Fall is a great time for trail adventures. Cooler weather,
that crisp, fresh air, and the bright colors of the season inspire outdoor
Dominating the season's lists of best trails for fall are always
the long, rural pathways of New England, famous for their colorful foliage
where leaf-peepers flock each October.
But for those of you looking for a fall adventure that
mightn't be on everyone's bucket list, we've uncovered some less-heralded
The Alternative List - 10 Great Trails for Fall (Not in New England)
1. Allegheny River Trail
Clarion and Venango counties - Pennsylvania.
A recent TrailLink.com review: "Truly cannot say enough
about the beauty of this trail. Each time I thought I had hit the pinnacle of
scenery, I went around a bend and saw an even more spectacular view."
Pennsylvania is blessed with some of America's most scenic,
and most visited, rail-trails. As beautiful as any of them, but slightly under the radar, is the Allegheny River Trail which runs 32-miles through the lovely
Lake Erie region in the state's northwest.
In addition to the vibrant orange and yellow palette of the
surrounding woodland this time of year, this stretch of the Allegheny River
also features a number of historic railroad towns that now welcome bikers,
hikers, horse riders and fishermen drawn to this spectacular watershed and the
rail-trail that connects it. The 115-year-old Belmar Bridge, and the Kennerdell
and Rockland tunnels (right), are noteworthy highlights.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/allegheny-river-trail.aspx
Photo courtesy TrailLink.com
2. Ontario Pathways Rail Trail
Ontario County - New York
The charming resort town of Canandaigua is one of the star
attractions along this 19-mile rail-trail through New York's Finger Lakes
region. The rural trail is the pride of an industrious community organization,
Ontario Pathways, Inc., that purchased the unused railroad corridor and
transformed it into a popular recreation destination. The trail includes twelve
bridges over a myriad creeks and streams that snake through this rich and
Canandaigua is the scene of October's Great Pumpkin Walk along
the rail-trail, which is lined with hundreds of artistic Jack-0-Lanterns for
the occasion. Cider and donuts are included in the small admission fee. Yes, you
read that correctly. Cider and donuts. Included.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/ontario-pathways-rail-trail.aspx
3. North Bend Rail-Trail
Doddridge, Harrison, Ritchie and Wood counties - West
Big on small-town charm and beautiful natural scenery, and
small on crowds, the 70-mile rail-trail dives deep into the state parks and
wilderness areas for which West Virginia is famous.
The North Bend Rail-Trail (left) also passes through the small city
of Salem, which during the first week of October puts on the wonderful Salem Apple Butter Festival.
The heady aromas bring them in from miles around to see live demonstrations of
old fashion apple butter making, the copper kettles suspended over a crackling
Get ready to stay a while; there's also a grand parade,
fireworks on the Saturday night, apple pie baking contests, horseshoe pitching
and cornhole tournaments, a bicycle poker ride, and a 5k run along the
rail-trail. Now that's a fall getaway weekend.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/north-bend-rail-trail.aspx
Photo courtesy TrailLink.com
4. River Trail of Illinois
Tazewell County - Illinois
Looking for something genuinely different this fall? The 7.5-mile
River Trail of Illinois runs from East Peoria in the center of the
state to the rural community of Morton, widely recognized as the "Pumpkin
Capital of the World" (85 percent of the world's canned pumpkin is
produced in Morton, so it's hard to argue with that).
Every October Morton hosts the thoroughly weird but
certainly entertaining Morton "Punkin Chuckin" Contest, where enterprising Illinoisans
build gigantic pumpkin launching machines out of propane gas tanks, aluminum
piping and elastic slings and gather in a huge field to do their thing. The
smart tip: bring lawn chairs as seating is scarce.
If you're keen to extend your trail trip, the lovely Rock
Island Trail runs north from Peoria. One of America's oldest and
most-loved rail-trails, the 35-mile Rock Island Trail paints a great picture of
central Illinois as it travels through friendly small towns, classic Midwestern
farmland, and woodlands.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/river-trail-of-illinois-(carl-bud-schmitt-trail).aspx
5. Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail
Lassen County - California
Okay, we probably can't claim the Bizz Johnson as genuinely "under
the radar." As an inductee into Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Rail-Trail Hall
of Fame, this 25-mile trail through spectacular canyons and upland forests
is one of California's most-loved.
