Best National Parks to See Fall Foliage

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Name something more beautiful than autumn leaves coming into their own. Green leaves change to a crisp red or burnt orange before falling to the ground and preparing for a frigid winter, but those precious fall moments when the leaves remain on the trees leave little to hope for. If you're preparing to journey on a fall trip to see the most awe-inspiring fall foliage, stop at any of these ten national parks.

Acadia National Park Maine in fall.
Acadia National Park Maine in fall. Image credit: Shutterstock.

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

Maine's beautiful Acadia Park State Park opens guests' eyes to red, orange, yellow, and purple leaves during the peak fall season (mid-October). Hardwood trees stretch toward the sky, peppered with a rainbow of colors, causing any visitor—even those from Maine—to marvel and stare at the shifting season, signaling the drop in weather. 

For peak-picturesque views, drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and peer down at the variegated forest. Adventure seekers tend to kayak or paddleboard across Jordan Pond. But this kayaking trip isn't an average plod through the water excursion. When you dip your paddle into the pond, notice the reflection of the foliage.

2. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

In the fall, Cuyahoga Valley National Park resembles a frame from any horror movie or rom-com. Waterfalls rush between closed-off caverns, creeks, and crevices form in hidden enclaves, and bridges span across bodies of water, evoking the same sense you get while watching a television show with a setting in the Northeast. This Akron, Ohio Park is not as distinguished as Acadia National Park, but that doesn't mean it lacks in beauty. Dandelion and tangerine-hued leaves crunch under bicycle tires throughout the trails, and lavender sunsets cascade over astounding maples, sassafras, and aspens. 

3. Shenandoah National Park, Viriginia

You will not struggle with an idyllic sight while in Shenandoah. The park institutes a 105-mile trail throughout the reserve and offers 75 different stopping points along the stretch. Stop at any point across the drive for a jaw-dropping gaze over mounds of mountains with cherry-red leaves and candy-colored skies. The gorgeous scenery may take the brunt of your attention, but stay on the lookout for wildlife, as deer, bears, raccoons, and bobcats call this forest home. 

4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 

This state park justifies Colorful Colorado's nickname. Rocky Mountain National Park sprawls across 415 sq. miles with billowing meadows, extravagant mountains disappearing into the clouds, and lakes gushing through the middle of it all. The landmark's fall season differs slightly from the parks above, considering this destination specializes in Aspens. Visitors also have the opportunity to scale mountains as the deciduous trees' mood rings shift from green to light yellow, sunset orange, and bright red. 

5. Wrangell-St. Ellias National Park, Alaska

The first thing my mom uttered when in Alaska was, “It's so green.” We arrived in the summertime, so we missed the sight of the foliage. However, the greenery littered around The Last Frontier promises an unforgettable view. Snowcapped mountains loom 18,000 feet into the sky as the longest interior valley glacier (53 miles long), Nabesna, lugs along The Nabesna River in the largest national park in North America. You won't find many other national parks—at least in the U.S.— with foliage near active glaciers and active volcanoes. Black and White Spruce, Quaking Aspens, and Paper Birch provide a stunning spectacle of salmon-tinted, honey-infused leaves.  

6. Grand Teton National, Wyoming 

Similar to Wrangell-St. Ellias National Park, Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, introduce passerby to Quaking Aspens. The trees acquacquireir name for their unique dance when the wind comes into contact with their body. Their leaves maintain a butterscotch yellow throughout the fall. Another gorgeous fall foliage tree is the Black Hawthorn, a smaller stubbier tree near water. Black Hawthorns grow fruit during the summer, and their leaves shift from butter yellow to a scarlet hue during the fall. Willows also pop up throughout Grand Teton, with narrow, feather-esque features and a bumblebee color.

7. Bryce Canyon, Utah

Fall foliage enthusiasts flock to Bryce Canyon around mid-September to Early October for a panoramic view of red-orange oaks and burnt yellow cottonwoods. Trees congregate near the hoodoos (enormous red rock fixtures) and bristlecone pine trees—gorgeous pines that appear uprooted on the red clay. Temperatures drop to comfortable sweater weather for colorful hikes and calming lookouts. 

8. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Utah is one of the prettiest states in the U.S., with great thanks to the area's sturdy red rocks, cave formations, and amalgamations of trees petering around each corner. Capitol Reef National Park is known for its red rocks, white sandstone domes, and the Waterpocket Fold, a lingering wrinkle in the Earth; in the fall, pineapple boxelders and marigold cottonwoods sprinkle the rim of the Waterpocket Fold and the park. 

9. Massapequa Preserve, New York

Upstate New York is a fantastic bucket list option for fall foliage lookout. The season takes place a little later than other parks, asking visitors to pop by during late October and early November rather than mid-September to Early October, but the sights dazzle each time. The smaller, 432-acre preserve entertains biking trails, hiking trails, bridges, and gardens, all inside a beauteous preserve of ferns, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and birds. For fishermen, fall fish include rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, carp, and catfish. Catch your dinner in the quaint comfort of running water and fluctuating leaves. 

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park opens its arms to guests year-round. Yet, fewer people resort to the Montana wonderland in the fall, resulting in a less crowded, extraordinary delight. Visitors can decide to embark on a boat tour, fly-fishing trip, trail ride, hike, or bike ride through the winding roads of the Glacier National Park. Glacier's tree life ranges from Aspens, Cedar-Hemlocks, and fir trees to lodgepole and ponderosa pines. 

This park has no shortage of nature, making Autumn a scenic rainbow of foliage. Aspens shift to a yellowy leaf, cedar hemlocks welcome their seasonal loss of needles, and pine trees' needles change color gradients before saying goodbye and departing from their roots. 

Related: Places to visit in Montana that aren't Yellowstone or Glacier.

Frolick Through the Foliage

National Parks stay open year-round and attract worldwide visitors to the sensational surroundings. Summer is a popular season with warm weather and accessibility to adrenaline-fueled activities closed during the cooler months. Still, fall is a great time to visit a national park. In Autumn, leaves change, uncovering astonishing fall foliage and wildlife exhibits. Acadia National Park, Maine, is my favorite national park to see fall foliage. Which park is yours?

About Gabrielle Reeder

Gabrielle Reeder is a travel enthusiast from St. Petersburg Florida. She boarded her first plane at six months old and blames her love for jet-setting on her mom’s background as a travel agent. She’s been to 41 states and six countries, hoping to up that number to 50 states and 10 countries by her 26th birthday. During her trips, she loves to find the best vegetarian food, desserts, and music venues. 

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