of trails in the park. Try hiking the Island in the Sky Trail connected to the Wilderness trail for views and interesting rock features. The trailhead is located at the grist-mill.

A webcam is available on the park site if you want to check how the leaves are coming along. Right now they are pre-peak (September 26th). Additionally, Babcock State Park is close the New River Gorge area, which has great potential for bright displays and has a bundle of challenging climbing routes if you’d like to view the colors a different way.

6. Mt. Megunticook Trail, Camden Hills State Park, Maine

Distance: 2.0 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate

6 Fall Color Hikes Worth Getting Out of the Car For - Camden Hills State Park (view of town)

PHOTO: Christopher Ramirez

High open views of the ocean and rugged rocks make this hike a winner for viewing fall color. It’s a short hike, just two miles out and back, but will get your pulse up with some elevation gain.

I hope this list inspires you to visit one of these gorgeous trails or find others. What fall color trails would you recommend? List them below in comments! Oh and please share images of your hikes with me via Twitter or Instagram by tagging @active_explorer.

Happy hiking!

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