Crossing the bridge over South Mills River along South Mills River Trail in Pisgah National Forest.

Early October typically provides the best fall foliage for bike riders traveling along Pisgah National Forest trails. (Getty Images)

With the summer heat in the rear view mirror and the spectacular colors of autumn foliage lining the trail ahead, fall is the perfect season to hop on a bike and make the most of cycling-savvy destinations across the country. Each of our hand-picked spots comes with plenty of blazing colors – and the road is wide open for all levels of cyclists, from casual bikers looking to work off their morning donuts to mountain bikers bagging end-of-season bragging rights.

[See: 10 Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall.]

But wherever the trail takes you, experts say autumn is time to slow down and take it all in. "Besides the fall color palate, the great thing is you're probably in shape from a summer of activity and so you can relax and enjoy the trip more," says Meagan Coates, trip design manager for biking outfitter Trek Travel. "Fall is our top biking season, and that's because bikers feel they can get through the ride more easily, so why not stop to take that extra photo or try a local beer?" Coates asks.

So take your pick – from smooth paths tunneling through the trees to high-altitude rides, America’s brilliant autumn hues await in these cycling-friendly spots.

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina


Autumn view of fog filled valleys of the southern Appalachian Mountains, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

Pisgah National Forest (Getty Images)


Whether you're looking to ride through rolling countryside or you're seeking spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway scenery, the area in and around the vast Pisgah National Forest, about 30 miles from Asheville, North Carolina, is calling your name. Brevard, a small town perfectly situated in the midst of the forest, makes a good base. Aim to visit from Oct. 10-20 to see the best of the fall foliage along the region's network of bike paths. Base yourself at Pilot Cove, a family-owned adventure resort offering contemporary cabins right by the forest entrance. Just steps away from Pilot Cove, you'll find The Hub, a bike rental outfitter and roadhouse tavern that offers a great place to rent a bike at dawn and unwind after a day in the saddle.

Sonoma County, California


A young women riding a road bike on a rural road in the wine country of Sonoma County.

Sonoma County (Getty Images)


Coates describes Sonoma County as an undiscovered gem for a fall biking trip. "I've cycled California's wine country in all seasons, and I think fall is the best by far," she says. "The vineyard leaves change to golden as the grapes ripen. It's also crush time, with all the festivities surrounding the harvest season," she adds. There's a ride to suit all needs in Sonoma County, from rails to trails to vineyard-swathed valleys to mountain passes. Or, for those who want worry-free biking, wine, world-class food and posh lodging during the prime vineyard color season, there's Trek's new four-day tour (available for $4,799 per person) from Oct. 23-26, based at Sonoma's Singlethread Farms, a contemporary inn and restaurant located on five acres between the Russian River and the historic San Lorenzo Ranch in Healdsburg, California.

[See: America's Ultimate 7 National Parks Road Trips.]

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan


A beautiful sunset at Esch Road beach on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Getty Images)


With gorgeous national parks like Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, who needs to go farther west? Along 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, fall colors crescendo slowly into vibrant crimsons, oranges and golds, which local bike shop owner Bob McLain, who launched McLain Cycle and Fitness in 1978, says are especially lovely during the first two weeks of October in contrast to the area's cobalt blue lake and pine trees. McLain has two stores, including one in Cadillac, Michigan, and one in Traverse City, Michigan, a main area hub close to the park. "My wife and I often bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a 10-foot wide paved trail that runs from Empire, the gateway to the park, down to Glen Arbor," he says. "This is a flat, forested area where anyone can ride. You'll see a four-year-old on a bicycle to a guy we know who's 107 years old and rides a three-wheel TerraTrike [a high-tech recumbent adult tricycle made by the eponymous Michigan-based company]." Since java fuel and cherry pie are serious pursuits in this part of the country, McLain recommends breaking at trail faves Martha's Leelanau Table for a nice coffee and the Cherry Republic for a sweet treat.

