The Best National Parks in the US to Visit in the Fall and When to Go

Fall gradually replaces summer. Cooler weather and the leaf-color change emphasize the attractiveness of that new season. In fact, a lot of people look forward to the lush, green trees turning shades of orange, crimson, and yellow.

Even though this spectacular change in color happens every autumn, for those who love the outdoors, it never gets old, especially since there always appear to be new sites to enjoy the amazing fall foliage. There are many beautiful scenic areas in the US for readers looking for perspectives outside of their immediate area. Here are the greatest national parks for fall foliage and when to visit them, to help you plan your calendar of colors.

#1 Yosemite National Park, California


Yosemite National Park in California is almost famous for its waterfalls, which include Bridalveil, Nevada, and Vernal. Ah, but there’s a lot more to see here than just waterfalls since it covers 759,620 acres. With more than five million visitors, the park did in fact establish a new record for visits. You should know that some of them came to take in the fall scenery.

The peak season, which begins in the middle of October, is the greatest time to observe all the colors. Because at that time, trees like Pacific dogwoods and big-leaf maples start to softly develop orange and yellow undertones. However, before you go, be careful to check the park’s website because starting in 2020, reservations were needed to tour the park during busy times.

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#2 Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

wyoming park

This national park is located right in the center of Jackson. The total area of this park is 310,000 acres. It provides guests with beautiful lakefront views in addition to some breathtaking mountain scenery.

Visitors who enjoy the color of the leaves should go between early September and mid-October. The elevation of the park affects when the colors change. Mind course, the weather has a big impact on the leaves too.

Temperatures tend to decrease earlier, which accelerates the shift in foliage color. In fact, the colors are less bright or fall off the trees earlier when it rains too much or when the temperature drops too low. In general, the trees do best in lots of sunlight and comfortable temperatures. In a perfect world, entire groves shift at once. Different hues of gold, orange, red, and yellow will be visible.

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#3 Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

cuyahoga valley ohio

Between Cleveland and Akron, along the Cuyahoga River, is where you’ll find this 32,572-acre park. The third week of October is the greatest time to view the leaves here. As the temperature drops and the amount of daylight diminishes, frost forms on the leaves, which causes a sharp decline in fall foliage as winter draws near.

Those in the know advise using the Brandywine Gorge Trail for a hike to Brandywine Falls. Here, late afternoon is the optimum time to take pictures of the leaves. Need I say more? Check out the sights of the valley while hiking the Ledges Trails. Indigo Lake, the Oak Hill Trail, the Octagon Shelter access road, and Pine Hollow are other excellent possibilities.

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#4 Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

shenandoah national park

If you enjoy Virginia, you should visit the Shenandoah National Park, which covers approximately 80,000 acres and includes a portion of the untamed Blue Ridge Mountains. The well-known, 105-mile-long Skyline Drive serves as the primary park road if you decide to keep with your automobile. A large portion of the rugged ridgeline is seen there.

Expansive The scenery in Shenandoah National Park extends over 100 kilometers. And as autumn draws near, the foliage all around the country changes to vivid hues of orange, red, and yellow. The greatest time to view the fall foliage varies according to sources.

Some claim that color changes can be seen as early as September. According to other reports, the higher elevations’ leaves don’t even start to change until early October. By the middle of October, the many hues have descended the hills and entered the lush valleys.

Hilltops become brown by the end of October. Fortunately, during the height of the season, this park has a special “fall color webcam” where visitors may observe the weekly leaf-changing process. You can use that to organize your trip as well.

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#5 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park And Preserve, Alaska

alaska autumn

That much is true. The foliage can vary in even the coldest regions of the US. This park and preserve were established in 1980, and they are located close to Copper Center in south-central Alaska.

Large in size, this state park and preserve span 13,175,799+ acres. It is actually bigger than nine US states combined. The majority of the numerous facilities are open from May to September, however it is open all year long.

From late August to early September is when the leaves turn color here. Do you feel energized? Additionally, there are opportunities for camping, hiking, hunting, kayaking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and trapping nearby. Just be sure to order the necessary licenses and documents in advance!

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#6 Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

mount rainier

Mount Rainier, a snow-capped dormant volcano, is located about 80 miles south of Seattle. On its 236,381 acres, the equivalent park is home to forests, lava fields, waterfalls, and even glaciers. Here, the changing of the leaves starts in September.

Reflection Lakes, which is located on Stevens Canyon Road, is a fantastic location to view the multicolored trees, bushes, and plants. The colors that reflect on a clear day are delightfully bright. Hike the Skyline Loop Trail if you’re up for it. Over five miles long and difficult, it is also an excellent route to observe other well-known natural attractions including Tatoosh Peaks, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams.

