What better time of year to visit the national parks than fall?
Peak foliage, crispy temperatures and minimal traffic makes for the perfect getaway. These 9 national parks offer the best seasonal colors in America. Discover when and where to plan your leaf peeping trip below.
1. Acadia National Park
Peaking around mid-October, it’s hard to beat the fall foliage in Acadia National Park. Add the 3.3 mile Jordan Pond Path hike to your itinerary and enjoy sweeping views of the park. Take a trolley tour through the recreation center to learn about its rich history and geography. And wake up early to catch the sunrise at the top of Cadillac Mountain. You’ll be first to see the sunrise in the U.S. between the months of October and March.
2. Yosemite National Park
There are countless reasons to visit Yosemite in autumn, but the biggest one is to avoid the crowds. Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks. Unfortunately, that comes with the summer rush, traffic jams and crowded photo ops. Dodge them all and come in the fall instead. After Labor Day weekend, the visitor numbers drop while the weather stays warm enough to hike, bike, and camp.
Yosemite doesn’t have as many vibrant fall colors as parks on the East Coast, but there’s enough foliage to get your fix. Just don’t wait too long or you might have to deal with winter weather driving. Snow usually starts in November.
3. Death Valley National Park
With park temperatures soaring to the triple digits during the summer, Death Valley National Park is best explored in the fall and winter. Stay in nearby Beatty, Nevada, an old-school mining town that’s full of character and just a short drive from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Plan to take in the sunrise at Zabriskie Point, explore the badlands at Twenty Mule Team Canyon and walk the dunes at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Fall colors along the Appalachian Mountains are a sight to behold, and few places are more beautiful than the Smokies. The blue hills of Tennessee and North Carolina turn amazing shades of red, orange, and yellow. Schedule a hike to Clingmans Dome to get a birds-eye view of the colors. And if you plan to visit nearby attractions like Dollywood or Gatlinburg, the cooler temps in the fall make for a more enjoyable travel experience too.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
Fall in Colorado brings refreshing mountain weather perfect for outdoor activities. But the real selling point of fall in the Rockies are the aspen tree leaves changing to a golden yellow hue. It’s a pretty unique look, much different from what East Coasters have come to expect. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife out and about on your visit, we have good news. Fall is elk mating season, so be sure to bring a camera or pair of binoculars.
6. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park’s fall season is a great time to visit for those who enjoy fewer crowds, active wildlife and views of trees turning colors. According to the National Park Service, the trees in the west side of the park begin changing color mid-September, and on the east side, fall color appears more towards the end of September and beginning of October. The last color change of the season is when the larch trees turn a gold color in mid-October.
7. Grand Canyon National Park
Travelers flock to the canyon in autumn to capture splashes of color on an unbelievably beautiful landscape. Mild temperatures from September through November make fall the ideal time to plan your adventure. Whether you bring your hiking poles and explore the depths of the Grand Canyon, or plan to just drive through the park, there’s something for everyone here at Grand Canyon National Park.
8. Everglades National Park
Avoid the hot and sticky summer months and come to the Everglades in the Fall when the weather is cooler. Take an airboat ride through the swamps, get up close and personal with the alligators, enjoy an authentic Everglades meal, or go for a hike on the Pine Island Trails. For the more hardcore travelers, you may consider the Tamiami Trail, which includes a 15 mile bike ride, a 3 mile walk and a 3 mile kayaking route.
9. Mount Rainier National Park
Mt. Rainier is one of America’s most stunning volcanoes and an icon of the Pacific Northwest’s dreamy landscape. Mount Rainier National Park draws fall visitors for a landscape washed in vibrant oranges, reds and yellows. The best time to visit the park is mid October to November. And the most beautiful displays can be found at Sunrise and Chinook Pass, the Paradise area, Reflection Lakes, Bench and Snow Lake and Grove of the Patriarchs.
Interested in purchasing an annual pass and saving money on entrance fees? Order one online ahead of your visit. It covers you and all passengers in your vehicle (including rental car or RV). Just a single trip nearly covers the cost of the pass. Get it now.