Best National Parks to Visit in Fall (+ Fall Foliage Map)

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Fall is one of the best times to visit some of the nation’s most incredible national parks. The appeal lies in the enchanting display of changing foliage, where leaves shift from greens to warm reds, oranges, and golds. This natural transformation blankets the surroundings in one of nature’s most beautiful displays. 

The comfortable fall weather adds to the allure. Milder temperatures replace summer’s heat, which is ideal for outdoor exploration. Crisp air accompanies hiking or admiring landmarks. The gentle sun enhances the scenery, making outdoor moments truly refreshing.

Another inviting aspect of visiting a park in the fall is smaller crowds. The tourist season dies down, offering a serene, intimate experience. Trails once busy now encourage unhurried hikes, letting you appreciate wilderness sights and sounds without distractions.

So, let’s uncover the best national parks to visit in the fall, highlighting the unique features of each.

Fall Foliage Prediction Map 2023

Planning a trip in the fall? Check out the 2023 fall foliage prediction map by smokymountains.com below. You can click the image to pinpoint the prediction for the time of year and location you will be traveling to.

fall foliage prediction map
Fall foliage map 2023 by smokymountains.com.

Acadia National Park, Maine in the Fall

fall foliage atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
Classic fall foliage atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

During the fall, Acadia National Park in Maine reshapes into a mesmerizing landscape. The park’s stunning coastal landscapes offer a variation of rugged cliffs, rolling waves, and vibrant autumn colors. As you journey along the Park Loop Road (one of the best 10 scenic drives across America), you’re treated to a thrilling display of autumn foliage, where the rich hues of maples and oaks create a dazzling panorama against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hiking trails and scenic overlooks come alive during this pleasant time of year. The trails wind through lush forests, leading you to phenomenal sweeping viewpoints. One of the best spots to view the fall foliage is from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast. Also, the Jordan Pond Path offers a leisurely stroll around a quiet pond surrounded by an array of autumn colors.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

At this time of year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park becomes one of the most sensational places in the southeast to visit. The mountains turn into an astounding display of fall foliage, where vivid reds, oranges, and yellows create a striking contrast against the deep green of the conifers. The lush forests and meadows host a collection of life, from delicate wildflowers to majestic elk and black bears. 

Stunning fall colors at sunset in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Stunning fall colors against a beautiful sunset in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cades Cove and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail offer unforgettable drives that allow you to witness the park’s beauty from the comfort of your vehicle. These winding roads guide you through tunnels of foliage, offering glimpses of historic homesteads and panoramic vistas. The open meadows of Cades Cove are lovely during this time of year, as the golden grasses and distant mountains provide a picturesque setting for spotting wildlife and capturing the beauty of fall.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Fall along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
Fall along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah National Park is yet another gorgeous fall destination. The Blue Ridge Mountains take center stage, showcasing brilliant fall colors that turn the scenery into a visual masterpiece. The reds, oranges, and yellows of the foliage look incredible against the background of the majestic peaks.

The Skyline Drive is the perfect way to journey through the changing fall landscape. As you drive along this iconic road, you’ll witness a wide variety of colors unfolding before you. Each twist and turn reveals a new perspective, allowing you to view the season’s beauty in every direction.

Hiking trails lead you through the heart of this autumn wonderland. The crisp air, the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, and the rustling of trees add to this peaceful experience. Along the way, you’ll encounter waterfalls cascading amid the fall foliage, adding an element of serenity to your journey.

Scenic overlooks offer vistas that capture the essence of fall in Shenandoah National Park. Each reveals a different angle of the landscape’s delightful colors, letting you pause and absorb the beauty surrounding you. Whether you’re standing atop a ridge or beside a waterfall, every moment spent in the park during this season is an opportunity to be swept away by the region’s beauty.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Aspen trees start to change colors during the fall in Rocky Mountain National Park
Aspen trees start to change colors during the fall in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park’s towering peaks, vast valleys, and pristine lakes create an awe-inspiring scene.

Aspens and conifers undergo a remarkable transformation, casting a new palette of colors across the landscape. The sensational golds, oranges, and reds of the aspens mingle with the deep greens of the conifers, resulting in a noticeable contrast that’s iconic during the season. 

The Trail Ridge Road and Bear Lake area offer prime opportunities to witness the fall beauty of the park. In fact, at its highest point of 12,183 ft., Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States. This scenic drive takes you through an alpine wonderland. It offers extensive views of the surrounding peaks and valleys blanketed in fall colors. Another beautiful part of the park is the Bear Lake area. If you visit this amazing park, you will definitely want to make a stop here.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

fall foliage at grand teton national park wy
Fall is a wonderful time to visit Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton National Park also comes alive in the fall. The park’s majestic mountain vistas draw your attention, towering above with an intimidating presence. The rugged peaks, adorned with a dusting of snow, stand out against the clear blue sky, offering a scene that’s both breathtaking and humbling.

As you stand on the banks of the Snake River, you’ll witness the mountains mirrored in the water’s surface, creating a captivating scene. The tranquility of the reflections adds a layer of beauty to the already stunning landscape.

Fall is also a prime time for wildlife spotting and photography in Grand Teton National Park. The changing season prompts many animals to prepare for winter, making them more active and visible. Bison graze in the meadows, elk gather in the valleys, and moose explore the waterways.

Yosemite National Park, California

Autumn colors at Yosemite National Park as Yosemite Falls rushes in the background
Autumn colors dot the landscape of Yosemite National Park as Yosemite Falls rushes in the background.

