The longer nights and shorter days of autumn make stargazing in Dark Sky sanctuaries and viewing beautiful sunsets from sweeping vistas simpler. Additionally, the autumn weather’s cooler temperatures provide for more enjoyable excursions (i.e., kids whine less) and fewer biting insects.
Which national parks are the top choices for autumn family vacations, then?
On my list are some tried-and-true favourites as well as undiscovered treasures that shine best when the weather becomes crisp and cool.
10. Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park in California is best visited in September and October. The majority of the trees in the valley are evergreen, although Pacific dogwoods, black oaks, maples, and other species add splashes of colour. You can still engage in water activities even if many of Yosemite’s waterfalls have slowed down to a trickle. Fall is a fantastic time to go fishing in Yosemite because the brown trout in the Merced River are less hesitant to bite because of the people.
9. New River Gorge National Park
In late October, the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia reaches its peak colour, with hues of orange, red, and yellow combining to create a vivid fall tapestry. More than 100 native deciduous tree species, including beech, birch, oak, ash, walnut, cherry, box elder, poplar, and elm, can be found in the region’s dense woodlands.
From hiking routes, viewpoint spots, the renowned New River Gorge Bridge, and the National Park Service Visitor Centre, it is simple to see the variety of autumn colours. Families can switch to aerial adventures like zip line canopy tours or a bridge stroll beneath the New River Gorge Bridge as the season of whitewater rafting at New River Gorge comes to a close.
8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Wildlife migrates to their winter quarters in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park during the autumn. The park serves as a passageway for herds of bison, elk, and pronghorn throughout their migration. One of the longest land migrations on the continent is the 150-mile journey made by big herds of pronghorns.
Along with animal adventures, the Grand Tetons’ foliage puts on a show in September as the vivid yellow aspens start to change colour. Until the last leaves fall in the water in mid-October, clear mountain lakes reflect the colours of the season.
7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the only national park in Ohio, is only 15 minutes from Cleveland’s city centre and covers 33,000 acres. The general public may use it for free. You may board the Autumn Flyer, a two-hour scenic train trip with panoramic views of the changing leaves, when you visit this national park in the autumn.
The 3.8-mile Stanford Trail is a fantastic option for fall hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which includes more than 125 miles of hiking trails. The trip begins at the Stanford House, a historic farmhouse constructed in 1843, and offers spectacular views of the 65-foot Brandywine Falls as well as numerous tall oak, hickory and beech trees.
The Brandywine Gorge loop route links to this trail as well, making it simple to prolong the trek. There are many red maple trees in the valley forest, which in the autumn are ablaze with colour.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Golden aspens and elk calling to attract partners are classic autumn features of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you want to view this brilliant yellow countryside, visit Colorado in the middle to late August. Sprague Lake and Bierstadt Lake loop treks are two notable forested excursions. A particularly beautiful intermediate hike that passes Calypso Cascades, Copeland Falls, and the 40-foot Ouzel Falls is the 3.1-mile Wild Basin Trail.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
The most popular national park in America enjoys putting on a show in the autumn. From mid- to late-October, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which runs from North Carolina to Tennessee, is at its most vibrant. Colourful yellows, oranges, and reds stand out as bubbling brooks run across the ground. There are many of beautiful autumn walks to choose from as well; for families, consider the Abrams Falls, Little Greenbrier, and Meigs Mountain routes.
4. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park in South Dakota attracts tourists from all over the world to experience its untamed beauty because it has dramatic geological characteristics and one of the richest fossil beds in the world. Fall is also the ideal time to visit the national park because of the pleasant weather and the absence of the heavy summer visitors.
The 244,000 acres that make up Badlands National Park protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets reside and forage in addition to its striking vistas with layered rock formations, deep canyons, and towering spires. Badlands is a budget-friendly family holiday destination as well as a must-see fall trip. It’s a fantastic location for hiking, fossil collecting, scenic driving, wildlife watching and stargazing.
3. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is a reliable place to see autumn foliage. The 105-mile Skyline Drive, which winds through a stunning 75 spectacular overlooks, is the main thoroughfare of the park and one of the most breathtaking roads in the state. The approximately 500 miles of park trails, though, are the only way to get to some of Shenandoah’s outstanding perspectives. Consider taking a walk to Mary’s Rock in the park’s northern region for sweeping panoramas of Thornton Gap or attempt the challenging ascent of Old Rag.
2. Zion National Park, Utah
When autumn arrives at Zion National Park, the summertime tourists have already left. The autumnal hues of the leaves stand out beautifully against the tall red granite canyon walls from September to November. In addition, the fall’s milder temperatures drop valley floor highs of near (or above) 100 degrees Fahrenheit down to a comfortable 70 degrees.
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
Historic carriage roads built in the first half of the 20th century may be found in Maine’s Acadia National Park, and these roads offer the ideal circle path for riders on foot, bicycles, and horses to travel through the northeast’s forested highlands. For expansive views of vivid foliage set against the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean, climb Cadillac Mountain’s summit.