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6 of the Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall

Planning a road trip and looking for affordable attractions? We’re sharing the best national parks to visit in the fall– so grab your national parks pass and let’s hit the road!

red-leafed trees on mountains shrouded by fog in the Smoky Mountains

There are so many amazing national parks across the country that offer exceptional views of fall foliage. In addition to amazing scenery, cool weather makes hiking a breeze and the crowds have started to thin as children return to school. This fall enjoy one of these awesome national parks in the United States.

6 of the Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Boardwalk around a cliff at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is situated in close proximity to both Cleveland and Akron, and one of our favorite day trips from Cleveland. Ohio’s only National Park is an ideal getaway for those in metropolitan northeastern Ohio but also for families from outside the state. With hiking and bike trails, historic properties, and Visitor Centers to explore, you’ll get a sense of the history of the rural community that settled along the Cuyahoga River.

Pack a picnic lunch and hop onboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway which offers fantastic views of the fall foliage, with stops at some of the small towns along the route. Before you go home, stop at the Canal Exploration Center to learn the history of the Ohio & Erie Canal, take a short walk along a paved trail to the Beaver Marsh in the early morning or late afternoon for a chance to spot beavers, and don’t miss Brandywine Falls.

If you’re visiting in the fall you may want to add this fall foliage tour to your to-do list.

Read this sentimental post about my last visit to this national park——–> Why a Simple Train Ride Almost Made Me Cry

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains with fall color on the trees

Due to the higher elevation, you can start seeing amazing fall foliage as early as mid-September in the Great Smoky Mountains. The native yellow birch and mountain maples start to change with cooler temperatures, and the spectacle continues through early November when lower elevation color will peak.

The expansive Great Smoky Mountain range straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and is the country’s most visited national park. You can take in the amazing fall colors through a drive along Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway. In addition to beautiful fall foliage, the park is also known for its wonderful hiking trails, which offer glimpses of waterfalls and wildlife.

You’ll also find plenty to do in nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg when you want to get out of the wilderness and enjoy family-friendly tourist activities. The entire Smoky Mountain Region is filled with outdoor adventures and entertainment!

Acadia National Park

View of fall colors at Acadia National Park

This lovely New England national park has so much to offer in the fall. In addition to a forest of maple, poplar, and birch trees filled with red, orange, and yellow leaves, Acadia National Park includes rocky beaches, wetlands, and granite peaks. This amazing national park also has a long autumn season, stretching from September through October, making it a great option throughout the fall season.

Acadia National Park is perfect for a scenic drive along Park Loop Road, which includes sections of the area’s rugged coastline and forest views. Visitors can also catch a closer glimpse of the scenery through ranger-guided bike and boat tours, in addition to bus and carriage tours. Additionally, the park has a range of wonderful hiking and horseback riding trails perfect for enjoying the fall foliage.

If you have time for a longer trip, consider a longer road trip along the East Coast, with destinations like Portland, Boston, Cape Cod, and Washington D.C.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite's Half Dome summit sprinkled with an early autumn snow

To catch glimpses of beautiful fall foliage in California’s Yosemite National Park, wait until late October. During this time, you can see a variety of golden yellow and dark orange leaves on the park’s black oak trees, in addition to the red and pink leaves of the dogwoods and sugar maples. The park includes almost 1,200 square miles of mountain terrain with high cliffs, deep valleys, wilderness areas, and giant sequoias.

Fall is the perfect time to camp and hike in Yosemite, which offers a huge selection of outdoor activity options. On top of more than 750 miles of hiking trails, the park is also made up of designated wilderness areas perfect for backpacking and camping. For less adventurous visitors, Yosemite also offers guided tours, which is a great way to see the park’s fall colors up close without navigating the park on your own.

Zion National Park

Waterfall and misty clouds against a red rock background at Zion National Park

This Southern Utah park is an amazing place to view fall colors starting in mid-September through mid-October. The ground-level forests filled with shades of red, orange, and yellow are a wonderful backdrop for red sandstone cliffs in Zion National Park. The park offers a free shuttle service throughout the park, which is a great way to view the amazing sites along the way. In addition to interesting ranger presentations at the Zion Human History Museum, there are also several outdoor exhibits throughout the park.

The park is made up of a wilderness area that is perfect for backpacking, canyoneering, and river trips. The area also offers a range of camping options for its fall visitors, making it a wonderful choice for anyone who loves spending time outdoors in the autumn months.

While you’re in Utah, you may also want to check out Bryce Canyon which is also rich in history and has amazing views.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Entrance sign to Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park

This mountainous park offers early views of fall foliage, thanks to its higher elevation. You can start to see the leaves change in mid-September in Rocky Mountain National Park, which features lovely gold aspen trees with a variety of colorful leaves. In addition to the amazing mountain ranges in this Colorado park, you can also enjoy many lakes and rivers throughout the area. The park is home to a variety of scenic mountain roads perfect for viewing fall colors, including Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road.

In addition to driving, you can also view the park’s fall colors up close and personal on one of the park’s hiking or horseback riding trails or while camping in the park’s many campgrounds. Rocky Mountain National Park also offers a ton of outdoor activities during the fall season, including fishing in one of the 50 lakes and streams or wildlife watching. In fact, fall is the perfect time to watch the park’s elk population, which often put on an amusing show during their annual mating season each autumn.

Do you have a favorite park to visit in the fall that isn’t on this list? Share it with us in the comments. 

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6 of the Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall- perfect for fall road trips and outdoor lovers. #nationalparks

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Wednesday 2nd of January 2019

Utah has some of the finest National Parks, Zion is certainly one of the best! Cool blog! Protection Status
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