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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.

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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 – DOWNLOAD our Camera Gear Checklist

16. Photography gear for hiking

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

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.

North Cascades National Park in October.

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

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

Mesa Arch sunrise at Canyonlands

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. 

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Island in the Sky

There are no lodging facilities in the park (only camping).

Places to stay near Canyonlands National Park in Moab

• 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!

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.

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.

Lodging and Tours Near Crater Lake National Park

Zion National Park

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

Zion National Park in March

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.

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 close to 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.
  • Airbnb 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. 
  • RENT A TENT near Zion through Airbnb!!

Yellowstone

Yellowstone in October is our favorite time to visit.

Grizzly bear and cub at Yellowstone in October.

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.

Places to stay in West Yellowstone that we recommend:

Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone

ClubHouse Inn, West Yellowstone

Kelly Inn, West Yellowstone

→ CHECK OUT more West Yellowstone hotels!

Places to stay in Gardiner that we recommend:

Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Gardiner – full kitchen and comfy bed, one of our favorite places to stay!

Park Hotel Yellowstone, Gardiner – charming place to stay and loved by guests!

Absaroka Lodge, Gardiner – beautiful location with river views!

→ CHECK OUT more Gardiner hotels!

Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate that we recommend:

Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with an awesome fireplace and comfy bed!

High Country Motel and Cabins – local owners who love what they do, and make you feel so welcome!

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