When the leaves start turning, the National Park becomes cloaked in dramatic autumnal hues of red and yellow. It’s a fantastic time of year to get outside and explore the scenery. Whether you prefer wildlife watching, sticking to a well-trodden trail or pursuing your own path, there are plenty of opportunities for an autumn adventure!
Walking grade: Easy
The most famous walk in the Cowal Peninsula becomes ever-more enchanting in the autumn months. Walking along forest roads and footpaths, you’ll pass through the magical Puck’s Glen, past a tumbling burn, burbling rock pools and ancient trees covered in lichen and mosses. Light-footed walkers might be lucky enough to spot a red squirrel (or perhaps a fairy!). The gorge trail is 1.75 miles (2.8 km) and you should allow 1-2 hours to complete it.
It’s well worth continuing on to Benmore Botanic Gardens, which is home to a world-famous collection of plants and trees that turn magnificently bright this time of year. In particular, the flaming-red leaves of the Japanese maple around The Pond are sure to impress. Guided walks are available throughout October.
Walking grade: Easy – moderate
The Loch Ard Sculpture Trail is great fun for all the family. There are 16 miles of forest trails along the loch, perfect for walking or cycling and taking in the view. The tranquil loch shore is lined with trees such as Norway spruce, birch and rowan, the colours of which are reflected beautifully in the glassy loch. With Ben Lomond’s shoulder looming in the background, it’s the perfect spot for photographers hoping to take a painterly picture.
There are alternative walks for all abilities in this area. For more information, you can visit The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, which has plenty of leaflets and information to help you plan your day. The Lodge is also a great place to watch for wildlife; visitors can check out the Red Squirrel Hide as well as live camera feeds featuring ospreys, red squirrels, water voles and other amazing creatures found in the Forest Park.
Walking grade: Moderate
Once known as the ‘hidden glen’, the stunning Glen Falloch is scattered with mature Scots pine. Although these evergreen trees are impressive all year round, the area takes on a particular charm in the autumn, when the surrounding deciduous trees shed their leaves and give prominence to these most southerly remnants of the ancient Scottish pinewoods.
For a great day’s walking, you could join a section of the West Highland Way. You can head north from Inverarnan to the atmospheric Falls of Falloch and beyond to see the area’s Scots pines. Autumn is a great time to visit the Falls, as this popular beauty spot can get very busy during the summer months.
Alternatively, from Inverarnan, you can head south on the West Highland Way route to Inversnaid, where you’ll find another stunning waterfall and hotel with refreshments. This 6.8-mile (10.9 km) section really explodes with colour above the loch waters in autumn.
Walking grade: Challenging
Glen Finglas is one of the highlights of the Trossachs, and has a varied network of waymarked trails to suit all abilities. You can download the Great Trossachs Forest app for walking routes, points of interest and information about the vital work carried out in this area by Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB and the Woodland Trust. In autumn, the leaves of the downy birch, aspen, rowan and hazel all begin to change colour as the trees ready themselves for winter.
For those looking for a more challenging walk, the Mell Circuit is a great way to explore the area. The 16.75-mile (27 km) trail takes around seven hours to complete and will take you past rushing streams and beautiful woodland, with a fantastic view of the glen from the high pass of the Mell.
The site, which incorporates woodland, heathland, grassland and marshland, provides habitat for a wide variety of species. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a pine marten, otter or black grouse.
If you’re planning a trip to the National Park this autumn, why not consider what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint?