At AMC, we love fall. It’s why we hold our annual FallFest. And it’s why we think you should use the season to springboard your next big outdoor adventure.
Autumn is a great time for almost any outdoor activity. Enjoy crisp mornings in the tent then sunny days on the trail. Go kayaking in September and skiing in November. But recreation in the fall brings unique considerations. Temperatures change quickly from the start of the season to the end, or even from the base of a mountain to treeline. Days are getting shorter, and nights are getting colder.
Here’s what you need to know for adventuring during this special time of year.
It isn’t fall in the Northeast without the foliage. Leaves on many trees in the Northeast change from green to brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Shorter days slow the production of chlorophyll, the chemical that makes leaves green. The timing of this transition is also influenced by environmental factors like temperature and rainfall. Which means that “peak” foliage, the brief window of time when leaves in an area display most brilliantly, can vary from place to place. In mountainous areas, peak foliage may arrive earlier at higher elevations.
Whether you want to take in the trails during peak foliage or avoid crowds of leaf-peepers, you’ll need to plan. A tool like AMC’s Fall Foliage Tracker can give you an idea of on-the-ground conditions. If you want to beat the crowds at popular sites, remember that there are lots of ways to get outdoors. Take a bike ride through falling leaves, or a trip somewhere new. It’s also not too late to plan a fall getaway to a number of AMC Destinations throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Get Ready for Shoulder Season
Fall fun doesn’t end when the leaves hit the ground. “Shoulder season” is that time in late autumn when it’s getting colder, but ski season hasn’t arrived. While some folks may already be dreaming of fresh powder, there’s still plenty of opportunities to get outside. Just be sure to come prepared. Some considerations include:
- Footing and Traction: Late autumn brings two new obstacles: fallen leaves and potential ice. Fallen leaves can pile up and obscure tripping hazards like rocks, roots, and holes. You may also find the season’s first ice and snow at higher elevations. Consider packing a pair of microspikes.
- Shorter Days: It happens incrementally, until one day you notice it: the sun is setting early. Know when the sunset is and plan your outing accordingly. Even if you leave yourself plenty of time, bring a light source that isn’t a cell phone, like a flashlight or headlamp. Cell phones aren’t dependable because they lose battery quickly, especially in variable temperatures.
- Weather: The temperature at the start of your hike may not be the temperature later in the hike, especially if you’re gaining in elevation.
Anything can happen on the trail, no matter the season. Pack the 10 Essentials, whether you plan to spend the night in the backcountry or not. For more information, check out our tips for shoulder season safety.
Dress for Success
One day you’re in a winter coat, the next a T-shirt. Welcome to autumn in the Northeast. Conditions change quickly as the calendar moves from summer to winter. At higher elevations, you may be surprised to find you need more winter clothes than expected, like hats, gloves, and insulated clothes.
The best way to make sure you’re not caught unprepared is to practice the advice of AMC’s Professional Guides and “dress like an onion.” In other words: Layering. Start light to avoid overheating, then add or remove clothes as needed. Pack the coat you don’t think you’ll need. It could keep you safe and comfortable later in the day. Guests at the AMC Highland Center can check out boots, outerwear, snowshoes, and more, generously provided by L.L. Bean, from the gear room free of charge.
Understand Outdoor Skills
Fall is a great time to pick up a new activity, from canoeing to rock climbing, or brush up on skills that you haven’t used in a while.
- Hitting the Books: Before you can start practicing a skill, you’ll need to understand the fundamentals. AMC’s Outdoor Skills books are a great resource to get you there. Learn how to identify wildlife on the trail, or even cook your own meals in the backcountry. There’s a book to get you started!
- Working With a Guide: A little bit of help can go a long way. AMC chapters across the region offer local volunteer-led trips and workshops that will get you ready for your next adventure. Or take your trip with AMC’s professional Outdoor Guides in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Guided Adventures are available year-round and include a range of all-inclusive programs covering outdoor skills. You can also design your own custom adventure with help from our staff – contact a guide to get started.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that leaves aren’t the only thing changing in the autumn months. Dropping temperatures, shorter days, and variable weather can complicate any trip. Fortunately, with the right preparation and equipment, you can continue to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities while looking ahead to days of snowy fun.