Blake Walsh

15 Best US National Parks to Visit in Late Fall

  • Published 2023/11/19

Late fall is a magical time to visit the national parks of the United States.

As the crowds thin out and the foliage turns to vivid hues of orange, red, and yellow, the parks offer a unique blend of tranquility and natural beauty.

This article explores the top 15 national parks to visit during this enchanting season.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee/North Carolina

Sean Pavone /

The Great Smoky Mountains are renowned for their autumnal splendor.

The park’s scenic drives, such as the Newfound Gap Road, become corridors of vibrant fall colors.

Popular trails like the Alum Cave Trail offer stunning views, and the cooler temperatures make wildlife spotting more frequent.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park in California

Benny Marty /

Yosemite in late fall is a serene haven, free from the summer crowds.

Key attractions like Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, and Half Dome take on a peaceful aura.

The crisp air is perfect for hiking and capturing stunning photographs of the park’s iconic landscapes.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park in Utah

Kris Wiktor /

Zion’s dramatic cliffs and canyons are striking against the backdrop of autumn colors.

Trails like the Riverside Walk and the more challenging Angels Landing offer breathtaking views.

The park also hosts ranger-led programs that enrich the visitor experience.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park in Maine

Skyler Ewing /

Acadia National Park embodies the essence of New England’s fall foliage.

Visitors can drive along the Park Loop Road or hike up Cadillac Mountain for panoramic views of the changing leaves.

The serene Jordan Pond is a must-visit spot for a peaceful autumn stroll.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

Javen /

The Grand Canyon in late fall offers a different perspective, with mild weather and fewer tourists.

The South Rim remains open and offers spectacular views, while the North Rim closes in late October but is accessible for day use until the snows arrive, offering solitude and pristine scenery.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

Vladimir Grablev /

Shenandoah is spectacular in late fall, with Skyline Drive offering over 100 miles of stunning vistas through the heart of the park.

The park’s numerous trails, like the Old Rag Mountain hike, are ideal for experiencing the vibrant fall foliage up close.

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park in Washington

Jakapong Paoprapat /

Olympic National Park’s diverse ecosystems, from rainforests to mountain vistas, make it a unique fall destination.

The Hoh Rain Forest and Hurricane Ridge are particularly stunning in autumn. Wildlife, including elk and deer, are more visible as they prepare for winter.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

P.A.12 /

The park’s golden aspens and snow-capped peaks are a hallmark of Colorado’s autumn.

Trail Ridge Road offers incredible vistas, and the park’s numerous trails are perfect for experiencing the crisp mountain air and fall colors.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Ysbrand Cosijn /

The cooler temperatures of late fall make Joshua Tree National Park an ideal destination.

The park is known for its unique desert landscapes, and the clear, cool nights are perfect for stargazing.

The Hidden Valley and Keys View offer short but scenic hikes.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park in Montana

Janice Chen /

Before winter fully sets in, Glacier National Park is a quiet wonderland.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road and Lake McDonald offer spectacular autumn views, and the park’s abundant wildlife, including bears and mountain goats, are preparing for the winter.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

Danita Delimont /

Bryce Canyon’s iconic hoodoos and vast canyons are accentuated by the fall colors.

The park offers unparalleled views from lookouts like Sunrise and Sunset Points, and the Rim Trail provides an easy way to enjoy the park’s unique geology.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio

thanasarn /

This park offers a beautiful autumnal display along the Cuyahoga River.

The Towpath Trail and Brandywine Falls are great for experiencing the park’s fall beauty.

The area is also a haven for bird watchers and nature photographers.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Danita Delimont /

The dramatic backdrop of the Teton Range is even more striking with the contrast of autumn colors.

Wildlife viewing is at its peak, with moose and elk frequently spotted.

Scenic spots like Jenny Lake and Snake River are must-visit locations.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park in Utah

Kamil Kubalik /

Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural stone arches that stand out against the clear autumn sky.

Popular spots like Delicate Arch provide memorable hikes, and the cooler weather makes exploring the park’s vast landscape more enjoyable.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Kelly vanDellen /

Known for its remarkable geothermal features, Lassen Volcanic National Park in late fall offers a unique experience.

The park’s geysers and hot springs are set against a backdrop of autumn colors, and the clear nights are perfect for stargazing.

Final Thoughts

Visiting these national parks in late fall offers a unique opportunity to see them in a different light.

The vibrant fall colors, milder weather, and fewer crowds provide a peaceful yet breathtaking experience.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a photographer, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, these parks offer something special during the autumn season.

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