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Monday, November 21, 2016

KW Fall Favorites - hikes, bikes, beers and drives

New England just received its first official snowfall.  Up to a foot in the northwestern portion of the state, and a mere dusting here on the shoreline.   Here in Stonington, it was just enough to shut down major highways when our bridges turned into a sheet of ice.  So as the snow falls and the accidents pile up, let's take a quick second to reminisce about fall (because who is ready to let go of the beautiful leaves and warm afternoons yet? Not I).  

Fall is one of the best times of year and it goes by so fast.  I've been lucky enough to spend many October months in New England, and a few out west.  Last year, I wrote a post on the fall foliage of Utah, and this year, I am updating the list throwing in some New England gems with the bunch.  Below, I have included some of my favorites as a farewell to fall.  Featuring some of the best hikes, drives, and the most quaint towns, this list below is some of my favorite things about fall from New Hampshire to Utah.   Enjoy. 

Oktoberfest at Snowbird (Utah)
To start the best of Fall on KW list, we have Snowbird's Oktoberfest.  Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah is beautiful during the fall months and Oktoberfest makes the scenery even better.  Beer,
bratz and the start of the foliage in Utah, this is the perfect way to kick off fall in the west. Be warned it can get crowded as Snowbird's Oktoberfest was voted one of America's 10 Best Oktoberfests by Men's Journal Magazine. Snowbird's Annual Oktoberfest attracts over 60,000 visitors and has grown to become one of the largest festivals in Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Bryce Canyon makes the list not for its fall foliage, but the chance to see snow covered Hoodoos and a less crowded park.  Bryce is my favorite National Park and it is so fun to visit with that chilly in the air as you hike the loop among the hoodoos.  Catch this in the fall where there are less visitor's and see the snow-capped hoodoos down in the amphitheater.  Be warned, because of the higher altitude this park can be quite cool in the park, bundle up and anticipate snow.

Mount Washington Hike (New Hampshire)
This is at the top of the list for a New England must-see/must-hike.  For some amazing views in the September months, you need to tackle a challenging hike up New England's tallest peak.  Known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world, the temperatures on Mount Washington can drop quick, and the highest wind speed every recorded was at it's summit.  As I said, this is challenging as it is a steep hike to the summit, gaining over 4,000' in just over four miles.  The foliage peaks early here and it is a beautiful view down the ravine. This trail is Dog-Friendly but not an easy hike for dogs.  And kids?  Only the really tough older ones.  You can also take a train, car, or shuttle up and down from the summit if you are unable to make the tough hike up. However, you will miss the rewarding views like this one below as you make your way up Tuckerman's Ravine.

This is one of those insanely scenic and beautiful Utah summit hikes (yes there are a lot!).  About 2 hours from downtown Salt Lake City it is a little out there for city folk, but worth the drive.  The Nebo Scenic Loop is a gorgeous scenic drive in the fall months and the aspens are beautiful.  There are several false peaks, and the hike to the final peak can be a scramble.  Due to the snowy conditions, we turned around at the peak right before the final summit.  The peak has a scary looking ridgeline so use your best judgment on making your way to the final peak, especially if the weather is iffy.  This hike gains about 3,000' over 4.5 miles (to the false summit one way) add on some more elevation and mileage to reach the true summit. Dog-friendly hike (not a good one for kids) and trekking poles are recommended. 
Foliage, crimson mountains, and a hike altitude lake. This is a show off of Utah's beauty up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  This is a protected watershed so no dogs are allowed.  7.3 miles round trip will get you to the upper lake, where you see the crazy view of the lower lake (as seen in the photo below). Get ready for some boulder hopping if you do choose to pass the lake and enjoy the fall foliage down Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)
The orchards at Capitol Reef National Park made me feel like I was back in New England.  You can pick apples in September, buy some local homemade goods, and very unlike New England, enjoy the red rock and petroglyphs.  When we visited, the general store was hosting a harvest festival with live music, pressed cider, fresh pies, and more. I mean, it was the perfect way to start a fall weekend and SO unexpected.  A lovely park in the fall for its apple picking, perfect temperatures and empty trails.  

