Best National Parks to Visit In Fall For Peak Colors


The best National Parks to visit in fall are places where prime season is leaf peeping season, and the crisp, cool weather makes for some of the best hiking, backpacking, and car camping. Plus, 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.

We’ve rounded up a list of the best leaf-peeping National Parks for this 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 to others on the trail, and following the established rules.

Plan your best trip of the season with our guide to the best national parks to visit in fall!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

An entire month of different types of fall foliage in bloom easily puts Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the list. Northeast Ohio’s National Park is one of the best to visit during the fall when its Sugar Maples have turned to 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 opps and a full fall color spectrum.

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 when exactly peak leaf peeping time will occur due to various climate factors, the Tetons are bursting with color from September through October. During this season, male Elk will bugle and even spar with others to show their dominance, catching this from a safe distance (at least 100 feet) is a really incredible thing to experience.

Grand Teton National Park in fall

Read our complete 7-day itinerary for visiting Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Parks

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi + Tennessee

Go on a car-camping-leaf-peeping-National Park-road-trip this fall on the Natchez Trace Parkway. It’s a 444 mile-long highway that passes through the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee and takes visitors past waypoints where they can hike, cycle and spend the night at a campground. The bridges and winding roads are beautiful, billboard-free with plenty of fall foliage to see along the way.

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.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

It’s no surprise that the fall season is prime time for a visit to 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 right time to see them. To help visitors stay updated, the Shenandoah NPS posts the park’s Fall Color Reports on their website so you can decide when to go. Plus, if you’re traveling with Fido, Shenandoah has over 480 miles worth of scenic hiking trails that you’re pup can join you on.

Shenendoah National Park // Check out the best National Parks to visit in fall for the a leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips for seeing the fall colors from the car or the trail.

Check out other dog friendly National Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina + Tennessee

From early to mid-October, at above 4,000 feet up, 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, for peak foliage during 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 in Fall

Acadia National Park, Maine

New England is the leaf peeping capital of North America, which makes Maine’s Acadia National Park is the crown jewel on this list of best national parks to visit in the fall. Primetime fall foliage 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 // Check out the best National Parks to visit in the fall for the a leaf-peeping vacation.

See our full guide to Acadia National Park

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Some of the best fall colors in the west are found here in Denali National Park. The area experiences an earlier cold snap that takes place in August and makes for a crisp climate that ushers in a beautiful display of foliage. This is also an amazing time to safely watch the wildlife prepare for winter in the tundra and lowlands, like Moose and Caribou, from a far enough distance. To catch your glimpse get here before September is over, as fall in Alaska goes fast!

Denali National Park with changing autumn colors.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

A National Park in Texas is a not-so-obvious choice for a hike through fall colors but that’s what makes it even better. Visit 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 Mckittrick Canyon Trail that can be a 4.8 mile out and back that’s perfect for leisurely leaf peeping or a full day 11 mile-long trek to the ridgeline for amazing canyon views.

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.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

In the fall, Mount Rainier National Park is an unbelievably scenic picture of the season. 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 // Check out the best National Parks to visit in fall for the a leaf-peeping vacation. Get tips for seeing the fall colors from the car or the trail.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Catching the change of color in Colorado’s Aspen leaves 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 and the rest of the tundra region 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.

Still Looking for More Ideas?

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

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

There are 12 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

12 Comments on “Best National Parks to Visit In Fall For Peak Colors

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  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.

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    Thanks for sharing that beautiful place post

    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.

      Thanks for the comment, Bill! We added “valley” back in there! We love that park as well.

    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.

    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…!!!

    Perfect information for us. I always read your blog. Thank you so much for sharing.

    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.

    The picture itself looks adorable… The lively scene might look even greater…Thank you for this blog!!

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