Our favorite time to travel is during the fall months.
Why? Crowds dwindle, temperatures become more moderate, fall foliage bursts with color, and wildlife is more active.
Autumn is an excellent time to plan a US National Park vacation.
Our Number One Tip for visiting national parks still holds true in the autumn months: Arrive Early!
Enter the park early in the morning to enjoy more solitude and the best light to take photos.
Each national park has different things to see and do during the autumn months of September, October and November.
We have teamed with other travelers to provide this list of 10 Must-See National Parks to visit in the fall to help you plan your vacation.
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National Park Fall Packing List
Here’s the list of gear we recommend for a National Park trip in the fall:
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)
8. Flashlight: → Check out the headlamps we like
11. Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)
12. Hand sanitizer
13. First aid kit
14. Bags to pack out trash
FANTASTIC US NATIONAL PARKS TO VISIT IN THE FALL
Arches National Park
It may seem odd to add Arches to this list since you won’t find colorful leaves during the fall, but we think autumn is the perfect time for exploring the hiking trails in Arches National Park. The temperatures are more moderate than summer so you can explore the outdoors for the majority of the day.
Located in the Southeastern desert of Utah, be prepared for all types of weather when you visit Arches in the fall. During the day it’s usually comfortable T-shirt weather. Early mornings and evenings are chilly. And it can get pretty cold at night. We have learned to be ready for any weather event by packing and dressing in layers!
As you plan your trip to visit Arches National Park in the fall, be sure to extend your stay in the area and visit Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Canyonlands Needles and enjoy Moab, Utah adventures!
- Arches National Park Travel Guide
- Arches & Canyonlands 3 Day Itinerary
- Arches in the Fall
- Arches in the Winter
- Arches National Park Hiking Trails
- Arches Packing List
- Where to Stay in Moab Near Arches
- Tours Near Moab, Utah
Where to Stay Near Arches:
- 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. → Book the Purple Sage via Airbnb
- 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!
- Condos south of town – we really like the King size bed in the master, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).
Canyonlands National Park
- Tips for Visiting Canyonlands National Park
- Things to Do at Canyonlands Island in the Sky
- Visit Needles Canyonlands
- Arches & Canyonlands 3 Day Itinerary
- Where to Stay Near Canyonlands
- TOURS Near Canyonlands
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is one of our favorite parks. When you plan a trip to Capitol Reef in the fall, you’ll see colorful leaves along the Fremont River and enjoy outdoor activities in much cooler weather compared to the summer months.
There are many things to do in Capitol Reef National Park. We always find new things to see and photograph along the Scenic Drive. The landscape in this park is stunning. The Capitol Reef hiking trails take you to bridges, through slot canyons, along petroglyphs and more. You may even be lucky to see the big horn sheep that climb along the steep rocks in the park.
But the most fun and unique thing to do at Capitol Reef in the fall is pick fruit from the orchards! There is a harvesting schedule to let you know what fruit will be in season when you visit the park. You can eat as much as you want while you’re in the orchard, and can pay a small fee for any fruit you want to take with you. It’s really fun to use the pickers to get the fruit that’s high in the trees. The Fruita District in Capitol Reef is a nice area to walk around the old barn and homestead. We especially enjoy eating lunch at the park and watching the deer that frequent the area.
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!
- Airbnb Rentals near Capitol Reef – we like finding a place with a kitchen so we can prepare our own food.
Denali National Park
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Great Smoky Mountains Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Great Smoky Mountains
- Vacation Rentals Near Great Smoky Mountains
- Tours Near Great Smoky Mountains
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is located near Hot Springs, Arkansas. It’s a unique national park and extends into downtown Hot Springs. The park preserves and protects the natural hot springs in the area and the Bathhouse Row.
The natural hot springs were believed to be healing and medicinal in nature and numerous bathhouses sprung up to provide bath and spa services to rich clientele. Eight of the original bathhouses are preserved in the form of Bathhouse Row. You can tour the Fordyce Bathhouse which acts as a visitor center.
Hot Springs National Park also contains numerous hiking and biking trails and a tall observation tower. While Hot Springs National Park is great to visit throughout the year, it is especially spectacular in fall. Arkansas is known as the natural state and the forest containing Hot Springs National Park is full of oaks, maples, and dogwoods – trees that are known for their vivid fall color.
The hiking trails in Hot Springs National Park provide best peak fall foliage viewing opportunities. The observation tower has a 360 degree view of the park and surrounding mountains and offers stunning views in fall. The city of Hot Springs also hosts many festivals and events in fall, making it a perfect time to plan a trip to Hot Springs National Park.
Photo and Article by Ketki – Dotted Globe
Lodging Near Hot Springs, Arkansas
But, just before the snowfall begins, the trees turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red making North Cascades National Park a picture perfect fall destination! With over 600,000 acres, there is no shortage of places to explore within the park, including the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas.
North Cascades National Park is about a 2 hour drive from Seattle and the journey takes you along the absolutely breathtaking North Cascades Highway (Highway 20), which runs right through the park. Highway 20 is part of the larger 440-mile Cascade Loop scenic drive, which is the perfect accompaniment to a visit to North Cascades National Park. One of the best times to visit North Cascades National Park is during the fall. The park is free to visit and there is a really neat visitor center (near mile marker 120) that definitely warrants a visit. There are many things to do in North Cascades National Park. Ross Lake and Diablo Lake are two of the park’s highlights, in addition to the impressive Diablo Dam.
Photo and Article by Toccara & Sam – Forget Someday Travel Blog
Lodging Near North Cascades
Shenandoah National Park
Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park
Yellowstone National Park
- Yellowstone Vacation Planner + 4 Day Itinerary
- How to Plan the Perfect Yellowstone Vacation
- Yellowstone in the Winter
- Visit Yellowstone in the Fall
- Yellowstone Waterfalls
- Yellowstone Tours
Places to stay in West Yellowstone that we recommend:
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!
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!
Zion National Park
- Zion National Park Travel Guide
- Zion Hiking Trails
- Zion National Park in the Summer
- Zion National Park in the Fall
- Zion National Park in the Winter
- Zion National Park Tours
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!!
PLAN A US NATIONAL PARK VACATION
- National Park Vacation Ideas
- US National Park Bucket List Destinations
- List of National Parks by State
- Is the National Parks Pass a Good Deal?
- National Park Packing Lists for Summer and Winter
- 3 Day Itinerary and Photography Guide to Arches & Canyonlands
- Yellowstone Vacation Planner & 4 Day Itinerary
FALL VACATION IDEAS
- US Fall Vacation Ideas
- US Fall Road Trip Destinations
- US National Parks in the Fall
- Arches National Park in the Fall
- Bryce Canyon in the Fall
- Grand Teton in the Fall
- Yellowstone in the Fall
- Zion in the Fall
- Fall Hiking in the US
- Fall Hiking Trails at US National Parks