Frontier Adventure

12 Awesome Fall Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

The imminent end of summer always feels a little melancholy. After all, it marks the close of the prime season for getting into the mountains. But it also signals the beginning of a time of year when many mountain ranges become less crowded just as they’re hitting a sweet zone in terms of temperatures, the lack of bugs, and fall foliage color. Autumn also stands out as an ideal season for many Southwest hikes, with moderate temperatures and even some stunning color.

From Yosemite to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon to Grand Teton, the Great Smokies to the White Mountains and hikes that may not be on your radar, like the Ruby Crest Trail, North Cascades (lead photo, above), and Aravaipa Canyon, here are 12 backpacking trips that get even better in fall—all of them standouts among the innumerable trips I’ve taken over the past three-plus decades, including 10 years as Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Click on links below to read the feature-length stories about these trips, which contain numerous photos and often a video. While much of those individual stories is free for anyone to read, reading them in full, including my tips on planning those trips, is an exclusive benefit for readers with a paid subscription to The Big Outside. See also my expert e-guides to several classic backpacking trips and my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan any of these adventures or any trip you read about at The Big Outside.

Don’t stay home and lament the end of summer—get out and make the most of autumn, an ideal time of year in the backcountry.

Please share your thoughts, questions, or suggestions for fall backpacking trips in the comments section at the bottom. I try to respond to all comments. Click any photo to read about that trip.

Backpackers in Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona.
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