Mount Rainier National Park in the fall. photo credit: Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

12 Gorgeous US National Parks To Visit In The Fall

Th list of the best National Parks to Visit in the fall rounds up our series of best National Parks to visit each season.

Similar to the best National Parks to visit in winter, in spring, and in summer, this roundup is a group effort, with entries from travel bloggers from all over the US, sharing their favorite parks to spend time in this season.

1. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Recommended by Victoria of Florida Trippers

Dry Tortugas National Park. photo credit: Victoria
Dry Tortugas National Park. photo credit: Victoria

If you’re looking for one of the best US national parks to visit in the fall then you can’t beat Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.

See, this isolated park is accessible only by boat or seaplane since it lies around 70 miles west of Key West.

It also includes a 100 square mile area that contains seven different islands that are just waiting to be explored.

So, after snorkeling through the area’s pristine waters and experiencing pristine coral reefs, visit historic Fort Jefferson since it dates all the way back to the 19th century.

And while the park typically only receives around 60,000 visitors per year, fall is an ideal time to visit since you’ll basically have the entire park to yourself during off-season.

The fall weather is also exceptionally lovely since highs hover between 89 F and 78 F. In contrast, lows fluctuate between 77 F and 70 F.

If you can, try and visit in November when the park only averages around three days of rain all month.

Other than that, just make a reservation aboard the Yankee Freedom III ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas. The journey will take around 2 hours and will cost around $190 per person for adults.

It’s also worth noting that your ferry ticket includes both breakfast and lunch. So, no need to stuff yourself silly before visiting the park.

2. Redwood National Park, California

Recommended by Anna Tee

Redwood National Park. photo credit: Anna Tee
Redwood National Park. photo credit: Anna Tee

Redwood National Park in California is an incredible place to visit in the fall. Located just south of Crescent City, on the Northern California Coast, the scenery is absolutely stunning, with giant Redwood Trees and rugged, rocky beaches.

Fall is the best time to visit, because while summer is the most popular time to visit the Redwoods, fall is less crowded, so you can get the views all to yourself. In the fall, the temperature is perfect for hiking, with mild weather in the 50s and 60s during the day. It’s a great time to check out some of the best hikes in Redwood National Park, which include the Damnation Creek trail and the Boyscout Tree trail.

The scenery in the park is absolutely incredible, and in the fall, the tree canopy is often covered in a fog, which makes it look even more magical! It’s best to visit in early fall, as September and October are still pretty dry – but starting at the end of October, it gets pretty rainy. You can still explore in the drizzle, but be sure to bring some waterproof gear!

There are plenty of options to stay when you explore the park. You can camp at one of the established campgrounds in the park, or find free camping in the surrounding national forest land. There are also options for hotels if you don’t want to rough it – Crescent City and Eureka are the biggest towns near the park, so most of the hotels will be there!

3. Zion National Park, Utah

Recommended by Sara at Travel A-Broads

Zion National Park. photo credit: Sara Miller
Zion National Park. photo credit: Sara Miller

Located near the town of Springdale in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is one of the best U.S. national parks to visit in the fall. In fact, late fall is actually one of the best times to visit Zion National Park.

This time of year offers cooler weather, great hiking conditions, and beautiful fall foliage throughout the park. Plus, there are less crowds, shorter shuttle wait times, etc., which is especially important, considering that Zion is one of the most popular national parks in the country.

You can do a lot during a three-day Zion adventure, and Zion can easily be added to a larger U.S. Southwest road trip itinerary. It’s less than three hours from Las Vegas and less than two hours from Bryce Canyon National Park.

One of the best things to do in Zion National Park is hiking! If you haven’t been before, the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail is a must-do. Some other easy-to-moderate hikes include the Watchman Trail, the Riverside Walk, the Emerald Pools Trail, and the Pa’rus Trail. For more of a challenge, try The Narrows or Angels Landing; the Narrows is Zion’s most popular hike, and Angels Landing is one of the world’s most renowned hikes!

