The Best National Parks for Fall Foliage
There’s arguably no better place to appreciate autumn's foliage than in the one of our nation’s 58 national parks. According to the National Park Service, there are five parks that are primed for visits from voyeuristic leafage-lovers, and they’re scattered coast to coast across the country. From volcanic craters to pine-covered peaks and cascading Alpine waterfalls, these idyllic landscapes are the best backdrops for the colorful, quintessential expression of autumn.
Grand Teton National Park
With more than 200-miles of trails and a peak foliage season that stretches through mid-October, this glacial park in Wyoming is a life-changing trip for hiking and camping enthusiasts. Few crowds and cool temperatures make lingering over the blazing yellow and orange Cottonwoods along the Snake River all the better.
Acadia National Park
Come mid-October, Maine's national park will become a dazzling mix of evergreen, gold, and red. Explore the forests on the historic carriage roads, or enjoy sweeping views of Mount Desert Island from Cadillac Mountain. Continue the seasonal celebration with a scoop of Maple Walnut or Pumpkin Caramel ice cream from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream.
Crater Lake National Park
The tourists may be fewer, but the wildlife will be more abundant than around this crystalline volcanic lake in southern Oregon. Come before the end of October to catch white-tailed deer, black and grizzly bears, and bighorn sheep preparing for winter while the leaves change in a ripple across the park from west to east. When the larch trees’ needles turn amber, you know that fall is almost through.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Lesser-known than some of the country’s more prominent parks, Cuyahoga—a fantastic treasure of ravines, rolling hills, farmland, and woods in Ohio— is tops when it comes to fall foliage. Come here for a fiery red, orange, and yellow canvas, streaked by 70 waterfalls, in the middle of October.
Shenandoah National Park
The plum-colored sumacs and deep purple dogwoods are standouts in this nature escape less than 100-miles out of bustling D.C. Take in the fall hues while driving leisurely down Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch that hugs the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mid to late October is your best bet for the most kaleidoscopic vistas, not only in Virginia, but in much of the U.S.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.