Fall Hiking Guide

fall on the Border Route Trail

Cooler temps, low humidity, brightly colored hillsides, migrating birds, no more bugs….ahhhh, we’re in the glorious Fall hiking season again!

by Matt Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator for Minnesota and North Dakota

Mid to late September is the start of the most glorious time of the year in the North Country.

No, it’s not because it’s football season or because hockey season is right around the corner. For many, it’s the best time to be outdoors and to hike on the North Country Trail. The prairies and hardwood leaves are turning colors, the air is colder, and the bugs have gone away. Personally, I wish there was a way to hit the pause button as September turns into October so I can enjoy a much longer fall season. How about you?

If you are still a few miles short of completing your Hike 100 Challenge you should have no excuse to get out there this fall and cover some more miles.

Here are some things to remember when it comes to enjoying to the fullest the North Country’s best hiking season:

img_15731. Check the NCTA calendar

Find out if your local Chapters / Affiliates have any guided fall color hikes planned for your area. This is a great opportunity to see new-to-you sections of Trail and make some new friends in the process.

2. Check your State’s fall color tracking website

Find out where the color is peaking at that time. And remember that it can vary significantly in different parts of our states.

3. Check your State’s hunting season calendar

Find out if you need to be concerned about a hunting season being open – and it’s more than just deer rifle season. Blaze orange should be worn during all hunting seasons.

Read our post “Stay Safe During Hunting Season.”

Visit these sites for each state to check hunting seasons and pay attention to all posted trail closures:

4. Be prepared


Be prepared for fall by taking stock of the gear & clothing you take along. You’ll need some extra things along with you that you didn’t need in the summer including extra warm clothing (including a winter hat and gloves), a headlamp, fire starter, emergency shelter, etc.

Read some fall hiking tips at Backpacker (http://www.backpacker.com/survival/hiking-s-best-season-fall/)

What is your favorite fall hike?

Here’s Matt’s favorite fall hikes. Be sure to share yours in the comments!

  • Anywhere on the tallgrass prairie in North Dakota and western Minnesota. Yes, you just read fall colors on the prairie. The bluestem turns a reddish-purple color while most other prairie grasses turn golden.  Other colors you’ll find include the yellow of cottonwoods and goldenrod, the vibrant red of sumac, and the vibrant blue sky on the open prairie.  Read more at http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/radio-programs-a-z/natural-nd-2014-archive/natural-nd-2011-archive/fall-colors-on-the-prairie.
  • The NCT within Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge offers a vibrant display of fall colors in the mixed northern hardwood-conifer forests and there are even some prairies mixed in.
  • Much of the Superior Hiking Trail offers a similar display of magnificent fall colors with the added benefit of dramatic topography thrown in.  Fall colors are more “alive” for many when they’re displayed across a hillside compared to flatter terrain.

*All photos taken by Matt Davis on the Border Route Trail.


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