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington


The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a large wilderness area spanning the Cascade Range of Washington state in the United States. The wilderness is located in parts of Wenatchee National Forest and Snoqualmie National Forest, and is approximately bounded by Interstate 90 and Snoqualmie Pass to the south and U.S. Route 2 and Stevens Pass to the north. The Alpine Lakes is the largest wilderness area near the population centers of Puget Sound, at approximately 390, 000 acres (1, 600 km2).

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (Getty Images)


The Northern Cascades, traversed by the mighty Columbia River, offer some of the best mountain biking in the country, according to Washington native and Bicycle Adventures guide Matt Paul, whose new High Cascades Tour fall ride ($2,598 per person) is centered around a hike and bike expedition in Angel's Staircase, in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. "For a couple days around Oct. 10, the Alpine larches – a conifer that loses its needles in the fall – turn molten gold," Paul says, adding that the view of gleaming larches against the dusty tundra and crystal blue lakes is "probably the most beautiful sight I've seen in all my years of mountain biking. You can't see these rare trees from the road." Cross-country bikers will want to go for the full Angel Loop, a classic ride that takes you to the highest singletrack trail in Washington state. Paul recommends staying at the Lake Pateros Motor Inn – a mountain lodge on Lake Pateros – for easy access to the trailhead.

[See: The 10 Best National Parks in the USA.]

Katy Trail State Park, Missouri


Katy Trail State Park (Getty Images)


More than half of Missouri's 240-mile-long Katy Trail State Park – America's longest rails-to-trails conversion project – runs along the Mississippi River. Stephen Hale, founding brewer of St. Louis-based Schlafly Beer, rides to work daily, but on the weekend he recommends hitting the park for "pleasant, tree-lined biking with a lot of charming little towns along the way." Although there are many forested stretches along the flat, crushed-limestone trail, the area around Rocheport, Missouri, a river town about 100 miles from Kansas City, Missouri, is especially dramatic in mid-October, when the hardwood forests (oaks, ash, mulberry and walnut) crowning the Mississippi's towering limestone bluffs blaze with color.

11 Can't-Miss Hiking Trails in the USA


Photo Gallery
Austria, Tyrol, Tannheimer Tal, young couple hiking on mountain trail
Hikers at the end of the Harding Icefield trail. Kenai Fjords National Park
Acadia National Park and Bass Harbor Lighthouse at sunset.
Sunset at Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.
The McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Toroweap Overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Peaks and wildflowers surround visitor center at Hurricane Ridge in Washington's Olympic National Park.
An ominous sky makes a perfect backdrop for the red rocks of Sedona, as Courthouse Butte towers above the Coconino National Forest.
Kalalau lookout over the Napali coast from the Kokee State Park, Kauai, Hawaii.
Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.
Scenic View Of River And Snowcapped Mountains At Grand Teton National Park.
Mountain goat resting at Glacier National Park
|

These remarkable trails will appease both novice and expert hikers.
The great outdoors are great for a reason. It was Shakespeare who once said, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." And in the U.S., opportunities to connect with nature are endless. With 58 national parks and more than 6,000 state parks to choose from, it's easy to get lost in the splendor of America's majestic landscapes. That's why U.S. News rounded up some of the best hiking trails the USA has to offer. From coastal treks to desert voyages, here are the 10 must-see trails across the country.
(Getty Images)

Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park
Travelers who want to get up close and personal with Alaska's famous glaciers should consider a trek along the scenic Harding Icefield Trail. Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, about 125 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, this trail offers unbeatable panoramic views of the expansive Harding Icefield, which comprises about 700 square miles of the park. But that's not all you can expect on this 8-mile trail. The path weaves through different types of forests, as well as picturesque alpine meadows. Just come prepared: With 1,000 feet of elevation gained at every mile, recent visitors find this hike to be quite strenuous.
(Getty Images)

Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail, Acadia National Park
Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard, making it the star attraction of Acadia National Park. Although the striking summit can easily be accessed via Cadillac Mountain Road, the most rewarding way to experience the mountain's magnificent vistas is on foot. The Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail is a 4-mile round-trip journey that features a strenuous but manageable incline through lush green and granite landscapes. If you're visiting from October to March, consider an early morning hike since Cadillac Mountain is the first point of the U.S. to greet the rising sun's rays.
(iStockPhoto)

Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park
The Mist Trail is one of Yosemite National Park's most notable treks. As its name suggests, the trail snakes alongside two waterfalls – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall – spraying visitors with a fair amount of moisture depending on the time of year. The total hiking time varies. Ascending only Vernal Fall (the first waterfall on the trail) yields a 2.4-mile round-trip hike, while Nevada Fall is a 5.4-mile round-trip journey. If you're visiting in spring or early summer, when water flow is at its peak, exercise extreme caution as the trails become both crowded and slippery.
(Getty Images)

Ewoldsen Trail, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
The Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur offers much of California's diverse topography all in one hike. Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the Ewoldsen Trail takes travelers along the peaceful McWay Creek, through redwood groves and grassy valleys, as well as coastal mountaintops that offer picture-perfect views of the Pacific. The loop trail is a little more than a 5-mile round-trip journey and is touted by past visitors as one of the best day hikes in Big Sur. Before you go, however, make sure you know how to spot poison oak, as the plant is abundant in the area.
(Getty Images)

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
The South Kaibab Trail is the only trail in the Grand Canyon that, according to the National Park Service, "dramatically holds true to a ridgeline descent." The trail's descent on ridges that jut out into the canyon afford unique panoramic vistas difficult to find elsewhere in the park. But the trail isn't for the faint of heart: There is no shade on the trail and hiking during the summer is not recommended. During the cooler months, the NPS advises travelers not to go past Skeleton Point for a day hike, which clocks in at a 6-mile round-trip journey.
(Getty Images)

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park
The Hoh Rainforest is the crown jewel of Olympic National Park. The Washington state forest is famous for its evergreen vegetation and mossy trees that create a captivating landscape. And this dreamy topography reaches its peak on the Hoh River Trail, which stretches a whopping 17 miles. Luckily, you don't have to traverse the entire trail to experience the best of the rainforest. There are various points of interest along the way, including Tom Creek and Happy Four Shelter. However deep into the forest you decide to go, rest assured that you're likely to spot some wildlife along the way.
(Getty Images)

Templeton Trail, Coconino National Forest
There are hundreds of incredible hiking trails throughout Sedona, Arizona. But if you're looking for one that showcases the region's famous red rocks and most photographed landmarks, consider walking the 7-mile Templeton Trail. The trail is well known for winding around the base of Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona's most famous sights. As you walk along the trail, you'll have many opportunities to veer off onto Templeton's four interconnected paths. The Bell Rock Pathway and the subsequent H.T. Trail feature views of Courthouse Butte and Two Nuns, renowned rock formations.
(Getty Images)

Awa'awapuhi Trail, Koke'e State Park
Getting a proper view of Na Pali's famous coastal cliffs may seem difficult without a boat, but the Awa'awapuhi Trail makes it possible for landlocked travelers. Located in Koke'e State Park in Kauai, Hawaii, the Awa'awapuhi Trail may appear a bit lackluster at first since much of the walkway snakes through highland forestry. But the lookout point, located 3 miles from the trailhead, is spellbinding. Not only are hikers able to take in the details of the rugged cliffs, but they're also treated to amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind, the whole trail is downhill, so your journey back will be almost completely uphill.
(Getty Images)

Rubicon Trail, South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is big (122,200 acres, to be exact), and the best way to experience it all in a short amount of time is with a walk along the Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California. This 8-mile, round-trip trail, found along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, connects the area's most popular state parks – D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay. Expect scenic vantage points overlooking rocky cliffs and striking blue waters. And if you find yourself itching to take a dip, there are plenty of points along the trail to venture down to beaches. It's important to note that due to weather conditions, the trail is only accessible from March to September.
(Getty Images)

Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park
Those who don't mind going the extra mile will find the Cascade Canyon Trail a fun challenge. The round-trip hike along the trail – which measures nearly 14 miles – may take all day to complete, but it offers excellent views of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. The hike starts at the spectacular Jenny Lake and takes visitors to striking attractions within the park, including Hidden Falls and Hurricane Pass. If you choose to tackle this trail, you'll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring a camera: The route's incredible scenery – jagged peaks, evergreen forests and rocky rivers – is something you won't want to forget.
(Getty Images)

