Visiting US National Parks in October

Here’s a list of the best National Parks to visit in October with tips to help you plan a national park vacation.

If you’re looking for US National Park vacation ideas, consider October because the air is cooler and the crowds are fewer.

Keep reading for our list of national parks to visit in October and all the things you can do at those parks.

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What to Pack

Here’s the list of gear we recommend for a National Park trip in the fall:

→ CHECK OUT our US National Park Packing List.

1. US National Parks Pass: You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas.

→ BUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation. 

2.  Fall Hiking Shoes: → Check out our FAVORITE hiking shoes/boots!

3. Fall Hiking Socks:  → Check out the BEST SOCKS EVER!

4. Fall Clothing for Hiking (Layers)

Wicking and quick-drying base layers

Fleece jacket (Columbia is the BEST!)

Rain jacket

5. Daypack

6. WATER:  → We carry water bottles or hydration backpacks

7. FOOD:  → Check out our favorite healthy snacks

8. Flashlight:  → Check out the headlamps we like

9. National Park maps

10. Female urination device

11. Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)

12. Hand sanitizer

13. First aid kit

14. Bags to pack out trash

15. Camera Gear – DOWNLOAD our Camera Gear Checklist

16. Photography gear for hiking

Visiting US National Parks in October

Check out our guide for finding the best National Parks to visit by month.

During each season and month of the year, national parks will have different activities and services available.

Great Smoky Mountains

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in October will be a real treat for your eyes.

The red, yellow, and orange colors that fill the tree-lined mountains make for a beautiful display.

No matter if you are exploring in your car or motorcycle these colors are one of the real reasons why visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall is a must!

→ Plan your Great Smoky Mountains vacation!

Great Smoky Mountains Lodging & Tours

North Cascades

Northern Washington in October is pure beauty.

The start of October brings some fall foliage that is so breathtaking, which is surprising to many because when one thinks of Washington State they think green thick Douglas Fir Trees. 

North Cascade National Park offers jagged peaks, deep valleys, and cascading waterfalls. There is so much to see and do here.

Exploring the outdoors in cold weather is not always fun. That’s why visiting in October is smart before it gets too cold and covered in snow.

Lodging Near North Cascades

Denali

Since Denali National Park is located in Alaska, there are very short periods to visit without snow.

October is the perfect time to visit because the end of September is when cruise ships stop porting which means fewer people are visiting the park.

Visiting Denali National Park in October is a great time to do some fall hiking and even see the northern lights!

Lodging & Tours Near Denali

Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park in October is one of the best times to visit! It offers cooler temperatures than other months throughout the year.

Mesa Arch sunrise at Canyonlands

Two days is the perfect amount of time to explore this National Park.

You will want to spend one day exploring Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky and the other at Needles Canyonlands.

There are so many things to do at Canyonlands National Park like exploring the Canyonlands hikes and the Island in the Sky scenic drive.

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Island in the Sky

There are no lodging facilities in the park, only camping.

  •  Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Canyonlands.
  •  Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel. 
  •  Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Townhomes south of town – we really like the townhomes in Spanish Valley with kitchen, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is best explored in the fall months due to lower temperatures than summer months.

If going on a guided tour is something you want to do, these do not start until late October.

Planning your trip to Death Valley National Park should include an early arrival for a breathtaking view of the sunrise at Zabriskie Point.

Death Valley Lodging & Tours

Everglades

Visiting Florida in the summer months is not ideal at all.

Planning a trip to the Everglades in October is a great way to avoid the hot sticky weather. 

A must-do activity at Everglades National Park is riding an airboat on the swamps to view alligators.

This is an adventurous visit that you don’t want to miss!

Everglades National Park Lodging & Tours

Rocky Mountain National Park

Looking to view all kinds of wildlife, including moose, black bears, and bighorn sheep?

Then October is a great time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.

You may even get lucky and see some wildlife head-butting and playing around while visiting. 

To get the full experience of the trails and wildlife, sign up for a horseback ride to explore the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park Lodging & Tours

Shenandoah

During the first week of October, the leaves start changing into the most beautiful fall colors at Shenandoah National Park.

