California’s national parks are some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world. Visiting California National Parks in the fall is one of the best times to go!
When looking for US National Park vacation ideas, you’ll find majestic sequoias, ocean beaches and islands, Joshua Trees, and stunning desert landscapes in California.
California has nine US National Parks, more than any state. From towering redwoods to serene lakes, these natural wonders provide a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities in the fall.
During the fall months, you can enjoy breathtaking views as trees turn golden and enjoy cooler temperatures as you hike or bike along winding trails that lead to spectacular vistas.
Use our US National Park Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in the fall! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!
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Tips For Visiting California National Parks
If you’re looking for a fun California Vacation Idea during the fall months, make sure a National Park or two are on the list!
In general, fall is one of the best times to visit the National Parks in California to enjoy moderate temperatures. But due to the varied climates and weather around California, fall can be different depending on the location of the National Park around the state.
The cooler weather is perfect to enjoy outdoor activities. Fall is also a great season for wildlife viewing, as animals begin to prepare for the colder months ahead.
Be prepared with layers, and always check the weather forecast as it gets closer to late fall, especially for parks with higher elevations.
We recommend the Guide Along App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive around the California National Parks – it’s like having a Park Ranger in the car with you!
USA AUDIO TOURS (GuideAlong)
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the area and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a guide in the car with you.”
California National Parks in the Fall
The Golden State is an ideal travel destination any time of year, but there’s something special about exploring California’s National Parks during the autumn months!
We asked our travel friends to share their tips and experiences for visiting the California National Parks during the fall months of September, October, and November!
Channel Islands National Park in the Fall
Channel Islands National Park is a string of 8 islands off of the Southern California coast. The fall months are considered by many to be one of the best times of the year to go due to mild temperatures and lower risk of rain and high winds. The month of October sees an average high temperature of 71°F with a low of 64°F.
To get to any of the islands you must take a ferry with Island Packers. There is no fee to enter Channel Islands National Park as it is included in your ferry ticket cost. The ferry ride to get to the islands is half the fun since you can see plentiful dolphins jumping and playing in the ocean, and in early fall you’ll still have the chance to see whales.
The two most popular and easily accessible islands in this National Park are Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island.
Santa Cruz Island is larger with more hiking trails, but both have unique wildlife viewing opportunities and ability to go kayaking into sea caves and arches. On Santa Cruz Island we recommend Channel Islands backcountry camping at the Del Norte Campground with amazing ocean views from your tent!
Channel Islands is a must visit for anyone living in or visiting Southern California that is craving panoramic ocean, island, and coastal views with many diverse outdoor activities. (Recommended by Kate, Kate Roams the World)
Channel Islands Lodging & Tours
Death Valley National Park in the Fall
Fall is a great time to visit the Death Valley. As its name mentions, the Death Valley can feel deadly during other times of the year like summer. With temperatures over 100 degrees F at Badwater Basin during August, fall always sounds like a better time to visit.
Though temperatures are one of the reasons to visit Death Valley in the fall, the scenery is too. During fall, the light shines differently on the several landscapes of this Mars-Like National Park. Artiste Palette especially is a point of interest you don’t want to miss at that time of the year.
Even in the fall, Death Valley remains a dangerous area where people get stuck every year. To avoid any bad surprises, make sure to bring enough food and water to last you a couple of days.
In addition, it’s very important to visit Death Valley with a full tank of gas to avoid getting stranded in remote areas of the park. (Recommended by Mary, Be Right Back by Mary)
Joshua Tree National Park in the Fall
Joshua Tree National Park, located 50 minutes from Palm Springs or a little over two hours from Los Angeles, is known for its Seussian trees and interesting rock formations. Fall is a wonderful time to visit the park, thanks to the cooling but pleasant temperature in the Mojave Desert, plentiful sunshine, and dwindling crowds.
Take the opportunity to spot one of the park’s elusive big-horn sheep, which typically hang out at lower elevations, like Barker Dam, in the fall. It’s also one of the best times to rock climb on some of the park’s massive boulders, due to the pleasant weather and limited crowds.
When night falls, the desert air tends to get chilly, so consider booking a stay at one of the nearby accommodations in Twentynine Palms with a natural hot spring, like Wonder Valley Hot Springs. What could be better than partaking in Joshua Tree’s excellent stargazing while soaking in a steamy hot spring? (Recommended by Jessica, Uprooted Traveler)
Joshua Tree National Park Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Joshua Tree National Park
- Vacation Rentals Near Joshua Tree National Park
- Joshua Tree NP Tours
Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Fall
Lassen National Park is one of the best California National Parks to visit in the fall. The weather will be perfect for hiking and the park will be less crowded than during the summertime. Temperatures range from the 30s to the 70s.
