Appalachian Trail, Virginia
Elk Garden to Grayson Highlands State Park; 20 miles, out and back
There's no more iconic trail in the U.S. than the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, and this section, which begins at the high-mountain gap known as Elk Garden, offers some of the best late-fall color in the country. It's also one of the few places in the southern Appalachian Mountains that affords sweeping views of the surrounding hillsides, thanks to mountaintop balds — crests that are covered in grass and low wildflowers instead of trees. "It's the only place on the Appalachian Trail that reminds me of out West," says Warren Doyle, director of the Appalachian Trail Institute. "Rocky outcrops, wide-open spaces, people on horseback — it almost feels like Montana."
Where to Camp: Overnight in Grayson Highlands State Park at the Wilson Creek/Wise Shelter, which is a popular spot for AT thru-hikers — who'll be long gone by this time of year.