In addition to hiking, Zion offers a ton of other outdoor activities, like camping, canyoneering, climbing and more, and the park has several great places to watch a sunrise or sunset, like the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail, behind the Human History Museum, and along the Pa’rus Trail.

With all that said, it’s clear that Zion National Park is a must-visit fall destination!

4. Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

Mount rainier
Mount Rainier National Park. photo credit: Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

Mount Rainier National Park, approximately two hours southeast of Seattle, Washington, is home to the tallest mountain in the Cascade range (clocking in at a whopping 14,411 feet tall!) and some extremely spectacular fall foliage.

While Mount Rainier primarily has evergreen forests, there’s still plenty of fall foliage to be seen here, particularly amongst its meadows of wildflowers and shrubs.

Some of the best hikes in Mount Rainier to see autumnal colors include the Skyline Trail in the Paradise area, where you’ll hike up through fields of scarlet paintbrush and other yellow and orange wildflowers up to a viewpoint overlooking layers and layers of the Cascade Mountains and an up-close look at the massive Nisqually Glacier.

Alternatively, Naches Peak Loop is also an excellent option, taking you past multiple alpine lakes and fields of shockingly colored shrubs, as Rainier looms overhead. Keep an eye out for black bears and marmots along the trails- they’re particularly active during this time of year as they try to fatten up for the upcoming winter hibernation.

If you want a break from the trail and still enjoy the foliage, consider cruising along the Chinook Scenic Byway, where you’ll snake through the national park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, passing rushing waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, and some of the best fall foliage the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

5. North Cascades National Park, Washington

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

North Cascades
North Cascades National Park in the fall. photo credit: Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

The North Cascades National Park in northern Washington state has jaw-dropping autumnal colors. While most of the trees here are coniferous and stay evergreen throughout the year, there’s still quite a few deciduous trees, like bigleaf maples, scattered throughout the landscape.

But what makes the foliage here really special is that the shrubs and wildflowers carpeting the mountain slopes also turn blazing colors of red and orange, come autumn. There’s even a special type of alpine conifer, called larches, that turn a vibrant shade of gold before its needles fall off for winter. This occurrence is so beloved in Washington that it’s referred to as “larch madness”!

For one of the best views of the fall colors here, hike the Heather Maple Pass Loop, which will lead you past countless groves of larches, up to a mountain pass where you’ll have spectacular views of the surrounding Cascade peaks. Alternatively, the Blue Lake Trail is also a fantastic place to see larches, surrounding a turquoise lake sitting in the shadow of a rugged mountain.

Be sure to pop by the kitschy town of Winthrop, which looks straight out of the Wild West. It’s an excellent homebase for your exploration of the North Cascades and has tons of charming shops and restaurants, like the Old Schoolhouse Brewery.

6. Virgin Islands National Park

Recommended by Kat of Staying Afloat

US Virgin Islands National Park. photo credit: Kathryn of Staying Afloat
US Virgin Islands National Park. photo credit: Kathryn of Staying Afloat

Did you know the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the U.S. National Park system? That’s right, this collection of three tropical islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix) is located in the Northeast corner of the Caribbean Sea, neighbouring Puerto Rico. As a U.S. Territory, it’s a Caribbean paradise you can travel to without a passport (if you’re American).

The Virgin Islands are known for their excellent snorkeling and have some of the best beaches in the world! So why visit in fall? Well, because it’s the end of hurricane season, which makes it a bit of a gamble, but totally worth it if you like the idea of having a tropical paradise to yourself!

Plan to be flexible, but it’s best to book your trip for late October, into November to be safe. As a result, you’ll find the flights and accomodations are more reasonably priced. Fall time on the islands also enables you to enjoy local, seasonal flavours, like mango! Be sure to hit one of the focal farm markets while you’re there.

