Avoid the crowds and catch a meteor shower or monarch butterfly migration on these perfect autumnal treks
If you tend to put away your camping gear for the long haul as fall rolls around, you’re missing out on one of the best backpacking seasons. Why? Because in autumn, the heat, mosquitos, wildfires, and vacation crowds have all died down, and you stand a chance at having fall foliage, butterfly migrations, and meteor showers all to yourself.
Grand Gulch Primitive Area, Utah
Southern Utah is notoriously crowded and hot midsummer. But by early fall, the national parks and slots canyons empty out, the temperatures settle down to a tolerable level, and the cottonwoods light up yellow, making it the perfect time for a multiday journey through the high desert. Grand Gulch, the largest canyon on the Cedar Mesa plateau, has more than 50 miles of trails, stunning slickrock, and ancestral Puebloan ruins to explore. You’ll need a permit from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station for day hikes and overnights, or sign up for Four Season Guides’ four-day, 25-mile backpacking trip in late October, and they’ll take care of logistics, food, and gear ($1,100).
Trinity Alps, California
The Trinity Alps, between the Coast Range and the Cascades in Northern California, is a haven for backpackers, thanks to its 525,000 acres of rugged wilderness and some 550 miles of trails, including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. In fall, you’ll avoid the pesky mosquitos that swarm the region in midsummer. If you’d like a guide, Wild Beginnings Adventure Co. leads a 15-mile, two-night trip ($375) from the Boulder Lakes trailhead in early October and will provide meals and camping gear.