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5 National Parks With Beautiful Fall Foliage

5 National Parks With Beautiful Fall Foliage

Autumn is my favorite time to visit our national parks. Not only are the summer crowds gone as families get their kids back to school, but fall is when the leaves start changing colors, offering awe-inspiring vistas brilliantly bathed in gold, scarlet, orange and more.

Most Americans live within a half-day’s drive of a national park. For a modest entrance fee, you can take a scenic drive to a spectacular look-out, or hike along a trail, often ending up at a lake, river or waterfall. Do this during the fall, and you’ll be doubly rewarded for your effort by the swirl of colors all around.

Of the 58 parks in the U.S. to choose from, those with the best color will be ones that contain deciduous or leaf-dropping trees, like maples, oaks, elms, and hickory. Many trees start changing color by mid-August, when the air gets cooler and the days get shorter. “Peak” season is usually in September and October. Most park websites will provide an update on the status of their leaf color so you can plan your visit.

Here are five national parks where you’ll find truly spectacular fall foliage.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – This park sports 500 miles of trails, 101 of which are officially part of the Appalachian Trail system. Not interested in hiking? Cruise along Skyline Drive, and enjoy the peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains before you drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Acadia National Park, Maine - This is red maple leaf country, and there’s no mistaking it. You can go horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, or mountain biking. But be a little ambitious and trek up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. You won’t be disappointed!

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – Rather than scarlet-hued maples, this park flames with the bright yellow its millions of aspen trees turn in the fall. Hikes range from a simple walk out to a lake where you can fish, to the steep. Huff and puff your way to the top of a ridge, then sit down and enjoy the glow of this majestic landscape in autumn.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina – How can you beat the Smokies? In addition to breathtaking reds and scarlets, the sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgum, red pale and hickories are shining with golds, oranges, and more. Remember the orange/red/yellow section of your Crayola crayon box? You’ll find most of those colors here in September and October.

Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska – If you’ve always wanted to go to Alaska but feared summer’s big mosquitoes or winter’s smothering snow falls, autumn may be the perfect compromise. You’ll be rewarded not just with eye-popping leaf color, but possibly views of moose, caribou, and bears, too. Fall comes early to Alaska, so aim for late August and early September for the best color palette.

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Diane MacEachern

Diane MacEachern is a best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur and mother of two with a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources and the Environment. Glamour magazine calls her an “eco hero” and she recently won the “Image of the Future Prize” from the World Communications Forum, but she’d rather tell you about the passive solar house she helped design and build way back when most people thought “green” was the color a building was painted, not how it was built. She founded because she’s passionate about inspiring consumers to shift their spending to greener products and services to protect themselves and their families while using their marketplace clout to get companies to clean up their act. Send her an email at


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6:52AM PDT on Oct 4, 2014

Acadia National Park is indeed one of the best places to see fall foliage! See why everyone from Martha Stewart to notable national parks photographer QT Luong rates Acadia's foliage highly, and link to a park Web cam and official Maine foliage Web site for the latest foliage conditions, in our latest blog post :

4:38AM PDT on Oct 1, 2014

Beautiful! Thanks

12:05AM PDT on Sep 23, 2014

Thank you for sharing!

9:12AM PDT on Sep 18, 2014

Lovely article because usually when we think of the US, it's the big cities like New York, LA and San Francisco (to name but a few) that spring to mind. If I ever visit the States, I'd much rather visit these national parks. Thanks for informing us about these beautiful places :)

8:07PM PDT on Sep 14, 2014


4:27PM PDT on Sep 12, 2014

Interesting article, thank you!

4:04AM PDT on Sep 7, 2014

Beautiful, thanks for sharing

12:50PM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

love to see pictures of beautiful places. :D

6:28AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014


9:56PM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

Denali is Beautiful!! Thank you

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Thanks for sharing

I fall all the time. A bad knee and lack of balance... C'est la vie :P


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