Escape to the national parks this fall when autumn hues and crisp fall air add to the splendor of America’s natural wonders. This time of year, the crowds dwindle, temperatures are cooler, fall foliage bursts with color, and wildlife is more easily spotted. Here’s our guide to the best national parks for leaf peeping and outdoor adventures in the fall.
Acadia National Park
Cadillac Mountain Summit & Park Loop Road
For autumn at its finest, look no further than Acadia National Park in Maine. Start your search for fall colors with a scenic drive on the famous 27-mile Park Loop Road, where you’ll wind through forests, past lakes and mountains, and along the shoreline. The road connects to many of the best places to see fall colors in Acadia. Every turn presents a spectacular show of fall foliage. The road ultimately leads to the top of Cadillac Mountain so that you can explore both of these beautiful park areas!
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in Acadia National Park and offers sweeping views of the Gulf of Maine, Frenchman Bay, and Bar Harbor, making it a favorite among visitors. During the fall, the already incredible views are ablaze in red, orange, and yellow hues. At the summit, you can be among the first people in the U.S. to see the sunrise from October through early March. From May 26th through October 19th, you’ll need a vehicle reservation to drive the Cadillac Summit Road made at Recreation.gov.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway
Home to over 100 species of trees, including scarlet oaks, maples, and sweetgums, The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is one of the best leaf-peeping destinations. With 800 miles of scenic roads and trails to explore, you’ll have myriad options for seeing a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and yellow hues. The best time to see the Smoky Mountains fall foliage is October through early November. Take a scenic drive along Clingmans Dome Road, Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway to experience the best of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park fall colors.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park Scenic Drive and Delicate Arch
Autumn is one of the best times to visit Arches National Park in Utah when temperatures sink below 80 degrees and popular arches, like Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, see fewer crowds. Fall is the perfect time to take longer hikes to explore more of the area on foot rather than during the hot summer months. While you won’t see colorful fall leaves in this region, you will have easier access to enjoy the park! Timed entry reservations are not required to enter after the first week of October – so you can enjoy one of America’s most spectacular national parks without the extra step.
Cover as many areas of the park as possible with a scenic drive that takes about 2-3 hours. Stop along the way to snap photos of the otherworldly rock formations like balanced rocks, hoodoos, windows, and pinnacles. Be prepared for all types of weather during your visit to Arches National Park in the fall. During the day, a comfortable t-shirt and shorts will do but the desert gets chilly at night. Under Canvas provides a wood-burning stove and plush linens to keep you extra cozy and comfortable during your stay!
Zion National Park
Fall is an incredible time to visit Zion National Park in Southern Utah. You’ll stay cool, find more solitude, and spend less time in line for the park shuttle. The free Zion Canyon Shuttle runs from March through the end of November, so you can sit back and enjoy the spectacular fall colors along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive while someone else does the driving. Look for the stunning red and orange leaves and golden cottonwoods amid the vibrant desert landscape. Popular areas like the knee-deep hike through the Virgin River known as The Narrows are easier to get permits for this time of year. The water level is also lower, so it is easier to hike through and offers equally rewarding views.
Grand Canyon National Park
North & South Rims
This wonder of the world outdoes itself in the fall. Grand Canyon National Park in the fall is a sight to behold and is a favorite time to explore the Arizona desert for more comfortable hiking temperatures and wildlife sightings. Besides chipmunks and squirrels, you are most likely to see mule deer and elk, both at the South and North Rims of the park. When you think of the Grand Canyon, you don’t usually think of trees, but during the fall, the leaves of birches, oaks, and aspens add a splash of color to the expansive red canyon walls. The best time to see Grand Canyon fall colors is mid-to-late- September.
Whichever fall getaway you choose, Under Canvas is ready to welcome you with luxury safari-style accommodations, easy access to nearby national parks, and nightly campfires for roasting s’mores beneath the stars.