Best National Parks to Visit in Fall for Peak Colors

Discover the best National Parks to visit in fall for epic fall colors and foliage including tips on the best hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Fall is often the best time to visit National Parks across the US. With school back in session and the busy vacation season over, you’re more likely to find some solitude in the most popular National Parks. Plus, many National Parks exhibit stunning fall colors and the crisp, cool weather makes for great hiking, backpacking, and car camping.

We’ve rounded up a list of the best leaf-peeping National Parks to visit in the fall season – from Alaska to Mississippi – where the colors are about to explode. So get your camera ready and the car packed for a National Park trip during the most beautiful season of the year.

As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful of others on the trail, and following the established rules.

Plan your best trip of the season with this guide to the best National Parks to visit in fall!


Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Northeast Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit during the fall season when its sugar maples have turned bright red and the Sassafrass is a perfect hue of deep, burnt orange.

Hike the famous Brandywine Gorge Trail past Brandywine Falls for great photo ops and a full fall color spectrum.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park // Check out the best National Parks to visit in the fall for the a leaf-peeping vacation. Enjoy autumn colors in these 10 great parks.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Rumor has it that the third week of fall foliage is the best time to see the colors change in Grand Teton National Park. While it’s hard to predict exactly when peak leaf-peeping time will occur due to various climate factors, the Tetons are usually bursting with color from September through October.

During this season, male elk will bugle and even spar with each other to show their dominance. Catching this mating ritual from a safe distance (at least 100 feet) is an unforgettable experience.

Grand Teton National Park // Discover the best National Parks to visit during fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips on hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi & Tennessee

Go on a car-camping/leaf-peeping road trip this fall on the Natchez Trace Parkway (okay, this one’s not a National Park but it’s a worthwhile trip for fall colors). It’s a 444 mile-long highway that passes through the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The highway takes visitors past waypoints where they can hike, cycle, and spend the night at a campground.

The bridges and winding roads are beautiful and billboard-free with plenty of fall foliage to see along the way.

Natchez Trace Parkway // Check out the best National Parks to visit in the fall for fall colors and foliage. Enjoy autumn in these 10 great parks.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

It’s no surprise that the fall season is prime time to visit Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. From the months of September through November, Shenandoah’s lush and varied landscape is bursting with color.

The only problem is that there’s no set time to see peak fall foliage. To help visitors stay updated, the Shenandoah NPS posts the park’s Fall Color Report on their website so you can decide when the best time is to go.

Plus, if you’re traveling with a dog, Shenandoah has over 480 miles worth of scenic hiking trails that you’re pup can join you on.

Shenendoah National Park // Discover the best National Parks to visit during fall for fall colors and foliage. Get tips on hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee

From early to mid-October, at above 4,000 feet, the fall colors begin to change in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At that elevation, the climate more closely mimics that of New England and as the leaves begin to change up top, the colors slowly make their way down the mountainside. Peak foliage here occurs between mid-October through November.

This is the perfect time to visit spots like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Clingman’s Dome Road, or the less crowded Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Of all the National Parks to visit in the fall, the Great Smoky Mountains wins our heart for best fall driving vistas.

Great Smoky Mountains // Discover the best National Parks to visit during fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips on hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Acadia National Park, Maine

New England is the leaf-peeping capital of North America, which makes Maine’s Acadia National Park the crown jewel on this list of best national parks to visit in the fall. Primetime fall foliage in Acadia hits around mid to late September and continues through October.

Dress warm, bring layers and a camera, of course, and head up to Mount Desert Island to see the colors and Cadillac Mountain for panoramic views.

Acadia National Park // Discover the best National Parks to visit during fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation with plenty of fall colors and foliage.

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Some of the best fall colors in the west are found way up north in Denali National Park. The area around Denali experiences an early cold snap that takes place in August and makes for a crisp climate that ushers in a beautiful display of foliage.

Fall is also an amazing time to watch wildlife such as moose and caribou prepare for winter in the tundra and lowlands – at a safe distance, of course.

To catch your glimpse of both fall colors and wildlife get here before September is over, as fall in Alaska goes fast!

Denali National Park // Discover the best National Parks to visit in fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips on best hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

A National Park in Texas may not be an obvious choice for viewing fall colors, but that’s what makes it even better. Visit Guadalupe National Park’s McKittrick Canyon for some spectacular fall foliage that stands in contrast to the dry desert landscape of West Texas and New Mexico.

To get a glimpse of Texas’ best display of fall foliage, hike the 4.8-mile out-and-back Mckittrick Canyon Trail, which is perfect for a leisurely leaf-peeping afternoon. Or make it a full day 11 mile-long trek to the ridgeline for amazing canyon views.

Guadalupe National Park // Discover the best National Parks to visit in fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips on best hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Fall in Mount Rainier National Park is an unbelievably scenic place to be. Evergreen conifers, golden yellow larches, and crimson red huckleberries light the region up with fall colors to make every hike a memorable experience.

Need a few ideas? Check out Skyline Trail, Shriner Peak, or Indian Henry’s via Kautz Creek to name a few. As always, remember to Leave No Trace — but definitely take pictures.

Mount Rainier // Discover the best National Parks to visit in fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips on best hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Catching the change of color of Colorado’s aspens nearly beats out sunny summer days on the trail or a pow day at the mountain. During the fall season, Rocky Mountain National Park turns golden thanks to the aspens. The rest of the tundra region also explodes with autumn colors.

At lower elevations, you can get away with a few warm layers but be sure to keep an eye on the weather in the alpine when snow, frost, or even hail can surprise hikers and other park visitors.

To make the most of your trip, come prepared with proper layers and visit the rangers station before heading out.

Rocky Mountain National Park // Discover the best National Parks to visit in fall for the best leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips on best hikes, scenic drives, and more.

Looking for More Fall Trip Ideas?

We love a good fall foliage and leaf-peeping road trip in Autumn, but if you’re not necessarily choosing a park for its fall colors, here are a few more great National Parks to consider visiting post-summer:

What National Parks are on your list to visit for fall colors? Do you have other National Parks you’d recommend to visit in the fall? Share your experience in the comments!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

17 comments on “Best National Parks to Visit in Fall for Peak Colors

  1. It is a very Beneficial information to me. I really like to visit the national park because I love nature and greenery. This information will help me to choose one of the best national parks to visit. Thanks For sharing such a wonderful information.

  2. I’m stoked to see my local national park at the top of a list! The website went a little overboard trying to lighten its pack and dropped the valley out of Cuyahoga Valley national park (CVNP) though.

  3. This is very nice content with beautiful images and very interesting information for us. So very-very thank you for sharing. I hope that you write wonderful articles next time for us.

  4. Wow, good blog. I always read your blog. Very interesting and wonderful information with the beautiful pic. Please, you do always upload this type of articles for us. Thank you for sharing…!!!

  5. Great article about a place that I had never even thought about visiting. Interesting to hear about the situation there and amazing that you went the length to get the true story about what it’s like.

  6. Arkansas has some of the most beautiful foliage I have seen including some you mention. Heading to Devils Den area for 10 days.

  7. One thing a lot of visitors miss is the taking the time to smell the fragrance of autumn leaves. I find it very comforting.

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