I LOVE Memorial Day weekend! To me this three-day weekend signifies the unofficial kickoff to…
8 of the Best National Parks to Visit in Fall
This fall, why not check out a National Park?
Fall is a great time to travel— summer travel season has ended, the kids are back in school, and you’ll typically find great travel deals reflecting that. Not sure which are the best national parks to visit in fall? Read on!
Yosemite/Redwood National Parks
Even though neither park really explodes with fall colors, autumn is a great time to visit these northern California spots. Why? They’re less crowded. That’s good news for people who like to experience nature without traffic jams and tons of other people photobombing your selfies. All areas of Yosemite remain open through October (sometimes November). Redwood National Park is open year-round, however, it does rain quite a bit October – April, so dress accordingly. If you have a week, it might be fun to hit up both with a stop in wine country or San Francisco in between.
Acadia National Park
As a born-and-bred northeasterner, I love New England in the fall. One of the best spots for color has to be Acadia’s National Park. If you’re looking for a fun hike, try Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast. You’ll get sweeping views of the coastline and the bold tree tops. Forget your hiking boots? No problem, you can drive almost all the way to the summit. Early birds arrive (with coffee in hand) in both fall and spring) to witness the nation’s “first sunrise.” Fall foliage and sunrise means getting a two birds-with-one-stone natural beauty fix! The state of Maine knows people are serious about their fall color viewing, so they’ve created an official fall foliage website. How great is that?
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Just a short drive from both Akron and Cleveland, Cuyahoga National Park feels a world away from the city. In autumn, you’ll see brilliant sugar maple reds and brown oaks along roads and hiking trails. The Brandywine Gorge Trail is one of the best places to soak up the park’s natural beauty. Hike to the 65-foot Brandywine Falls for spectacular views. Not so into hiking? Hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which runs in both summer and fall.
Shenandoah/Great Smoky Mountain National Parks
Fall is one of the most popular times to visit these spectacular parks. It’s easy to see why—as far as the eye can see, it’s vibrant sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgums, red maples, and hickories. I advise starting at one, then driving the Blue Ridge Parkway to the other. You’ll experience all the fall colors and spectacular views and can even plan a night or two in Asheville—one of my favorite cities. The Blue Ridge Parkway Association offers excellent advice on things to do along the route and tips for accommodations, adventure activities, food recommendations, and more.
Grand Teton National Park
When I see photos of the Grand Tetons in the fall, I can’t help but think of PBS artist Bob Ross. Fiery fall colors set against the majestic Grand Tetons, all reflected in a crystal-clear lake—it’s exactly what I’d picture good ol’ Bob painting. Venture there in mid-October for the full-color spectrum. You’re also likely to see elk spar, hear their mating “bugle” (funny—I didn’t know it was called that!), and bears looking for their last supper before their long slumber. Store your food appropriately, you don’t want that meal to be you! Be sure to spend some time in Jackson, a place I adore and can’t wait to return to. Here are a few of my favorite stops in that western town.
Olympic National Park
When you think fall, you probably think of colors. At Olympic National Park, autumn means something else: salmon spawning season. Look on as the Coho salmon leap up the Sol Duc and Quillayute rivers—it’s like a real-life IMAX movie! Coho leave the Pacific for the Sol Duc River, leaping over cascades en route to their spawning grounds. According to the National Parks Service, the best viewing locations include the Salmon Cascades in the Sol Duc River in October, and the small tributary of the Hoh River, accessed by the Hoh Visitor Center nature trail in November and December.
What do you think are the best national parks to visit in the fall?
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Yellowstone is amazing in fall,so is smoky mountains in Tennessee
I would add Denali National Park & Preserve in Alaska to your list. Imagine entire mountainsides turning hues of gold, orange and red from the changing leaves of alpine tundra, and that’s what you get in Denali. In addition to the incredible fall colors, it is also a peak activity time for wildlife as they migrate and forage for winter (caribou, moose, bears and wolves). It is also dark enough to see the aurora borealis – something you likely won’t see in any of the other parks on your list in the autumn. Simply Google “Denali national park autumn photos” and you will get a sampling. You can also visit the Denali National Park gallery on my website. However, autumn in Denali occurs much earlier than those Lower 48 parks. Peak colors are typically end of August, first few days of September.
Utah’s parks (Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands and Arches) are fabulous in the fall. Yellow cottonwood trees, clear skies, comfortable temps, and no crowds. My favorite place on earth!
Glacier National Park is stunning as well. The leaves are changing and the crowds are gone.
How about Mt. Rainier National Park?