Yosemite National Park’s granite cliffs and waterfalls stand as timeless monuments in this iconic landscape. El Capitan and Half Dome, two of Yosemite’s most famous rock formations, dominate the skyline. Their towering heights and rugged profiles create a sense of wonder as you gaze upon them. The interchange of sunlight and shadows on their surfaces adds depth and drama to their already distinct features.

Fall foliage turns Yosemite Valley into a canvas of cozy colors that blend seamlessly with the park’s rugged terrain. The valley’s iconic maples, oaks, and dogwoods paint the landscape with extraordinary reds, oranges, and yellows. The lush meadows and towering trees create a setting that’s as inviting as it is stunning.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

meadows surrounding Mount Rainier National Park burst with color during the fall season
The meadows surrounding Mount Rainier burst with color during the fall season.

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest to be during autumn. The park’s towering volcanic peak stands as a giant against the sky. Mount Rainier’s majestic presence, adorned with a crown of ice and snow, creates a remarkable contrast against the changing foliage of the season.

Alpine meadows and glaciers come alive with phenomenal colors and rugged textures. The landscape is a combination of rough terrain and delicate beauty. As you explore, you’ll witness wildflowers bloom against a backdrop of snow-clad peaks.

Additionally, fall colors unfold around the Paradise and Sunrise areas, painting the landscape with a rich set of reds, oranges, and golds. The forests and meadows come alive with the warm hues of autumn set against the rocky terrain. The change in seasons reveals a new side of the park’s beauty, offering a unique perspective on its ever-evolving landscape.

Final Thoughts

The fall season unveils a diverse assembly of beauty across the national parks we’ve explored. 

Whether you’re drawn to Acadia’s marvelous foliage, Grand Teton’s reflective Snake River, or Yosemite Valley’s amazing fall colors, these national parks are alive with natural wonders during this pleasant time of year.

As you explore these magnificent landscapes and witness the seasonal transformations, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the beauty that defines these national parks in the fall.

National Parks List, Map, and Complete Guide (All 63 Parks + Downloadable List & Map)

Want a FREE complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!

national parks map and list printable checklist
Visit our complete National Parks Guide for FREE Downloadable National Parks List & Map (multiple versions)

FAQs

Is October a good time to visit national parks?

October is an excellent time to visit national parks, as many parks showcase stunning fall foliage and fewer crowds.

What is the best month to visit national parks?

The best month to visit national parks varies depending on the park and your preferences. Fall and spring are often considered ideal, offering comfortable weather, lively landscapes, and fewer crowds.

Does the Grand Canyon have fall colors?

Yes, the Grand Canyon does have fall colors. While it’s not as renowned for fall foliage as some other parks, certain areas along the rim can display beautiful autumn hues.

Is October a good time to visit Acadia National Park?

Yes! The fall foliage is superb here, and the mild weather allows for enjoyable outdoor activities.

Is October a good time to visit the Smoky Mountains?

One hundred percent. The bright foliage and the cooler weather make hiking and outdoor activities fun.

Is fall a good time to visit the Smoky Mountains?

Most definitely. The stunning fall foliage adds a new dimension of beauty to the park’s landscapes.

When should I visit Shenandoah National Park for fall colors?

Plan your visit to Shenandoah National Park from late September to mid-October. This period offers the best chance to witness the brilliant foliage displayed across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

How crowded is Shenandoah National Park in October?

October sees a notable increase in visitors to Shenandoah National Park due to the allure of fall colors. While the park can get quite busy, especially on weekends, arriving early in the day or visiting on weekdays can help you enjoy a more relaxed experience.

Are there fall colors in Shenandoah National Park?

Absolutely, Shenandoah National Park boasts spectacular fall colors. The Blue Ridge Mountains transform into a palette of red, orange, and yellow, creating a tremendous display that attracts visitors from far and wide.

Is October a good time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

Yes! The fall colors, crisp air, and fewer crowds create an inviting atmosphere.

Is October a good time to go to Estes Park?

Yes, October can be a great time to visit Estes Park as the fall foliage enhances the scenic beauty, and there are still plenty of activities available.

Is Rocky Mountain National Park crowded in October?

Rocky Mountain National Park is generally less crowded in October compared to the peak summer months, allowing for a more serene visit.

Does Rocky Mountain National Park close in October?

Rocky Mountain National Park remains open year-round, including October. However, some facilities and roads may start to close due to weather conditions.

Is October a good time to visit Grand Teton National Park?

Yes, October can be an excellent time to visit Grand Teton National Park. The fall colors, cooler weather, and fewer visitors make for a pleasant experience.

When should I visit Tetons for fall colors?

Late September to early October is a prime time to visit Grand Teton National Park for fall colors, as aspen and cottonwood trees change hues.

How busy is Grand Teton National Park in October?

While Grand Teton National Park is less crowded in October than in summer, it can still attract visitors seeking fall beauty and outdoor activities.

Is Grand Teton National Park open in October?

Yes, Grand Teton National Park remains open in October. However, weather conditions can vary, and some services may be limited.

Is October a good time to visit Yosemite National Park?

Yes, October is a good time to visit Yosemite National Park. The fall foliage, cooler temperatures, and thinner crowds make it an enjoyable experience.

Is Yosemite worth visiting in the fall?

Absolutely. The iconic landscapes take on a new beauty with the changing colors.

What is Yosemite National Park like in the fall?

Yosemite National Park in the fall is characterized by vibrant foliage, crisp air, and the same stunning granite cliffs and waterfalls that draw visitors year-round.

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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