6 best fall hikes in the mountains
There’s no better time to take a hike than in the fall, when your feet crunch on crisp autumn leaves and the mountains are bathed in brilliant warm hues.
Check out some of these guided nature walks in the Mountain State:
1. Fields of Fire
Tour the beautiful Dolly Sods Wilderness– a high-altitude plateau known for its unique ecosystem, which is similar to northern Canada. The stunted spruce trees and wind-carved boulders of the sods stand out in stark contrast to heath barrens that turn brilliant hues of red and orange in the fall.
You’ll be treated to breathtaking views and even get to witness live bird banding. Bring your camera and sturdy walking shoes. The trip includes shuttle service from the main lodge at Canaan Valley Resort State Park and a boxed lunch. Registration required.
2. Deep into Bluestone territory
Rangers in the New River Gorge have guided hikes throughout fall. Meet at the bottom of Pipestem State Park’s aerial tramway into the gorge for a 2-mile walk to look for signs of the area’s earliest settlers and how they made a life in the Bluestone River Gorge. (Wear hiking boots and bring money for the tram ride.) Or, try the longer 9.5-mile Bluestone Turnpike Hike. Pack a lunch and bring water. A shuttle will take you back to Pipestone afterwards.
3. “What’s in a River” Nature Walk
Take the ferry to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park to explore the island and what lies beneath the surface of the water. Spend the afternoon learning the behavior and ecological role of several species. The walk is free, but you have to board the ferry from Parkersburg.
4. Wild Walks Weekend Nature Hike
Meet at Blackwater Falls State Park for an 8-mile “Walk Between the Parks” to Canaan Valley Resort. You’ll wind your way through groves of red spruce and eastern hemlock and dense rhododendron thickets. Wear sturdy shoes, because the trail is rocky and wet in some places and moderately strenuous. The average walking time is 4 hours. You’ll even get a cookout lunch on top of Canaan Mountain, souvenir and shuttle service. Registration required.
5. 10-Mile Hike
Take a 10-mile hike on the North Bend Rail Trail, which was formerly part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The gentle-grade trail passes through tunnels and over bridges, winding through forest land and past rural communities. Meet at North Bend State Park, where a shuttle will take you out to explore. Bring water! Registration required.
6. Full Moon Hikes
Leave your flashlight in your pack: these hikes at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park rely solely on the moon and stars for illumination. (The lack of artificial light from nearby cities promises a dazzling view of the night sky.)
This free, 3-mile guided trek takes you from the Visitor’s Center to the Greenbrier River Trail and back. Spend the evening enjoying the sights and sounds of nature and wildlife at night! Leashed dogs are welcome. Dress warmly. Registration required.