The Best American Parks for Incredible Fall Colors
The Best American Parks for Incredible Fall Colors
One of the best ways to witness the magic that is fall foliage in the United States is through the country's many public parks, full of trails, lakes, and rivers lined by impressive trees. From some of the country's top national parks to state and county parks and preserves, many of the nation's natural sites are utterly stunning once the season changes and those trees are transformed.
Take a spectacular hike surrounded by reds, oranges, yellows, and even purples, and take a photo while you're at it because in the autumn, these parks can be picture perfect. Climate change is changing many destinations, and it's also causing the fall season to become shorter and less of a certainty in many places too. America's parks, however, particularly those in the Northeast, almost always guarantee a stunning sight, and these parks are the best for those seeking to enjoy the incredible colors of fall.
Acadia National Park (Maine)
The oldest American national park east of the Mississippi River and the only one located in the northeastern U.S., Acadia National Park is the perfect place to experience New England's charm in the fall. Take to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for a fantastic view of the fall foliage as well as one of the first places in the country to see a sunrise.
Adirondack Park (New York)
The Adirondacks is one of the best places to see fall foliage outside of New England, and the over 6 million acres of Adirondack Park is full of it. Along with plenty of beautiful trees, the park is also home to over 30,000 miles of rivers and streets, more than 10,000 lakes, and all kinds of wetlands and older forests.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Kentucky)
Located just south of Louisville, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest contains 15,625 acres and over 35 miles of hiking trails. As beautiful as the leaves are when they change color here in the fall, because it is an arboretum, forest, and nature preserve, the clipping or collection of leaves from here is prohibited.
Blackwater Falls State Park (West Virginia)
Blackwater Falls State Park is the most beautiful spot in the state of West Virginia, known for the famous Blackwater Falls that have graced many calendars, advertisements, and more. The falls, and the rest of the park, gain a pop of color when the fall season changes the leaves, making for an even more stunning photo op.
Brown County State Park (Indiana)
The best spot for fall foliage in the state of Indiana is Brown County State Park, which receives about 1.3 million visitors every year. The area's views of the beautiful hills of southern Indiana are renowned, and autumn makes the experience particularly impressive. Trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding are available, as are two lakes for fishing. A park lodge, cabins, and campsites all give the area a rustic vibe, particularly since much of the park's infrastructure dates back to the 1930s.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
Enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Cuyahoga River in the only national park in Ohio. Located in the northeastern part of the state, it's a beautiful place in the fall for biking, hiking, nature photography, and all other sorts of outdoor activities as well as one of the best national parks for pets.
Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
While there are plenty of reasons to visit Denali National Park in the summer, it's absolutely worth a visit in the fall. Encompassing over 6 million acres, Denali is larger than the entire state of New Hampshire. The park's northern climate means it sees a pretty short autumn, so make sure to visit before the fall foliage fades.
Elmore State Park (Vermont)
An officially registered national historic site, Elmore State Park is only open between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, so guests have a limited amount of time to come and enjoy the absolutely stunning transformation of the leaves here. Located in the beautiful lake town of Elmore, the park contains Lake Elmore and Elmore Mountain, and is a great site for hiking, watersports, picnics, and camping, with 45 campground sites.
Garner State Park (Texas)
Snap some amazing travel photos for your Instagram feed at Garner State Park, the most popular state park for overnight camping in Texas. Located in the southern part of the state, there's plenty to do here such as fishing, canoeing, paddle boating, hiking, picnicking, bike riding, and more. In the fall, the Texas Hill Country terrain takes on some stunning hues.
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
Located in Teton County in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park contains the northern parts of the Jackson Hole region as well as the Teton Range, a 40-mile-long mountain range full of gorgeous foliage in the fall. Stay at one of more than 1,000 drive-in campsites or hike the over 200 miles of trails to enjoy this truly photogenic national park and its autumn scenery in all of its glory.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited national park in the country, there are many reasons to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take a drive down U.S. Highway 441, also known as Newfound Gap Road, for an absolutely breathtaking view of the fall scenery here in October and November.
Hacklebarney State Park (New Jersey)
Approximately 980 acres make up Hacklebarney State Park, a popular hiking spot in northern New Jersey. While people come to traverse its many hiking trails throughout the year, fall is especially gorgeous in this state park characterized by the Black River which runs through it, creating tranquil waterfalls as it runs past huge boulders.
Hocking Hills State Park (Ohio)
Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most spectacular state parks in the country, but especially so in the autumn. Full of cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and other natural wonders, the 2,356-acre park is a great place to explore nature at its finest.
Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
One of the best national parks in the winter thanks, in part, to the beauty of the snow-covered mountain, Mount Rainier National Park is pretty stunning in the fall, too, when that same mountain is surrounded by the bright colors of fall. Popular among mountaineers attempting the summit, a great spot for a view is the Wonderland Trail, a nearly 100-mile trail circumnavigating the mountain.
Nockamixon State Park (Pennsylvania)
Most people visit Nockamixon State Park in the summer, but it's a definite must-see sight in the fall. Located in Bucks County, a top weekend getaway spot, it's home to the beautiful Lake Nockamixon, an artificial reservoir where boating is a popular endeavor, as is fishing.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)
Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning natural monument characterized by sandstone cliffs reaching up to 200 feet above lake level. The autumn leaves make those cliffs extra stunning, and one can only fully appreciate the sight by kayak.
Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
You'll find the Rocky Mountain National Park in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the north-central part of Colorado. Year-round, you'll find breathtaking scenery in the form of its fascinating wildlife, alpine lakes, and mountain tundra, but fall in particular brings its forests to life. The park is also amazingly beautiful in the winter.
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Shenandoah National Park is long and narrow, containing part of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and perfect for stargazing and leaf peeping. If you're looking for some gorgeous fall colors, the park's Skyline Drive is particularly popular; the two-lane road runs the length of the entire park and has 75 overlooks with stunning views.
Silver Falls State Park (Oregon)
Silver Falls State Park has an area of more than 9,000 acres, making it the largest state park in Oregon. It contains more than 24 miles of trails for walking, 14 miles for horseback riding, and a 4-mile bike trail. Most notable is the Trail of Ten Falls, also known as Canyon Trail, which runs almost 9 miles along a river and past 10 waterfalls, a particularly gorgeous sight in the fall.
White Mountain National Forest (New Hampshire)
Technically a federally managed forest, White Mountain National Forest is a popular spot for skiing, hiking, camping, and other ways of enjoying nature. The site has 23 campgrounds and 1,200 miles of hiking trails including the Greenleaf Trail which, upon the magical transformation of the White Mountains in the autumn, becomes one of the best hikes for fall foliage.