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park
Ever wondered what it's like to journey along the Continental Divide? On Glacier National Park's Highline Trail in Montana, you can do exactly that.. One of the park's most celebrated trails is as scenic as they come, taking visitors high up along the Garden Wall – part of the Continental Divide – in addition to other points of interest. The Grinnell Glacier Overlook and Swiftcurrent Lookout, as well as plenty of wildlife, are also revered highlights. The only caveat? This trail is long, stretching 38 miles. Most hikers only trek one way (about 11 miles) and find alternative transportation back to the trailhead.
(iStockPhoto)

Austria, Tyrol, Tannheimer Tal, young couple hiking on mountain trail
Hikers at the end of the Harding Icefield trail. Kenai Fjords National Park
Acadia National Park and Bass Harbor Lighthouse at sunset.
Sunset at Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park.
The McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Toroweap Overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Peaks and wildflowers surround visitor center at Hurricane Ridge in Washington's Olympic National Park.
An ominous sky makes a perfect backdrop for the red rocks of Sedona, as Courthouse Butte towers above the Coconino National Forest.
Kalalau lookout over the Napali coast from the Kokee State Park, Kauai, Hawaii.
Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.
Scenic View Of River And Snowcapped Mountains At Grand Teton National Park.
Mountain goat resting at Glacier National Park

These remarkable trails will appease both novice and expert hikers.
The great outdoors are great for a reason. It was Shakespeare who once said, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." And in the U.S., opportunities to connect with nature are endless. With 58 national parks and more than 6,000 state parks to choose from, it's easy to get lost in the splendor of America's majestic landscapes. That's why U.S. News rounded up some of the best hiking trails the USA has to offer. From coastal treks to desert voyages, here are the 10 must-see trails across the country.
(Getty Images)

Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park
Travelers who want to get up close and personal with Alaska's famous glaciers should consider a trek along the scenic Harding Icefield Trail. Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, about 125 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, this trail offers unbeatable panoramic views of the expansive Harding Icefield, which comprises about 700 square miles of the park. But that's not all you can expect on this 8-mile trail. The path weaves through different types of forests, as well as picturesque alpine meadows. Just come prepared: With 1,000 feet of elevation gained at every mile, recent visitors find this hike to be quite strenuous.
(Getty Images)

Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail, Acadia National Park
Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard, making it the star attraction of Acadia National Park. Although the striking summit can easily be accessed via Cadillac Mountain Road, the most rewarding way to experience the mountain's magnificent vistas is on foot. The Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail is a 4-mile round-trip journey that features a strenuous but manageable incline through lush green and granite landscapes. If you're visiting from October to March, consider an early morning hike since Cadillac Mountain is the first point of the U.S. to greet the rising sun's rays.
(iStockPhoto)

Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park
The Mist Trail is one of Yosemite National Park's most notable treks. As its name suggests, the trail snakes alongside two waterfalls – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall – spraying visitors with a fair amount of moisture depending on the time of year. The total hiking time varies. Ascending only Vernal Fall (the first waterfall on the trail) yields a 2.4-mile round-trip hike, while Nevada Fall is a 5.4-mile round-trip journey. If you're visiting in spring or early summer, when water flow is at its peak, exercise extreme caution as the trails become both crowded and slippery.
(Getty Images)

Ewoldsen Trail, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
The Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur offers much of California's diverse topography all in one hike. Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the Ewoldsen Trail takes travelers along the peaceful McWay Creek, through redwood groves and grassy valleys, as well as coastal mountaintops that offer picture-perfect views of the Pacific. The loop trail is a little more than a 5-mile round-trip journey and is touted by past visitors as one of the best day hikes in Big Sur. Before you go, however, make sure you know how to spot poison oak, as the plant is abundant in the area.
(Getty Images)

