Fall is upon us once again and it’s that time of year when Mother Nature is at her most glorious. Crisp mornings help you wake up, blankets of mist float through valleys, and multi-colored forests put on a stunning display. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the fall season, these best USA national parks for fall foliage are where you should focus on.
Top 7 USA National Parks for Fall Foliage
America’s national parks are spectacular all-year round, from the winter landscapes in Yosemite to the sun-soaked summers in the parks of Utah and spring flower-covered slopes in Glacier or Mount Rainier. Fall, however, is peak season in a number of parks, too. I’ve listed the following best USA national parks for fall foliage according to my own experiences and personal preference, but I truly do think they’re the absolute best fall foliage destinations in America.
7. Zion National Park, Utah
Overwhelmingly busy in summer—up to the point that the park management is now considering having people reserve their visit and putting a cap on daily visitors—, Zion National Park gets much less crowded once fall rolls in. As the trees in Zion Canyon lose their greenery, the already-colorful landscape receives an extra dimension of color. Although this is a desert park, the tree-line banks of the Virgin River make for exceptional fall photos in October.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Its slopes dotted with aspen, Rocky Mountain National Park’s dominant fall color is yellow and gold. Fall kicks in early in this high-altitude park, so make sure to plan your visit in September if you want to see the bright goldenness of these epic landscapes.
5. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
To the general public, this is one of the least-known national parks. It is, however, at the same time also among the most-visited of all parks thanks to its location just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. It offers urbanites the chance to escape into the wilds of nature and reconnect with their inner adventurer. Cuyahoga Valley National Park protects a historic valley characterized by a scenic railroad, rivers spanned by covered bridges, waterfalls and wildlife. The best time for leaf-peeping is the second half of October.
4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Peak fall foliage season lasts well into October in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Yellow-colored aspen alternate with orange cottonwoods and green evergreen to create a vivid mountain landscape. The park’s 200-plus miles of trails allow you to experience this scenery for up-close. Shimmering glacial lakes only add to the appeal of the park, gorgeously reflecting and doubling the effect of the colors.
3. Acadia National Park, Maine
The fact that Acadia National Park is in New England should tell you all you need to know. Around mid-October, the park’s deep forests turn into all sorts of warmness—yellows and golds, oranges, reds and purples, mixed with the greens of pines. You can explore this breathtaking coastal park on historic carriages roads and scenic hiking trails. A hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain is almost mandatory.
2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Located in central Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is one of the absolute best USA national parks for fall foliage because of Skyline Drive. This 105-mile scenic road follows the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is lined with more than 70 overlooks and countless trailheads. In October, the vast broadleaf forests change color, painting the valleys, slopes and hollows in nature’s most vibrant hues.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
In terms of biodiversity one of the most fascinating places on earth, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more tree species than all of Western Europe combined. Naturally, this shines through in the forests’ sensational fall colors. The park consists of historic homesteads and pioneer settlements, thundering waterfalls and misty valleys, rolling mountain ridges and abundant wildlife.
No matter where you’re based, one of these seven best USA national parks for fall foliage will be within your reach. So, make the most of this gorgeous season and head out for a national parks adventure!