Hikers Find Fall Favorites

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Dane Feldman Jess Goulart Samantha Spoto

Some may say the choice of hiking as a favorite fall activity sounds super cliche. Such a critical response probably indicates that the deliverer does not spend enough of the fall season hiking. With the drop in temperature, vibrant visual schemes of leaves changing to various shades across the red, yellow, and orange spectrum, plus the absence of mosquitoes, what’s not to favor?

As per deciding what particular park to embark upon or trail to trek, we outdoorsy adventurers at BTR have some suggestions you may want to try.

Tanya’s Pick: Palgongsan Natural Park, Daegu, South Korea

Photo by Tanya Silverman.

The first time I went hiking in South Korea was at Apsan, a mountain park in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city. The experience caused some confusion on my part, as I wondered why there were stone staircases carved into trails, posses of middle-aged locals decked out in state-of-the-art sports gear, and a fully functional pajeon and makgeolli restaurant at the summit.

I was primed to these conditions in late November by the time I took a bus out to Palgongsan, a mountain located in Daegu’s outskirts. Removed from the city scenery, I breathed in the crisp autumn air and began my brave ascent. Some trails were on soil but others were up stairs, and these routes led to all sorts of curved-roof wooden Buddhist-temple spots or outlooks of the rolling wooded surroundings. Some dodging of brazen groups clad in their superior gear was required.

At the summit sat a big grey Buddha carved into the living rock, and dozens of hikers were in the course of bowing on pads hundreds of times over. While I’ve hiked many trails in many places, I can surely say that the peaks of the South Korean mountains hold special surprises, and the fall of 2010 was full of finding them.

Jess’ Pick: Boulder, Colorado, USA

Photo courtesy of Andrew Magill.

Fall hiking is a staple of Colorado life, even more so than kale or granola. The aspen trees of Rocky Mountain National Park turn from green to gold to red so the whole mountain range looks like it’s on fire–far preferable to hiking in mid-summer, when the whole mountain range likely really is on fire.

Another bonus is that early-season hikes are dangerous due to lightning prevalence. I’ve been caught in a lightning storm above tree line. It is not fun. You should not do that. In fall months, thunderstorms are far less common, giving way to snow flurries which, though cold, can’t kill you. Just be sure to dress weather appropriately–as in it’s a hike; wear hiking boots, not flip-flops.

Though there are literally thousands of trails to choose from, my favorite climb is Bear Peak, the most prominent peak along the Boulder foothills. The trail head starts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), meanders back into the surrounding mountains, and then bam! takes you straight up Bear Mountain in a stair-master-worthy elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet in the last 1.5 miles (out of seven total round-trip). For anyone not in the know, that is steep.

But the view from the top is totally worth the sweat and tears of getting there–a 360-degree panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado plains.

Samantha’s Pick: Hudson Valley, New York, USA

Photo courtesy of Jay.

In the fall months, I like to escape from the rush of city dwellers and head north to the vibrant foliage. I particularly enjoy the calming sounds of hiking boots crunching leaves beneath my feet. New York’s Hudson Valley is home to miles of trails with bounds of changing leaves. While in college, I spent most of my leisure time hiking at Minnewaska State Park, which is located on the Shawangunk Mountain ridge. The park features gushing waterfalls, lakes, and stretches of land to traverse.

Just past Minnewaska sits the Mohonk Preserve, where both beginner and advanced hikers can find courses perfect for their abilities. Along the 100 miles of trails and rock scrambles, wooden gazebos and the famed Mohonk Mountain House resort make for ideal spots to take a breather and overlook the views of the Hudson Valley.

For veteran hikers, try a 20-minute drive south to Mount Beacon and Breakneck Ridge. Although arduous and steep, the views of the Hudson River from atop both mountains are well worth the extra sweat and tears.

Dane’s Pick: Mount Tom, Massachusetts, USA

Photo courtesy of Rusty Clark – DJ Zippergirl <3.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by great hiking opportunities all my life. I grew up just about two miles from Watchung Reservation in New Jersey, where some of my favorite trails sit, and I’ve hiked in the Rocky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Cascades, up Masada at dawn in Israel, and in a rainforest in Puerto Rico.

All of these hiking experiences were truly incredible, but little can capture the essence of autumn like hiking to the top of Holyoke, Massachusetts’ Mount Tom. I attended undergraduate school in Amherst, MA, so Mount Tom was just a short drive away. I spent a decent amount of my time each fall finding new trails in the general Amherst area, including the Robert Frost Trail and Amethyst Conservation (which is awesome if you want a short hike to see a rusted out car and a pretty solid view of greater Amherst), but Mount Tom offers the very best view of quintessential fall foliage in New England.

The reservation earned a 4.5-star rating on Trip Advisor and is listed as the best activity in Holyoke, which isn’t surprising because it also “boasts an unparalleled view of the Connecticut Valley north and south, the Berkshire mountains to the west and the Pelham hills to the east.”

Oh, and for hikers who love to read, you can even see the tallest library in the country, which sits on UMass Amherst’s campus just across the Connecticut River.