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
The South Kaibab Trail is the only trail in the Grand Canyon that, according to the National Park Service, "dramatically holds true to a ridgeline descent." The trail's descent on ridges that jut out into the canyon afford unique panoramic vistas difficult to find elsewhere in the park. But the trail isn't for the faint of heart: There is no shade on the trail and hiking during the summer is not recommended. During the cooler months, the NPS advises travelers not to go past Skeleton Point for a day hike, which clocks in at a 6-mile round-trip journey.
(Getty Images)

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park
The Hoh Rainforest is the crown jewel of Olympic National Park. The Washington state forest is famous for its evergreen vegetation and mossy trees that create a captivating landscape. And this dreamy topography reaches its peak on the Hoh River Trail, which stretches a whopping 17 miles. Luckily, you don't have to traverse the entire trail to experience the best of the rainforest. There are various points of interest along the way, including Tom Creek and Happy Four Shelter. However deep into the forest you decide to go, rest assured that you're likely to spot some wildlife along the way.
(Getty Images)

Templeton Trail, Coconino National Forest
There are hundreds of incredible hiking trails throughout Sedona, Arizona. But if you're looking for one that showcases the region's famous red rocks and most photographed landmarks, consider walking the 7-mile Templeton Trail. The trail is well known for winding around the base of Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona's most famous sights. As you walk along the trail, you'll have many opportunities to veer off onto Templeton's four interconnected paths. The Bell Rock Pathway and the subsequent H.T. Trail feature views of Courthouse Butte and Two Nuns, renowned rock formations.
(Getty Images)

Awa'awapuhi Trail, Koke'e State Park
Getting a proper view of Na Pali's famous coastal cliffs may seem difficult without a boat, but the Awa'awapuhi Trail makes it possible for landlocked travelers. Located in Koke'e State Park in Kauai, Hawaii, the Awa'awapuhi Trail may appear a bit lackluster at first since much of the walkway snakes through highland forestry. But the lookout point, located 3 miles from the trailhead, is spellbinding. Not only are hikers able to take in the details of the rugged cliffs, but they're also treated to amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind, the whole trail is downhill, so your journey back will be almost completely uphill.
(Getty Images)

Rubicon Trail, South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is big (122,200 acres, to be exact), and the best way to experience it all in a short amount of time is with a walk along the Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California. This 8-mile, round-trip trail, found along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, connects the area's most popular state parks – D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay. Expect scenic vantage points overlooking rocky cliffs and striking blue waters. And if you find yourself itching to take a dip, there are plenty of points along the trail to venture down to beaches. It's important to note that due to weather conditions, the trail is only accessible from March to September.
(Getty Images)

Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park
Those who don't mind going the extra mile will find the Cascade Canyon Trail a fun challenge. The round-trip hike along the trail – which measures nearly 14 miles – may take all day to complete, but it offers excellent views of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. The hike starts at the spectacular Jenny Lake and takes visitors to striking attractions within the park, including Hidden Falls and Hurricane Pass. If you choose to tackle this trail, you'll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring a camera: The route's incredible scenery – jagged peaks, evergreen forests and rocky rivers – is something you won't want to forget.
(Getty Images)

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park
Ever wondered what it's like to journey along the Continental Divide? On Glacier National Park's Highline Trail in Montana, you can do exactly that.. One of the park's most celebrated trails is as scenic as they come, taking visitors high up along the Garden Wall – part of the Continental Divide – in addition to other points of interest. The Grinnell Glacier Overlook and Swiftcurrent Lookout, as well as plenty of wildlife, are also revered highlights. The only caveat? This trail is long, stretching 38 miles. Most hikers only trek one way (about 11 miles) and find alternative transportation back to the trailhead.
(iStockPhoto)

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Tags: travel, vacations, cycling


Ceil Bouchet has 20 years of experience sparking adventure and promoting understanding by covering destinations through the lens of culture, cuisine, wine, well-being and, well, dive bars, chocolate and mom-and-pop eateries. Bouchet has lived and worked in Paris, Shanghai, Turin and Bordeaux. Currently based in Chicago, she writes for the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, Saveur and many others. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to see what's up.

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