Everything in the park will still be open until November when many of the roads shut down for wintertime. To save money, opt to stay in Redding and make the hour drive to the park. Alternatively, you could stay at the Drakesbad Guest Ranch or the Manzanita Lake Cabins.
The park is divided into five sections: Manzanita & Summit Lakes, Southwest, Warner Valley, Juniper Lake, and Butte Lake. To fully see the park, you will want at least two days.
The main part of the park is the Southwest and Manzanita & Summit Lakes areas. Visitors can’t miss the Bumpass Hell Trail. This trail is 2.6 miles and takes you past the hydrothermal features of the park.
Another fun trail to take is King’s Falls. Also, make sure to visit Summit Lake and Manzanita Lake for some relaxing time. (Recommended by Francesca, Home Room Travel)
Lassen Volcanic National Park Lodging
Pinnacles National Park in the Fall
Named for the crags and rock spires that remain from an ancient volcanic field, Pinnacles National Park is known for its unique landscape. It’s located several miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, but it’s not considered a coastal region.
There are two entrances to the Pinnacles that do not connect via roads. You can hike through the entire park from either entrance. The East entrance is from Highway 25 through Hollister, CA. The West entrance is off Highway 101 in Soledad at Highway 146.
Expect long lines and delays getting into the park during the fall, especially on weekends and holidays. It’s recommended you enter the park early, before 9am!
You’ll find some lodging in the surrounding towns, but it’s best to take full advantage of the experience by camping in the local campground.
Activities to do at Pinnacles National Park: hiking, rock climbing, camping, talus caving, and ranger programs.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California you’ll find Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Combined, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is an impressive 1,353 square miles and home to the world’s oldest known sequoia and largest trees.
Due to the extreme elevation changes at these parks, weather conditions and temperatures can change as you travel to different areas. Temperatures can vary 20 to 30 degrees as you change elevation.
In late fall, some areas are closed or have reduced hours. It’s always recommended to check current road and weather conditions before heading into the park.
Activities at Sequoia & Kings Canyon include: exploring the Sequoia Groves, touring the park caverns, day hiking, camping, scenic drives, ranger programs, and photography!
Sequoia & Kings Canyon Lodging
Redwood National Park in the Fall
Nature is a wonder to behold year-round, but California national parks in the fall are exceptional. Don’t miss the chance to visit Redwoods, as nature changes during this beautiful time of year!
Whether you’re on a massive West Coast road trip or just interested in visiting Redwood National Park, this is definitely a trip worth taking!
The stunning trees are awe-inspiring, and the setting will be perfect with mild temperatures and fewer crowds than the summer rush. Not to mention the breathtaking colors of the changing maple leaves!
Depending on what area of the park you’re visiting, travelers can enjoy a walk along the Pacific coastline or a drive through the vast forest, enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smells of the stunning park.
No matter how you decide to experience it, a trip to Redwoods in the fall will be an experience to remember! (Recommended by Candice, GS Ginger)
Yosemite National Park in the Fall
Fall is a perfect time to visit Yosemite National Park for fewer crowds, mild weather and off-season prices at the park’s hotels and campgrounds.
Some of our favorite Yosemite views include Glacier Point (accessible by car, bus or the challenging Four Mile Trail), Tunnel View, El Capitan Meadow and Olmsted Point with its glacial erratics.
Great hikes in Yosemite include Half Dome (separate permit required), Four Mile Trail and the easy, kid-friendly Cook’s Meadow Loop.
While Yosemite Valley remains open year-round, Tioga Road closes for the season when snow makes it impassable, typically in late October or November, and the Glacier Point Road follows soon after.
Late September to mid-October is the sweet spot for mild weather and the most access to different regions of Yosemite. Don’t forget your camera gear to take amazing Yosemite National Park fall photos!
All visitors to Yosemite will need to purchase an entrance pass, unless they already have a National Parks annual or lifetime pass. (Recommended by Adrienne, Destinations and Dessserts)
Yosemite National Park Lodging and Tours
- Hotels Near Yosemite National Park
- Vacation Rentals Near Yosemite National Park
- Tours Near Yosemite National Park
California Bucket List
To help make your trip planning easier, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of must-do activities that belong on every California Bucket List: things to see, do and taste all around the state! Grab the free download by clicking the graphic below!