Leaves are changing color, and there’s a fresh autumnal smell in the air—what a good excuse to explore the great outdoors! Pull on your hiking boots, grab plenty of water, and perhaps a sweater too—because fall is the perfect season for hitting the trail with your little adventurers. To give you an idea of the adventures that lie ahead, we’ve rounded up the best autumn hikes in the country. From mountain rambles and forested strolls to historic walks and more, you can discover them all in the album below.

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Palomar Mountain State Park – San Diego County, Ca

A nice escape from the bustle of the city, the cool forests and meadows of Palomar Mountain have a similar climate to the Sierra Nevada Mountains many miles to the north, making it a welcome change from the hot temps of this region. Start out on the easy Doane Valley Nature Trail—there are many forks on the trail (make sure you don’t get lost) connecting to other trails and more adventures. If you take the fork to the French Valley Trail you'll wander through woodlands and meadows to a waterfall. If you want to start the littles out on something easier first, check out Best San Diego Hikes for Kids under Five.

Insider Tip: The unusual climate means that some creatures here are unique to Palomar Mountain. Look out for the Palomar Banana Slug—sure, you can find their relatives in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest but these guys are the only banana slugs to survive in SoCal!

Online: palomarsp.org

photo: Abraxas3d via Flickr

Can you recommend a favorite fall hiking spot in your neck of the woods? Tell us about it in the comments below!

— Helen Walker Green