Sharing is caring!

October is one of the best months to visit National Parks.

The air is cooler the crowds are fewer and there is so much beauty to see all around you.

But how do you decide which National Parks to visit in the fall?

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

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, we may earn a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Read the full Disclosure Policy.

US National Parks to Visit in October

Visiting National Parks in October is one of our favorite things to do.

We love that there are fewer people visiting. We also enjoy the cool crisp air as summer starts to fade away.

But we especially love the colors that come out with the October weather.

Not only that, but at most National Parks you will start to see the wildlife on the move which is fun to see and photograph!

What to Wear at National Parks in October

With the chilly nights and cooler mornings, you need to be prepared when you pack for a national park trip in October.

You want to be sure and grab our US National Park packing list to help you get started. 

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

→ CHECK OUT our National Park Packing Lists.

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

Visiting US National Parks in October

It is so hard to choose the best National Parks to visit in October, but we are sharing the absolute best that we love to visit this time of year.

Great Smoky Mountains in October

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!

North Cascades in October

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.

North Cascades National Park in October.

Denali in October

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!

Canyonlands in October

October is one of the two best months to visit Canyonlands National Park.

It offers cooler temperatures than other months throughout the year.

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

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

Exploring Canyonlands with a 4×4 vehicle will be an unforgettable memory for the family. 

→ Plan your trip to Canyonlands National Park

Death Valley in October

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.

Everglades in October

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!

Rocky Mountain National Park in October

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.

Drive through colorful foliage at Shenandoah National Park in October.

Shenandoah National Park in October

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.

Crater Lake in October

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.

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 with kids.

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

Zion National Park in October

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.

Crowds may still be a factor, but it’s not as busy as the summer months.

Visit during the first part of October if you want to participate in a Ranger-led Programs.

→ Plan your trip to Zion National Park.

Grizzly bear and cub at Yellowstone in October.

Yellowstone National Park in October

Yellowstone in October is our favorite time to visit.

There are fewer people, cooler temperatures for hiking and greater wildlife activity.

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, we recommend you plan your next Yellowstone vacation for the month of October.

→ Plan your trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Click to Pin for Later: Visit US National Parks in October