The 15 Best National Parks for Leaf Peeping

So-called ‘drip pricing’ can make it difficult to determine the total cost of airline tickets and vacation rentals.
Fair warning: Local wildlife can bring traffic to a standstill on Parks Highway 3 while you're driving through Denali National Park. Then again, that is part of this road's allure.
Slide 1 of 16: Fall is synonymous with crisp weather and beautiful natural colors. Travelers hoping to experience both for themselves this season have plenty of choices but these national parks stand out from the pack.
Slide 2 of 16: Head to Yosemite National Park in late October or November for a chance to see a variety of fall colors, including yellow quaking aspen, red dogwood and even purple poison oak.
Slide 3 of 16: Virginia's Shenandoah National Park is renowned for its fall foliage. Take a trip along Skyline Drive and you won't even have to leave your car to experience the park's unrivaled autumn beauty.
Slide 4 of 16: The nation's most-visited national park is also one of the best for leaf peeping. The fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains arrive as early as mid-September at higher elevations and work their way down. Take a drive along Clingmans Dome Road or the Blue Ridge Parkway for a good look.
Slide 5 of 16: Travelers can't go wrong with a fall visit to Maine's Acadia National Park as the weather is still bearable, the crowds have diminished and the foliage is peaking.
Slide 6 of 16: Mid-September is prime time for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park whether you covet gorgeous quaking aspens or close encounters with wildlife such as elk. Consider heading to Hidden Valley or Bear Lake Road for some of the best views in the park.
Slide 7 of 16: Looking for eye-popping fall colors in the Midwest? Consider Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park in mid to late October when green gives way to vibrant reds, oranges and yellows.
Slide 8 of 16: Utah's Zion National Park is a gem year-round but especially appealing in the fall when its beautiful colors take center stage. Visitors to Las Vegas can even make the three-hour drive to the park for a memorable day trip.
Slide 9 of 16: Get to Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park by mid-October to experience one of the country's most picturesque parks at its best. Oxbow Bend and other coveted sites are typically in peak form around the third week of September.
Slide 10 of 16: The park encompassing America's deepest lake is a popular summer and winter stop for many. However, fall is an equally great time to go as visitors will encounter fewer crowds without sacrificing the park's incredible views.
Slide 11 of 16: Autumn is an exceptional time to visit Glacier National Park, whether touring for the day or camping for an extended period. The latter is first come, first serve after Labor Day and the park's wildlife is generally more active in the fall.
Slide 12 of 16: Although it may not seem like one of the first places to find colorful fall foliage, Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park is home to approximately 200 species of trees and shrubs, including quaking aspen.
Slide 13 of 16: Even if you don't tour Kentucky's Mammoth Cave, the namesake national park is worth your time come fall. Gold, purple, orange, red and more colors await once the season turns.
Slide 14 of 16: Texas is one of the last places you might expect to find fall color. Nonetheless, the Lone Star State's Guadalupe Mountains National Park is easily one of the nation's best for seasonal foliage. Hike through McKittrick Canyon in mid-October and you won't regret it.
Slide 15 of 16: Winter comes quickly in Alaska's Denali National Park so travelers have a much tighter window to experience fall here. Still, making the trip to the Last Frontier can be incredibly rewarding this time of year.
Slide 16 of 16: Campers hoping to experience South Carolina's Congaree National Park should reserve a site at either Longleaf Campground or Bluff Campground in advance or obtain a backcountry permit in person at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Once settled, you'll want to begin exploring the 20,000-acre park via foot, kayak and canoe.

The Finest Fall Hues

Fall is synonymous with crisp weather and beautiful natural colors. Travelers hoping to experience both for themselves this season have plenty of choices but these national parks stand out from the pack.

Yosemite National Park, California

Head to Yosemite National Park in late October or November for a chance to see a variety of fall colors, including yellow quaking aspen, red dogwood and even purple poison oak.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is renowned for its fall foliage. Take a trip along Skyline Drive and you won’t even have to leave your car to experience the park’s unrivaled autumn beauty.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The nation’s most-visited national park is also one of the best for leaf peeping. The fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains arrive as early as mid-September at higher elevations and work their way down. Take a drive along Clingmans Dome Road or the Blue Ridge Parkway for a good look.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Travelers can’t go wrong with a fall visit to Maine’s Acadia National Park as the weather is still bearable, the crowds have diminished and the foliage is peaking.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Mid-September is prime time for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park whether you covet gorgeous quaking aspens or close encounters with wildlife such as elk. Consider heading to Hidden Valley or Bear Lake Road for some of the best views in the park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Looking for eye-popping fall colors in the Midwest? Consider Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park in mid to late October when green gives way to vibrant reds, oranges and yellows.

Zion National Park, Utah

Utah’s Zion National Park is a gem year-round but especially appealing in the fall when its beautiful colors take center stage. Visitors to Las Vegas can even make the three-hour drive to the park for a memorable day trip.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Get to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park by mid-October to experience one of the country’s most picturesque parks at its best. Oxbow Bend and other coveted sites are typically in peak form around the third week of September.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

The park encompassing America’s deepest lake is a popular summer and winter stop for many. However, fall is an equally great time to go as visitors will encounter fewer crowds without sacrificing the park’s incredible views.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Autumn is an exceptional time to visit Glacier National Park, whether touring for the day or camping for an extended period. The latter is first come, first serve after Labor Day and the park’s wildlife is generally more active in the fall.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Although it may not seem like one of the first places to find colorful fall foliage, Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park is home to approximately 200 species of trees and shrubs, including quaking aspen.

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Even if you don’t tour Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, the namesake national park is worth your time come fall. Gold, purple, orange, red and more colors await once the season turns.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Texas is one of the last places you might expect to find fall color. Nonetheless, the Lone Star State’s Guadalupe Mountains National Park is easily one of the nation’s best for seasonal foliage. Hike through McKittrick Canyon in mid-October and you won’t regret it.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Winter comes quickly in Alaska’s Denali National Park so travelers have a much tighter window to experience fall here. Still, making the trip to the Last Frontier can be incredibly rewarding this time of year.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

South Carolina’s Congaree National Park is undoubtedly among the country’s most underrated and it’s just a half-hour drive from Columbia. It’s home to some of the tallest trees in the eastern U.S. and its fall colors peak around Halloween.

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