The higher in elevation you go the more color changes in the leaves you will see.

If you are a lover of bird watching there are over 500 miles of trails where you can enjoy seeing all types of birds that make this park their home.

Located near Shenandoah National Park are the Luray Caverns, which is a US Natural Landmark.

They are the largest underground caverns you will find on the east coast.

Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park

Crater Lake

Did you know Crate Lake National Park is opened year-round, 24 hours a day?

Visiting Crater Lake in October usually means fewer people and better views when you stop at the beautiful overlooks.

Crater Lake in Oregon

With over 30 overlooks to choose from, you will be amazed by the views in this unique park.

Crater Lake National Park is a great place to visit in Oregon with kids.

Sometimes there are early snowfalls, so be sure to check the road conditions before visiting.

Lodging and Tours Near Crater Lake National Park

Yellowstone

Yellowstone in October is our favorite time to visit. There are fewer people, cooler temperatures for hiking and greater wildlife activity.

Grizzly bear and cub at Yellowstone in October.

You do need to be prepared for a trip to Yellowstone in the fall. The weather is unpredictable in the fall so pack for sun, rain, and snow.

Also, the lodges, stores, gas stations and roads begin to close for the season so do your research in advance.

But if you enjoy waterfalls, wildlife, and nature photography, and can do without some park services, use our Yellowstone vacation planning guide.

Places to stay in West Yellowstone

Places to stay in Gardiner

Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate

Zion National Park

Planning a trip to Zion National Park in the fall is a must.

It’s the best time to hike the trails at Zion when the temperatures are moderate AND the water levels are low.

Zion National Park in March

Crowds may still be a factor at Zion National Park in October, but it’s not as HOT as the summer months.

We recommend the Zion National Park hikes and Zion National Park scenic drives during the month of October.

Where to Stay Near Zion

You definitely want to stay in Springdale which borders the entrance to Zion. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay at to Zion National Park and where to stay near Bryce Canyon and Zion:

  • Holiday Inn Express – our favorite place to stay with an outdoor pool and amenities you’d find in a high end hotel
  • Zion Lodge – we haven’t had a chance to stay here yet, but you can’t go wrong staying right IN the park!
  • Under Canvas Zion – if you want to experience a less crowded part of Zion, this is the place! It’s in the Kolob section of the park.
  • Vacation Rentals in Springdale – you’ll want to stay in Springdale so you’re close to the park entrance and can walk to shopping and restaurants. 

Resources for camping near Zion:

National Parks packing list for spring summer fall and winter

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10 Comments

  1. So many treasures in the national parks! Thank you for including parks in the East as well as the West. You’re making me long for a road trip!

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

  2. Enjoyed this post! Fall is our favorite time to visit the parks, and we will be visiting Rocky Mountain National Park from October 5-12. We are looking to view all kinds of wildlife as you mentioned, and see some wildlife head-butting. I follow a group on Facebook, and am getting excited. I would like to horseback ride to explore the park, but I think it ends before we arrive.

    1. The elk rut at RMNP in the fall is amazing – enjoy your time there! October is our favorite time to travel due to the active wildlife. A horseback ride through the park would be fun for sure, hope you can do that one day!

  3. This is a wonderful post! We visited all 5 of Utah’s national parks in 2019 and a few of those plus Yellowstone in 2015. Another great tip is the lifetime park pass for those over 65. Let me personally invite you to visit our nation’s newest national park in West Virginia – New River Gorge! October is peak foliage, and you can whitewater raft, walk beneath the bridge, or simply hike and camp. Oh, and you can base jump on one day only, the third Sat of each October (Covid permitting). I’ve shared several posts on my blog of all of these adventures, but was drawn right in to your blog when I saw your feature on Life and Linda!
    Rita C at Panoply

  4. Gorgeous parks. Fall is such a pretty time of year. I have been to some of these parks. Maybe one day, we can check out more. Thanks for sharing. I am happy to feature your post at Love Your Creativity.

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