The Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall

Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains
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Summer, or peak season, is by and far the most popular time for explorers to hit the road and see the country’s National Parks system. There is plenty of time left in the year to take advantage including the shoulder season of fall. Fall provides smaller crowds, cooler temperatures, and a new way to see your favorite National Parks. With that in mind let’s look at six of the best national parks for fall.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Tennessee and North Carolina

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains during fall will bring you close to all the colors.
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America’s most visited National Park is good almost year-round. You have wildflower blooms in the spring, loads of fun and sun in the summer as well as some great reasons to visit in the fall. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in both North Carolina and Tennessee, a terrific location for many people east of the Mississippi. The park itself does not provide any campgrounds with utility hookups, but RVers can dry camp or stay in one of the nearby resort towns such as Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is forested with more than 100 unique species of trees. Come autumn those trees swap their summer colors to prepare for the winter. All these species of trees turning assorted colors makes for a spectacular sight that can rival even New England’s legendary fall colors. 

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Acadia National Park: Maine

Stone Bridge, part of Carriage Roads system built by John D, Rockefeller throughout Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

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Speaking of New England foliage, Acadia National Park draws tourist during its fall foliage change. This park located in southern Maine is one of our favorite National Parks in the country and even more so in fall. The park is not RV friendly itself, there are three grounds that can accommodate RVs within Acadia, but they all lack full utility hookups and are a little scant on amenities. Try setting up camp at one of the many RV parks in the nearby resort town of Bar Harbor.

It’s plain tough to beat New England for fall colors, and Acadia is about as good as it gets. The striking color patterns set along the seas make for a picturesque setting. Not to mention many of the summer crowds have thinned out leaving more of the park for you to enjoy in peace.

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Zion National Park: Utah

Zion national park in autumn.

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Zion National Park may have some of the best views of any National Park in the entire country, and that’s no different when it comes to fall. Zion is one of the more popular National Parks in the entire US and for a good reason. It contains stunning landscapes, winding rivers and a color pallet you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the United States. If you want to stay within the park, we recommend Watchman Campground which contains close to 100 sites outfitted with electrical hookups. If you want more, there are some nice choices in nearby Virgin, Utah such as Zion RV River Resort.

There are several reasons to try Zion in the fall. Temperatures get quite warm at Zion during the summer, easily exceeding 100 degrees. Summer is also peak season, so you’ll be going up against several thousand other tourists and campers. The temperature is a bit more manageable in the fall, and the crowds are a lot smaller, making for happier RVers. And that color pallet we were talking about? Expect a beautiful cacophony of fall colors and blazing sunsets at Zion in the fall. 

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Yellowstone National Park: Wyoming

A bull elk marches with pride as he follows his large harem of females in Grand Teton National Park during the peak of autumn.

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 If you’re visiting Yellowstone, you might as well be visiting Grand Teton National Park and vice versa. Yellowstone National Park is often what most people think of when they picture a National Park; it was the first after all. With Yellowstone and Grand Teton, you get craggy peaks, rolling meadows, active geological features and plenty of wildlife. There are many places to stay both within park boundaries and at nearby resort towns when you visit either of these parks, making it an ideal place to go RVing.

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05 of 06

Grand Teton National Park: Wyoming

Autumn Color in Grand Teton National Park 6

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 There are a few distinct reasons we recommend Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park in the fall. Off the bat you have a shift in the landscape that not only shows off the brilliant colors and Yellowstone and Grand Teton, you also get a new influx of wildlife viewing after many of the peak season campers have returned to their nine to five lives. These reasons make Wyoming a great destination for fall RVing.

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Rocky Mountain National Park: Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park
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Rocky Mountain National Park is the most popular National Park in a state with plenty to offer, so you know it must be something special to draw three and a half million annual visitors. Outside of the resort town of Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is the essence of Colorado, towering mountains, tall aspens, true four seasons and plenty of wildlife viewing. There are no RV parks with utility hookups within Rocky Mountain, but Estes Park does have plenty of campgrounds made for RVers.

The previous parks were chosen because of their mixture of fall colors, but there is one color you should expect when visiting Rocky Mountain in the fall, gold. The aspens we mention above begin to transform around late August and hit their peak in late September. Temperatures are cooler in the fall, but daytime temperatures are pleasant as you watch bighorn sheep and elk go toe to toe in the autumn. Add in thinner crowds, and you have a great National Park to enjoy in the fall.