Which island should you visit first? We’re partial to St. Croix. The largest of the three islands is the Southern most of the grouping and home to the first sunrise in America – Point Udall (pictured) is the Eastern most point in the U.S. Looking for something really unique? Check out Sion Farm Distillery for their Mutiny Island Vodka, the world’s first breadfruit distilled spirit. And don’t forget to pack your reef safe sun screen to help preserve the natural beauty of this destination!

7. Harpers Ferry National Park

Recommended by Laura of Wine Travelista

Harpers Ferry National Park
Harpers Ferry National Park. photo credit: Laura of Wine Travelista

If you’re a nature lover who also enjoys history, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is a must-do. Fall is the best time to visit when the crowds and heat of the summer have subsided, and the brilliant foliage is on full display.

At the meeting point of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, you’ll find a U-bend in the river where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers join. In the center of the bend lies the historic town of Harpers Ferry, WV.

Start here to discover why it was a critical battleground during the Civil War. Learn about John Brown’s 1859 attempted slave revolt, and how Confederate forces under Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson forced the largest surrender of Federal troops. The town also became home to Storer College, one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.

For the most incredible views of the town and fall foliage, hike up to the Maryland Heights viewpoint. From town, cross the footbridge and follow signs for the Overlook Trail. It’s a steep 2-mile hike up to the viewpoint, but it’s well worth the effort.

Have extra time? The park also has more than 20 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the Appalachian Trail. And if you’re a wine lover, don’t miss visitingVirginia’s wine countrywhile you’re in the area.

8. Yosemite National Park, California

Recommended by Farrah of Fairyburger

Yosemite in the fall. photo credit: Farrah of Fairyburger

As one of the most-visited national parks in the nation, autumn is a great time to explore Yosemite if you’d like to bypass both the summer crowds and the heat! Located in California, Yosemite covers almost 1200 square miles and elevations range from 2000-13,000 feet. All areas of the park typically stay open through October (sometimes part of November as well, depending on snow conditions). Although most of the trees are evergreen, there is still a great mix of colors (and wildlife!) to see and a variety of trails to fit any hiking difficulty level.

One of the most popular hikes isHalf Dome, a ~15.6 mile hike with an elevation gain of 5,652 feet. This hike is not for the faint of heart, especially on the last stretch as you’re climbing up the cables, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views throughout the hike (particularly if you love waterfalls)! A permit is required for this hike and can be difficult to score, so if you’re unable to snag a permit or just want a less challenging hike, you can do the Mist Trail (which follows the same trail but turns back sooner) instead.

9. Arches National Park, Utah

Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast

Arches National Park. Delicate Arch. photo credit: Stephanie of Unknown Enthusiast
Arches National Park. photo credit: Stephanie of Unknown Enthusiast

Arches National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in the fall, thanks to the more moderate temperatures and lower crowd levels. Located in southern Utah, Arches is a stunning and very famous national park, showing some incredible rock formations.

While temperatures in the summertime can soar easily over 100 degrees, temperatures in the fall drop into the mid-70’s in October and into the 50’s in November – perfect hiking weather. Still, make sure to bring plenty of water hiking in Arches National Park in the fall, as the climate is still very dry!

Plus, Arches really deserves a spot on your national park bucket list. Seeing the impressive Delicate Arch is really one for the books and seeing the red rocks throughout the park are just incredible. While Delicate Arch is the most famous, we loved other arches as well – Double Arch was a huge favorite, the hike along Park Avenue is really gorgeous, and Tower Arch is a stunning hidden gem arch in the park.

However, our absolute favorite hike, and one of our favorites of all time, was the Fiery Furnace hike. You need a permit to be able to do this trail, and only a select number are given out every day. In summer, permits are gone within 30 seconds of being available, but the competition drops significantly in fall. On this hike you can explore and wander around the fins and canyons of this intricate and maze-like area.

Enjoy the fall in southern Utah in this amazing national park!

10. Grand Teton National Park

Recommended by Kassidy of The Hiking Helper

IMG 2107
Grand Teton National Park. photo credit: Kassidy of The Hiking Helper

Grand Teton National Park is located in the far northwestern corner of Wyoming, nestled amongst mountains, prairies, and incredible views.