There aren't a ton of accessible New England hikes where you can get to spend most of your hike above the treeline.  This one, to the highest peak in Vermont is one of them.  Once you reach the part of the trail where you finally are above the treeline, you are rewarded with the amazing views below.  Vermont appears to be on fire, with a gradient of evergreens, yellows oranges, and reds, mixed between fields and farms.  A must-hike for any New Englander.  Dog-friendly, and kid friendly for older kids.  Enjoy the nearby towns of Stowe and Smugglers Notchy while you are visiting.  

Another gorgeous fall hike with tons of aspens.  This hike gains about 2,300' over about 3.6 miles (one way).  The chances of spotting moose are high and in the fall when they are mating, make sure you keep your distance.  This hike reaches a beautiful lake and you can hike past the lane to the ridge line with amazing views down into Park City. I highly recommend making it to the ridge if for nothing else, the insane views of the lake, peaks and trail below. No dogs allowed and may be a little steep for most kids. 

An amazing Scenic drive between two great National Parks, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon.  The aspens and the cows throughout Dixie National Forest were so unexpected and adored.  This is iconic all-American road tripping at its finest, 124 miles through the beautiful American West.  Make sure to stop at Calf Creek Falls for a nice hike, and at Kiva Coffee for coffee with a view of Escalante.  

Easy family friendly dog-friendly hike in Eastern Connecticut.  Reaches an overlook where you can see the foliage, the lake and Foxwoods in the distance.  Gains 400' over 1.25 miles.  An easy quick after work hike.  Stop at Stonington Vineyards on your way back to the shoreline.  

Let's be honest, Park City is amazing any time of year.  It stays cooler in the summer, it's above the inversion and the culture is one I am much more familiar with.  Park City is especially lovely in the fall when the crowds are gone, and you are in between mountain biking and ski season.  You can wander the quiet roads, dip into your favorite restaurant without a wait, and walk among the Sundance Film Festival theaters.  Stop at the famous McPolin Farm to grab that perfect image for this years Christmas Card, and enjoy the wings at Collies (smoked to perfection). 

If Park City is one of the best Towns in Utah, Moab is tied or a very close second.  Moab is the gateway to adventure, a mecca of mountain biking and hiking, and a gorgeous display of how beautiful a desert can be. I am working on an overall Moab post as we speak, but here a a glimpse:  Two National Parks, a State Park, amazing mountain biking trails, dog friendly hikes, a really fun town, and something called Jeep Week.  This is a great place to visit in the fall when the temperatures hover around the 70-80s during the day, and drop quickly into the night.  Star gazing is at its prime and you can hold onto the sunny warm days a little longer here in the desert. 

Fall is the best time to soak in a hot spring.  The air is crisp, the hot spring is toasty and the warm water feels oh-so-good on achey hiking legs.  Late fall is a great time to soak in the hot springs as you get less of the crowds from the summer when the gate is open.  When the gate closes, as it does in the late fall due to snow, this hike goes from a 5-mile hike to a 13-mile hike.  A long hike but with very little elevation gain, it is worth it to have the cool air on your face and the hot springs (almost) to yourself.  Beware, this is a popular spot for people to soak in the nude.  Dogs are allowed and ours loved jumping in the hot springs too. 

Another Vermont destination is making the list because anywhere in Vermont in October is the best of fall.  If you don't mind the drive, head north to nearly the Canadian border and you will find the quaint town of East Burke Vermont.  Somewhat comparable to Utah's Moab, this town is all about biking.  Stay at one of the historic inns, relax at a BnB, and try some Vermont local brews before hitting some of the amazing mountain biking and hiking trails throughout the Kingdom.  The foliage along these trails is just about the best of Vermont, and the sweeping fields and farms are easy on the eyes as well.  


  1. Love this listing Katie. You have covered my whole life from Mt. Washington to Park City. Thanks for the recap and helping share the fall magic with everyone! - Heather @

    1. That is right! I lovvvvvve Park City- I love that you live there and share all the PC and desert magic :) Thanks for reading!


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