But no list of the best fall excursions is complete without
mentioning the annual Rails to Trails Festival in Susanville (right), the trail's hub
and one of the best examples in America of a small community making the most of
its location next to a destination trail.
Centered around the historic Susanville Railroad Depot, this
yearly celebration attracts visitors from far and wide, with live music, railroad
handcar races, a chili cook-off and salsa contest, and the Bizz Johnson
Marathon. Better yet the festival, held this year October 12, supports the
Lassen Land and Trails Trust in its work to enhance public trails in
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/bizz-johnson-national-recreation-trail.aspx
6. Galloping Goose Trail
San Miguel County - Colorado
With such spectacular surroundings you'd think the Galloping
Goose Trail would just about be a household name among rail-trail fans. But
this eye-opening, high-altitude trail in southwestern Colorado enjoys a
relatively low profile.
A sterner test for the legs and lungs than most rail-trails,
the Galloping Goose -- bearing the nickname given to the unique, gasoline-powered,
part car-part train vehicles that once traversed the narrow-gauge line -- winds for 20 miles through Colorado's Uncompahgre National Forest. The glow of the region's famous
aspen trees is the main draw this time of year, framed by the snow-capped Rocky
Mountain peaks (in fact, don't wait too long to ride the Galloping Goose, as it
quickly morphs into one of the area's first skiable cross-country trails as
early as October).
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/galloping-goose-trail-(co).aspx
7. North Central State Trail
Cheboygan and Otsego counties - Michigan
The Tip of the Mitt is a great place to experience the
coming of the cooler season. The 62-mile North Central State Trail (left) winds
through Michigan's north woods with connections to well-established tourist towns
at both ends. The evidence of fall pours generously over this
remarkable rail-trail and the surrounding agricultural fields, forests, lakes,
rivers and wildflowers. The section north of Indian River, particularly, is illuminated
with iridescent birch and maples through mid- to late October.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/north-central-state-trail-(formerly-gaylord-to-mackinaw-city-rail-trail).aspx
Photo courtesy TrailLink.com
8. Red Cedar State Trail
Dunn and Eau Claire counties - Wisconsin
There are few lovelier places to be on a bright October day
than Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley. This bucolic 14.5-mile rail-trail follows the
gentle Red Cedar River past forests and farms, canopies of trees, wetlands and
crimson sumac, the landscape changing with the distinct seasons.
The Red Cedar also connects with the Chippewa River State
Trail, connecting in turn to a number of trailside communities waiting to
welcome you with a roaring fireplace and a restorative beverage.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/red-cedar-state-trail.aspx
9. Lake Wobegon Trail
Stearns and Todd counties - Minnesota
The trail's namesake is the fictional town of Lake Wobegon,
made famous by author and radio personality Garrison Keillor. Along the 10-foot
wide paved trail, you'll find small towns that provided Keillor with
inspiration, including Holdingford, a town once referred to by Keillor as
Following the former Burlington Northern Railroad corridor
between Osakis and St. Joseph, the 62-mile Lake Wobegon Trail (right) offers scenic views of
prairie remnants, lakes, woodlands and open farmland, with surprising deep reds
and toasty yellows greeting visitors in the autumn months.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/lake-wobegon-trail.aspx
Photo courtesy lakewobegontrail.com
10. Boise River Greenbelt
Ada County, Idaho
Albino deer, foxes, blue heron, eagles, osprey, rainbow
trout, owls and wood ducks -- photos of the Boise River Greenbelt at
TrailLink.com reveal a rail-trail that is as much nature preserve as it is
In the fall, the 23-mile streak of riverside trail outside
Idaho's largest city blazes warm reds, oranges and yellows - a city ordinance
requiring all development to be set back a minimum of 70 feet from the river
means rich foliage at every step.
Map and info: www.traillink.com/trail/boise-river-greenbelt.aspx