10 National Parks Everyone Needs to Visit This Fall

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Grand Canyon glows in a fall sunset.

The fall season is upon us. So get your apple cider and donuts, and let’s chat about national parks! 

They’re a coveted American destination. While you can visit most year-round, autumn brings a particular fondness unlike other times of the year. Leaves are changing color, and the air is crisp. 

In this article, we look at ten national parks to put on your fall road trip bucket list. So get your hiking boots and cameras ready! 

What Is a National Park?

A national park is an area of land designated by the federal government to preserve the natural environment. They conserve the plants, trees, animals, waterways, and land within the area’s boundaries. 

National parks are also public lands, meaning people can visit. Parks vary in what they offer, from hiking trails and backcountry camping to camping and guided tours. Most national parks require a fee for entry, but it’s usually small. 

Why Should You Visit National Parks in the Fall?

The fall season equals fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. With kids back in school after the busy summer season, the number of park visitors slows down. And if you see a national park with trees and foliage that change colors in the autumn, it can be one of the most beautiful times of year to explore the park. 

People often call it a “fall color tour.” If you take such a trip, you’ll soon understand why. 

10 National Parks Everyone Needs to Visit This Fall

Let’s look at ten national parks worth visiting during the fall. From the northeast to the west coast, this is a great lineup. 

#1. Acadia National Park, Maine

The Acadia National Park sign with colorful trees in the back is a great place to visit in the Fall.

About Acadia: Acadia National Park is near Bar Harbor, Maine. It sits on the Atlantic Ocean and Somes Sound with inland lakes in the park. The national park has numerous habitats that you can experience via 158 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads. 

September is an ideal time to go for beautiful fall foliage and a comfortable climate. The temperatures in October and November can drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and under 40 degrees at night.

Best Fall Activities: Hiking through the forests and along the rocky coastline is an excellent fall activity. If you’re there while the leaves change colors, the views are spectacular. Driving through the park and looking for wildlife is also popular. 

#2. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

A woman near a waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall.

About Rocky Mountain: Rocky Mountain National Park is the pride of Colorado. It comprises 415 square miles with peaks over 12,000 feet. You can enjoy over 300 miles of hiking trails in the park to enjoy the ecosystems, wildflowers, wildlife, and epic panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains.  

Colorado is a sunny state, so even if it’s chilly during the fall, you can still get the most out of the park. Early to mid-September is when the aspens trees show their brilliant golden colors, but you’ll still see some later on in the season. 

Best Fall Activities: Drives through the park and hiking are the best fall activities. There are great chances to see the various mammals that inhabit the park. Elk, moose, and deer are just a few of the wildlife to watch for.

#3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

A dark tree lined trail in the fall in the smoky mountains is a great place to explore and hike.

About Great Smoky Mountain: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect backdrop for a fall color tour. From forests to waterfalls and wildlife to mountains, the habitats of the park are diverse. The national park has around 100 species of native trees. 

Fall colors show up above 4,000 feet in the park from early to mid-October. The fall color peak at mid and lower elevations is between mid-October and early November. You’ll get to see vibrant colors on sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and hickory trees.

Best Fall Activities: A drive through the park is the ultimate way to take in the fall colors. If you can, stop at the many lookout points to take photos. To view colors above 4,000 feet, drive along Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway.

Pro Tip: There’s even more to see and do in beyond the national park here, and we can help you plan your RV trip to the Smoky Mountains.

#4. Arches National Park, Utah

A man kneels beneath a giant stone arch in Arches National Park.

About Arches: Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of pinnacles, massive rock fins, and giant balanced rocks. The red rocks will leave you in awe and are a photographer’s dream. A hike through the park in the fall is ideal and will be more comfortable than in summer. 

Visit the park anytime in September, October, or November, and there will be fewer crowds and cooler temperatures.

Best Fall Activities: Photographing the arches in the fall is a popular activity. You can get some great sunset shots in the cooler post-summer air. Stargazing is also a favorite when the sky is clear and it gets dark earlier in the evening.

#5. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Colorful fall foliage reflecting in a mountain lake in Virginia. Sherando Lake Shenandoah Valley Blue Ridge Mountains.

