Autumn hiking is golden in more ways than one. Besides the leaves and larches burning brightly on alpine slopes, the shorter days mean you'll catch more sunrises and sunsets. And if you know where to look, you might just spot a yellow fungus among the browns and greens of the forest floor.
Shorter days, colder nights and quick-changing weather patterns can make even a simple hike more risky than your average summer excursion, so pack the 10 Essentials, and check conditions before you head out. (Your destination may already be covered in snow!)
Try one of the hikes below or share your own fall favorites in a Trip Report.
Location: North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Mileage: 10.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3400 feet
Golden Feature: Fall foliage
Perry Creek is a popular trail for many reasons. In the fall, the golden fall colors make an impressive showing and the sunsets are equally impressive. Mountain views round out the package, making this a great hike before winter sets in.
Hannegan Pass (and Copper Ridge Loop)
Location: North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
Mileage: 10.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3100 feet
Golden Feature: Fall foliage, stunning sunsets
Hannegan Pass provides a great way to see the reverse side of Mount Shuksan, a mountain most hikers only see from the north from Artist Point. Along with the incredible mountain views and subsequent alpine sunsets, the fall foliage is impressive as you pick your way up the pass. Make a bigger trip of it by hiking the Copper Ridge Loop to take in even more golden sunsets and flora.
Evergreen Mountain Lookout
Location: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Mileage: 2.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1425 feet
Golden Feature: Golden grasses, red huckleberries and stunning sunsets
In fall, Evergreen Mountain Lookout sports vibrant reds and oranges. Be prepared for a long drive on a bumpy road, but for those willing to venture forth, this makes a great hike at any time of day. Sunset brings out the most stunning colors, but be sure and bring a headlamp.
South Fork Silver Creek to Gunsight Pass
Location: Eastern Washington -- Selkirk Range
Mileage: 14.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2370 feet
Golden Feature: Larches, aspen and fall camping
The aspen groves and golden larch a sight to behold on this remote hike through a seldom-seen corner of the Colville National Forest. Don't miss the spur trail 6-miles in to a scenic overlook that takes in the Silver Creek drainage. It's the best vantage point to absorb the full array of fall color on the surrounding slopes. If you prefer a hike with more views along the way, head to Sherlock Mountain instead.
Location: Eastern Washington -- Selkirk Range
Mileage: 8.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Golden Feature: Larches, aspen, hemlocks, fall camping
Wander woods reminiscent of eastern hardwood forest, filled with aspen, hemlock and birch along the largest natural lake in the Colville National Forest — plus enjoy one of the best western larch displays in Eastern Washington. It's a great hike for both kids and dogs on leash. And, there are some wonderful fall camping opportunities.
Thomas, Blue and Tombstone Lakes
Location: South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area
Mileage: 7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1015 feet
Golden Feature: Foliage and ripe berries
Ripe berries and fall foliage are two of the many reasons to hike the Thomas, Blue and Tombstone Lakes trail. Along the way you'll be treated to views of the many lakes that dot the Indian Heaven Wilderness. Hiking this trail in fall also helps alleviate some of the mosquito issues that are present in the summer.
Location: Southwest Washington -- Lewis River Region
Mileage: 11.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2377 feet
Golden Feature: alpine slopes aglow in fall foliage, ridgetop sunsets
Though a bit of a workout, the destination at Starway is worth the effort. Golden grasses grow on ridgelines and sunsets are bountiful here. Trail navigation may be difficult, so bring a compass and map and prepare to have the trail to yourself.
Location: Mount Rainier -- Paradise
Mileage: 3.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
Golden Feature: high golden meadows
With a name like Golden Gate you can probably take a guess at what colors will greet you along the trail in fall. The foliage is the highlight here as you wander through brilliant yellows, reds and golds. The meadows are impressive, as is the view of Mount Rainier.
Location: Mount Rainier -- Sunrise/White River
Mileage: 6.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
Golden Feature: Mount Rainier's glaciers in the golden hour
The top of Skyscraper Pass is a great place to take in the rising sun on Mount Rainier's glaciers. If you look around though you'll find that other mountain views are equally as enchanting, making it a good spot for sunset as well.
Location: Eastern Washington -- Palouse and Blue Mountains
Mileage: 3.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Golden Feature: wheat fields and stunning sunsets
This relatively short hike provides impressive views of the golden wheat fields that make up the Palouse. After 900 feet of climbing the ridge opens up and miles of agricultural fields stretch out below. The sunsets here are especially colorful.
Quinault National Recreation Trails
Location: Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
Mileage: 4.25 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Golden Feature: foliage and fungus (maybe a chanterelle or two)
With lots of options to choose from, the Quinault National Recreation Trails offer a little bit of everything. The rainforest is the true draw here, with giant trees, unique marshy foliage and some mushrooms if you look closely.