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#7 Congaree National Park, South Carolina

south carolina autumn

You could rent a boat in the fall and paddle about Cedar Creek, or you could visit one of South Carolina’s contributions to the top national parks for autumnal scenery. This national park covers roughly 26, 693 acres of land. 18 miles to the southeast of Columbia, the state capital, is where it is located.

The largest area of recognized “old growth bottomland hardwood forest” now standing in the US is actually preserved by this park. Its rich floodplain forest is home to some of eastern America’s tallest trees, according to reports. They provide one of the “highest temperate deciduous forest canopies” in the entire world. The end of October to early November is when you may see the golden yellow colours here at their peak.

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#8 Glacier National Park, Montana

glacier national park montana

The US-Canada border is where Glacier National Park is located. Over a million acres make up its surface. You can tell this must be one of the top national parks for fall foliage because there are over 1,000 different varieties of healthy plants here. In this park of more than 1500 square miles, there are in fact multiple peak fall foliage seasons.

There are two “falls” here each year. At two distinct times, two groups of trees undergo color changes. In the middle of September, the aspen and cottonwood trees of lower elevation, which are frequently found along the river, turn golden and orange-gold. The Tamarack or Western Larch trees become golden in the middle of October before losing their needles.

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#9 Acadia National Park, Maine

acadia autumn

The renowned Mount Desert Island is where the Acadia National Park is primarily located. The park is actually a distinctive fusion of private property, parkland, and beach settlements. Because it encompasses both the sea and the mountains, this national park has a lot to offer its tourists.

Additionally, there are campgrounds, stunning beaches, and more than 100 miles of well-traveled hiking paths. Visitors who enjoy the fall should go in the first half of October. It is amazing to see how the leaves of the hardwood trees change color in juxtaposition to the dense, dark evergreens and the azure of the ocean.

Drive your automobile along the 27-mile loop road starting at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, stopping at several of the views and viewpoints along the way. Hike the park’s ancient, unpaved carriage lanes to get a closer look.

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#10 Olympic National Park, Washington

olympic national park

This well-known park spans 922,650 acres. It has four distinct sections. They are the Pacific coast, the rainforest on the west side, the east side’s woods, and the alpine regions.

Fall foliage enthusiasts claim that by the middle of October, the trees in this area are frequently covered in the customary moss as well as, more importantly, a multicolored mixture of orange, yellow, and red leaves. They also mention that the process begins at higher elevations along the Pacific coast in the middle of September.

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#11 The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, And Tennessee

smoky mountains 1

522,419 acres in Tennessee and North Carolina make up the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is due to the fact that the land crosses the ridgelines of the Great Smoky Mountains, a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains. Here, mid-October to early November is when you may view the fall foliage at its most beautiful.

Veteran tourists claim that the mid- and lower-level elevations offer the greatest views of the 4,000+ miles of fall foliage. More than 100 different tree species, including the scarlet oak, sugar maple, and sweetgum trees, reach their attractive peak here. Watch as the green turns into various shades of orange, red, yellow, and even purple.

Plan your trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

#12 Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

rocky mountain

In the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in the state’s north-central region, is the well-known Rocky Mountain National Park. This beautiful park is more precisely situated halfway between the cities of Grandt Lake and Este Park. Its size is 265,461 acres.

This is a fantastic location to take in the stunning fall foliage if you’ve come to do so at a high elevation. More than 415 square kilometers of aspen trees and plants can be found here, which steadily turn golden yellow, orange, scarlet, and brown before the first snowfall.

Plan your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

#13 Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas


Regular readers may already be aware that the well-known area in central Garland County next to the city of the same name is well-known for its hot springs and is an excellent location for camping and trekking. The fact that this 5,550-acre hotspot is also one of the top national parks for fall foliage may not be as well known.

It’s crucial to be aware that by early October, the leaves in the northern part of the state begin to change color, which will aid you in making arrangements. They change between the end of October and the beginning of November everywhere else in the state, including the central region where this particular park is located. Decide accordingly when to visit next.

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#14 Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

capitol reef national park

This national park, which was founded in 1971, is around 60 miles long and only six miles wide. Desert terrain covers 241,904 acres of it. Even though it’s open all year, May to September is when most visitors arrive. Fortunately, here the leaves don’t start turning golden orange until about the end of September. Around Halloween, the change comes to an end. Dedicated foliage enthusiasts claim that early October is the greatest time to go leaf-peeping in this area.

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#15 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, And Idaho

yellowstone autumn

Due to its size, this national park spans three states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. More than 3,500 square miles make up its size. It is also the oldest national park in the nation and served as the model for Yogi Bear’s well-known Jellystone Park.

The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring and the nearly iconic geyser Old Faithful are two of Yellowstone’s most well-known attractions. Ah, but despite the fact that it has less trees than other national parks, every year the various plants and even the grassland turn a stunning golden color. In fact, the greatest time to visit if you want to see this phenomenon is from the last week of September to the first week of October.

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