You’ll be just a short drive from America’s first national park, Yellowstone, and will be surrounded by wildlife, everywhere you look.

Particularly in the fall time, this national park has beauty that almost can’t be described unless you pay a visit for yourself!

In front of the towering Teton Mountain range, you’ll see trees of bright red, yellow, and orange.

Whether you head out on one of the many hiking trails, or simply set out for a scenic drive around the park loop, all experiences will be magical.

A few of the best hikes include Delta Lake, Schwabacher’s Landing, and Hidden Falls, all of which showcase the park’s natural beauty.

One of the best things to do if you’re looking to just relax is to head to Jenny Lake and just admire the views of the mountains reflecting in the water.

This is one of the most popular areas of the park, and for good reason!

Wildlife may be more active than usual at this time of year, as they are out getting ready to hunker down for the cold winter ahead.

Snow does typically fall by late-October, so plan your visit to see the fall colors before winter hits!

11. Joshua Tree National Park

Recommended by Marquita of Marquita’s Travels

Joshua Tree National Park. photo credit: Marquita of Marquita's Travels
Joshua Tree National Park. photo credit: Marquita of Marquita’s Travels

Joshua Tree is one of the best US National Parks to visit in the fall. The weather is gorgeous, with the high ranging between 62℉ and 84℉, and the low rarely falls below 53℉. Plus, the crowds are smaller, leaving plenty of space to explore the beauty of Joshua Tree.

Located in Southern California’s desert, Joshua Tree National Park is just east of Palm Springs. It’s about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles and an almost four-hour drive from Las Vegas. Be prepared to be amazed by nature’s beauty regardless of the direction you’re driving from.

What makes Joshua Tree so unique is that there’s a trail for everyone with twenty or so maintained trails. There are trails as easy as a quarter-of-a-mile with little to no elevation change, and the most challenging takes multiple days with an elevation change of over 3000 feet. Plus there are bathrooms, grills, and benches at almost every major trail.

One of the best parts of Joshua Tree is how it makes you feel. No matter if you’re hiking through the national park, going to a restaurant, or stargazing at night, a feeling of peace and relaxation overcomes you. The city moves at a slower pace, the people are kind and friendly, and nature’s unique beauty will keep you amazed and grateful for the opportunity to enjoy Joshua Tree.

If time permits, continue to enjoy Southern California’s beauty surrounded by both the ocean and mountains in Santa Barbara, a scenic three-and-a-half-hour drive from Joshua Tree.

12. Yellowstone National Park

Recommended by Sam Opp from Find Love and Travel

Yellowstone National Park. photo credit: Sam App
Yellowstone National Park. photo credit: Sam Opp

Yellowstone National Park is another great National Park to visit during the Fall season. The world’s first designated National Park, Yellowstone offers over 2,221,700 acres and is mostly located in the state of Wyoming. Some of the park is also in Montana as well as Idaho. Aside from the fewer crowds during the Autumn season in Yellowstone, you will also experience incredible fall foliage!

Some of the top things to add to your Yellowstone Itinerary include seeing wildlife and going on some nice fall hikes. Autumn is a great time to catch the elk and bison rut season, which can be quite the spectacle. Other wildlife you have the opportunity to see include Grizzly bears, Black bears, Coyotes, Wolves, and Deer.

Since the weather is cooler during the fall (temperatures around the 60s to 50s degrees Fahrenheit), hiking is very enjoyable. Yellowstone offers a plethora of hiking trails, boardwalks, and backcountry trails. Some nice and easy trails to check out include Natural Bridge, Fairy Falls, and Artist Paint Pots trail.

While in Yellowstone, you should also enjoy some of the most well-known attractions. Since you are visiting during the fall, you should be able to enjoy them with fewer crowds! Therefore add Old Faithful Geysir, Grand Prismatic Springs, and Mammoth Hot Springs to your Yellowstone Bucket list.

National Parks to visit in autumn
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