The Do’s and Don’ts of Leaf Peeping Season

All across the country, the trees put on a show during the fall season. In the east coast, maples display their fiery reds while the aspens of the high alpine glitter in the mountain sun. But before you hit the trail to soak in the colorful goodness of the season, keep these fall hiking tips in mind.

Fall is a Sensitive Time in the Wild

Fall means one thing: winter is coming. Animals are trying to rake up as much resources as they can to pack it in for the leaner winter months. Trees are slowly going to sleep, where they rely on their intricate root systems to keep them alive during the great freeze. The point is, it’s not a time of bounty, in fact, it’s a sensitive time for the wild. So do your part to respect and protect the environment during the last few breaths of warmer days.

Don’t Wander Off the Trail

Every year, record number of crowds storm hiking trails that are famous for their fall foliage. For many, it’s their first time on a hiking trail. Don’t wander off the trail to snag the perfect selfie (but yes, do take lots of pictures if that’s your thing). Instead, stick to marked trails in order to limit your impact on the environment.

fall hiking tips

Do Pack it Out

With so many people heading out to view the fall colors, it’s important to not only pack out your own trash, but consider picking up the mess of others who aren’t as well-informed (clearly, they haven’t found this post…). Don’t litter, even apple cores and orange peels damage the natural environment. Animals can eat these things and die from having food that isn’t a part of their daily diet. Bring a small plastic baggy and pack out any trash (all the way back to your home). Bonus points if you pick up trash you see along the way. Don’t forget to pack out your TP! Just put it in the baggy and toss it away at home. Animals dig it up and it’s unsightly.

Don’t Harass Wildlife

Fun fact: every year someone in Colorado ends up in the hospital because they approach large animals such as elk. Think about it: if you were walking down the street how would you react to a stranger approaching you head on with a camera? Many of these animals, both big and small feel threatened. They are already contending with the impending winter, so observe at a safe distance. Oh and avoid feeding the small critters too! This wrecks havoc on their digestive tract and causes dependency issues that can threaten entire species.

Do Take Lots of Photos!

Look, we aren’t telling you to get out there, walk in a single-file line, and don’t have any fun. The fall is a wonderful time to snap all the Insta-worthy shots (in a responsible way of course!). Select trails that offer viewpoints, or go for a scenic drive that has pullouts. The early bird gets the best light – so be prepared to wake up early and catch some of that beautiful morning light that makes fall photos really pop!

fall hiking

Don’t Forget Proper Trail Etiquette

Trails are friendly places, so say hello to people you pass by. If you see someone litter, gently tell them that they dropped something. Avoid remarks that might not be well received such as “it’s good to see you out here,” or “are you alone?” Simply say hello and move on. If someone wants to have a conversation, they will have it on their own. Remember these tips for trails as well:

  • Uphill hikers have the right away. Move aside if your coming down hill.
  • Stay on the right and pass on the left
  • Horses always have the right of way. Followed by hikers, then by bikers.
  • Avoid listening to music through a speaker. Most people are out here to enjoy nature not jam tunes.

Do Take Someone New Out!

The fall is a great time to introduce someone new to hiking or getting outside. Offer to take a newb out hiking and show them the magic of the season. Pick an easier trail that’s got a cool feature such as an overlook, waterfall, or lake. Pack the snacks and have some fun with your friends outside this fall.

Don’t Forget to Give Back

Acknowledge the land you’re playing in. Simple Google the region followed by “Native Americans” learn some cool history about the place you’re at and ponder what it must have been like to call that place home. Don’t forget to thank the wilderness for giving you the opportunity to visit and do your best to give something back. This could be as simple as picking up a piece of trash. You are not only doing the history of the land a service, but you’re also taking time to pause and reflect on the space in which you’re in. It gives back and leaves you in a meditative space.

scenic fall drives

Do Have Fun

Fall hiking or scenic driving is a wonderful way to get outside and experience the festive feel of the season. Sure, it is also a great time to tackle a tough objective, but it’s also a time to take a step back and enjoy the scenery. Remember, even a gentle jaunt in the mountains can be fun. Don’t get caught up in the hype to chase something epic. Instead take some time to breathe the fresh air and take in the magic of the fall season.

About the Author


Meg Atteberry

Meg ditched the 9-5 world as an architect in pursuit of adventure. Now a freelance writer for the outdoor industry, she’s made it her life’s work to inspire others to say “yes” to adventure. From the remote wilderness areas of Colorado, to exploring a foreign country, Meg specializes in off-beat destinations for the intrepid soul. You can find her in the backcountry searching for the perfect camp spot in her home of Colorado.