Travel USA

5 National Parks to Visit This Fall For Foliage and Hiking

Ah, October! It’s the month when fall kicks it into high gear. One of my favorite things to do during fall is discover places that are painted with colorful foliage where I can hike. There are a TON of national parks to visit this fall to experience the colors in their prime!

Surprisingly, heading to the parks is something a lot of people don’t do. There are a ton of national parks to visit this fall if you want to experience autumn at it’s finest, but some are better for chasing colors and hiking than others.

Shenandoah National Park

An amazing spot for hiking, Shenandoah is also great for driving through to take in the scenery through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The byway has tons of stops featuring great lookout points to take in the colors, especially in mid-late October. The treetops will be painted with different colors thanks to the varying kinds of trees. Just check their website to see the reports on fall colors before you go.

If you are up for hikes, you can try:

  • Upper Hawksbill – 2.1 miles round trip
  • Bearfence Mountain Trail – 1.2 mile loop
  • Dark Hollow Falls Trail – 1.4 miles round trip
  • Stony Man Trail – 1.6 mile round trip

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - National Parks to Visit in the Fall
Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I took a trip here in mid-October 2018 and the bright colors were making their way down the mountains. We did quite a few trails in the park, but Laurel Falls trail (picture above) is a 2.6-mile hike and one of the most popular ones in the park.

The trails were colored with all the leaves the higher you went on trails. The leaves start changing in late September and last through early November. When you’re done in the park, be sure to check out Gatlinburg, TN.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park

Although I went in the early summer, this is one of the best national parks to visit in the fall to take in the beautiful foliage. Go now until mid-October. After mid-October, it starts to fade as the temperatures drop. Just to be sure, check out Maine’s Fall Foliage Website here to see how they’re reporting the colors.

There are a bunch of hikes in this park, but Jordan Pond Path and getting to the top of Cadillac Mountain are a must for the views. The weather will be pretty cool, so dress in layers and even bring a blanket just to be safe!

My personal favorite hike was the Beehive Trail, a 2 mile loop. You will be climbing straight up the mountain along the cliffs, up the iron ladders that are mounted into the stone. The views at the top are amazing though as you can see the water not far in the distance.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Zion is another park that makes you feel like you stepped into another world. I visited in May, but am returning this October to experience fall and tackle The Narrows trail.

The leaves here change mid-October and well into November. It’s recommended that you try to go at sunrise and sunset as the sun also brings out the deep reds and oranges of the rocks – so plan accordingly!

Yosemite National Park

I haven’t yet been here, but it’s on my list this October! It’s suggested to go mid-October to mid-November for the foliage, but the waterfalls may not be flowing as much as the spring and summer. It’s still a park packed with hikes, sights, wildlife, and incredible history.

I hope this list inspires you to get out and get to one of the National Parks near you to experience fall! There are so many great options, so see what’s near you. Be sure to double-check their website when planning your trip.

The national parks offer some of the best hiking, sights, and wildlife. They also are amazing for their own reasons each season. If you have the time, these listed ones are some of the best national parks to visit this fall.

If you make it to a national park this fall or anytime soon, share your experience with me in the comments!

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