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It’s no secret that our favorite time to travel is in the fall.

There are fewer crowds, the weather is cooler and the changing colors are breathtaking.

We are sharing our list of must-visit US national parks in September that you are not going to want to miss! 

Also check out our list of national park vacation ideas to help you plan an unforgettable trip!

National Park Planner free download

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Visiting National Parks in September

September is the perfect time to plan a National Park trip

When visiting US National Parks in September, you will want to still arrive early so that you can get the most out of your trip.

A national park trip in the fall also allows you to have the best light to take the most incredible pictures.

We also enjoy visiting US National Parks in October and November

What to Pack for National Parks in the Fall

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

Best List of National Parks to Visit in September

Arches National Park

One of the best National Parks to visit in September is Arches National Park. There is so much to do and see while visiting Arches

Landscape Arch in the spring

We love hiking in Arches in September because the weather is cooler than in the summer which allows us to hike around most of the day. 

By September the mornings and evenings may be chilly since it’s a desert climate, but the temperatures will warm up during the day. Wearing layers is key while visiting. 

Where to Stay Near Arches:

Arches National Park camping can only be done at the one small campground.

There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. You’ll find restaurants and places to shop which adds to the appeal to find accommodations in Moab.

There are all types of lodging in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks

READ OUR FULL GUIDE: Places to stay near Arches 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 Arches.
  • 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!
  • Vacation Rentals – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.
  • Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!

Canyonlands

Canyonlands is a must stop destination if you’re in the Moab, Utah area, and already visiting nearby Arches. 

sunrise at Grand View Point Canyonlands

If you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and off-road driving, then be sure to plan a trip to Canyonlands Island in the Sky or Canyonlands Needles.

The weather at Canyonlands in September is moderate so you can enjoy the outdoors most of the day!

Check out these tips for visiting Canyonlands which includes what to pack, where to stay, and things to do while visiting.  

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park is a must when it comes to deciding which are the best national parks to visit in September.

Fall is the prime season to pick fruit from the orchards at Capitol Reef. This ends up being the favorite thing people like to do at the park.

Picking fruit in the fall at Capitol Reef is so fun!
Picking fruit in the fall at Capitol Reef is so fun!

September also means cooler temperatures, which makes it the perfect time to enjoy the various hiking trails at Capitol Reef.

Make sure you know what to pack and which trails to explore before hiking in Capitol Reef National Park.

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef

  • Capitol Reef Resort – this is where we stay! Make it a unique experience and stay in a teepee or covered wagon!
  • Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel – basic rooms and cabins with a deli and store right on the property which is so convenient!
  • VRBO Vacation Rentals – we like finding a place with a kitchen so we can prepare our own food.
  • RV Share Rentals – enjoy the convenience of having an RV delivered to you at Capitol Reef!

Glacier National Park

September is one of the best times to enjoy outdoor activities at Glacier: rafting, fishing, biking and hiking.

The weather at Glacier in September means sunny days (but not too hot) and cooler nights. 

Wildlife is on the move in September at Glacier National Park. Fall is a perfect time for hikes and scenic rides to see the animals. 

You will see grizzly bears, mountain goats, and moose. In addition to these amazing mammals, you will see hundreds of different species of birds.

Glacier NP Lodging & Tours

Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park is fun to visit in September.

You’ll find a variety of outdoor activities to do in the fall at Grand Teton like hiking, biking, ranger-led programs, taking photographs of the foliage and maybe hearing an elk bugle!

Fall color is striking at Grand Teton National Park.

It’s hard to predict when the fall color will be at its peak, but it’s usually some time in September.

While visiting you will want to take advantage of the best Tetons photo spots so you can remember your trip forever with incredible photographs.  

Where to Stay in Jackson near Grand Teton:

There are a variety of lodging options in Grand Teton as well as Jackson. Here are the 3 favorite places we recommend:

Hot Springs National Park

Located in Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park was created by the government wanting to protect the hot springs flowing from the slope of the Hot Springs Mountain.

Mid-September ends the hot season at the park, so it’s a good time to visit.

Enjoy the outdoors at Hot Springs with over 30 miles of hiking trails, plenty of scenic roads to drive, and picnic areas.

A visit to Hot Spring National Park is not complete until you enjoy bathing in the hot spring waters at Buckstaff Baths while there!

Lodging Near Hot Springs, Arkansas

Shenandoah

Shenandoah National Park is gorgeous in the fall making it an absolute must to go and visit in September. 

Vibrant fall colors seen at Shenandoah National Park.
Vibrant fall colors seen at Shenandoah National Park.

As you visit Shenandoah in September, you are almost guaranteed to see the most beautiful landscape as the leaves begin to change to orange, red, and yellow. 

It is more crowded in the fall than the rest of the year, but with over 500 miles of hiking trails, you will not feel like it is too crowded at all. 

Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park

Yellowstone

Yellowstone in the fall is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to national parks. There are way fewer people and tour buses which allows you to just explore without the crowds. 

elk at Yellowstone in September
Don’t miss the elk rut at Yellowstone in September!

While visiting Yellowstone National Park in September you will see the animals preparing for winter which is such a treat to see and photograph.

The elk rut is one of the most exciting things happening in September at Yellowstone. You’ll experience the thrill of watching, hearing and photographing the male elk during this time.

When visiting Yellowstone in September, you don’t want to forget your camera because there are many geysers, hot pools and Yellowstone waterfalls to photograph that you don’t want to miss!

It’s important to dress in layers while visiting Yellowstone in the fall because the weather is so unpredictable. It’s common for snow to fall in September at Yellowstone!

Be sure to use this Yellowstone planning guide to help plan your vacation. 

Places to stay in West Yellowstone that we recommend:

Places to stay in Gardiner that we recommend:

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

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite in the fall is an absolutely spectacular sight, especially in September.

Known for its evergreen trees, hiking trails, and epic waterfalls you’ll enjoy the outdoor activities at Yosemite in September.

September is the perfect time to visit Yosemite National Park because fewer people are visiting and the air is cooler.

The waterfalls are still incredible during the fall, just not as raging as they are during the spring.

Yosemite National Park Lodging & Tours

Zion National Park

When you are thinking about the best national parks to visit in September, don’t forget about Zion National Park

Zion National Park in the summer

When visiting Zion in September you will find smaller crowds and cooler temperatures compared to the summer.

Cooler mornings and evenings will allow you to enjoy all the best hikes of Zion

Be sure to grab our Zion planning guide to make a list of fun things to do while visiting. 

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.
  • 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. 
  • Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!

national park packing lists