About Shenandoah: Shenandoah National Park has over 200,000 acres of waterfalls, wooded hollows, birds, deer, and black bears. Fall is one of the best seasons to visit for the colorful leaves. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, or backpacking through the park are all activities that will get you up close and personal with the foliage. 

While the fall season draws fewer crowds to most parks, it’s the busiest time of year at Shenandoah National Park. Weekends between September and November bring a lot of people to the park. So we recommend visiting during the week. 

Best Fall Activities: Cruising Skyline Drive is one of the best fall activities. The drive is 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the park. It will take you approximately three hours to travel the entire journey on a clear day, and it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is one of the best ways to take in the fall colors in all their glory. Skyline Drive may close if there’s inclement weather, but you can still enter the park on foot in that case.

#6. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Yellow autumnal trees cover the base of the cold grey Teton mountains covered in snow.

About Grand Teton: Grand Teton National Park is full of wildlife, lakes, and the alpine terrain for the Teton Range. There are over 200 miles of trails to hike in the park and along the Snake River. With the backdrop of the Grand Teton Mountains, the fall colors in the garden look like a painting.

September is the best time to enjoy autumn in the national park. Wintery weather can be present in October. 

Best Fall Activities: Camping, hiking, and wildlife tours are popular fall activities in the park. And if you like to fish, the fall is an excellent time for fly fishing. You can also ride the aerial tram for panoramic views of the landscape.  

#7. Yosemite National Park, California

An orange glow descends into the Yosemite Valley in the fall making it a great National Park to visit.

About Yosemite: Yosemite National Park has 1,200 square miles of beauty. Throughout the park, you’ll find large meadows, waterfalls, ancient giant sequoias, and wildlife. There are countless things to do in Yosemite, from hiking to birdwatching and so much more.

The national park remains open through October and sometimes in November, depending on the weather. However, we recommend planning your fall trip here during September and October. Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain open to cars year-round, but tire chains may be required if there’s snow or ice.

Best Fall Activities: The best fall activities in the national park are hiking and seeing the sequoias. Since most of the trees in the park are evergreens, color tours are not a top activity, but you’ll still see color on maple, oak, and dogwood trees around mid-October.

Pro Tip: Book your stay at this beautiful Yosemite Lakes RV Resort of the Thousand Trails System.

#8. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The grand canyon has a colorful sunset that glows especially beautiful in the fall.

About Grand Canyon: Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most epic national parks in the country. Hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon is highly memorable. The south rim has a shuttle system as well. With endless sightseeing in the park, staying in the campground can maximize your visit.  

The south rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round. However, the north rim closes in mid-October. After Labor Day, there are typically fewer crowds in the park, with weekends being fuller than weekdays.

Best Fall Activities: Hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon in the fall is one of the best activities. The colorful hues of the rocks pop and the sunsets are spectacular. Temperatures are cooler in the fall with significant wind chill, so hikes below the rim are a lot more comfortable this time of year.

#9. Zion National Park, Utah

Leaves blow over the road traveling along the red rock cliffs in Zion National Park.

About Zion: Zion National Park has sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red. They’re heightened in the fall light and cooler air. Zion Canyon inhabits various plants and animals. 

Fall is the perfect time to visit the park with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures for hiking. 

Best Fall Activities: Taking a scenic drive is a popular activity. You can also do a sunset Jeep tour to see the colors dance off the sandstone. In addition, hiking the trails in the fall is a refreshing way to see the park.

#10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

About Cuyahoga Valley: Cuyahoga Valley National Park is magical during the fall with its forest, rolling hills, meadows, and waterfalls. People enjoy walking the Towpath Trail in the park to follow the historic route of the Ohio and Erie Canals. 

The colors will hit their peak in the park around early to mid-October. Watch the color forecast, as the exact timing of the leaves changing can vary in the midwest. 

Best Fall Activities: Taking a scenic train ride through the park is a great way to take in the fall colors. We also recommend hiking or biking so you can stop and observe along the way. 

What Are Your Favorite Autumn Destinations?

You can see why we think everyone needs to visit these national parks in the fall. Which are you most interested in checking off your list? And if you’ve been to one or more, which do you want to go back to? 

We enjoy going back to national parks we’ve visited, as there’s always something new that we missed on the previous visit. National parks offer so much beauty, education, history, and wonder. 

We hope you can visit a national park this fall. Let us know where you go!

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