Fall is one of the absolute best times to go camping. Not only is the summer heat quickly fading from memory, but the landscapes are painted with vibrant colors as the leaves make their annual change from green to gold, crimson, and orange. The crisp autumn nights are perfect for gathering around a campfire and then later snuggling inside a warm sleeping bag. Best of all, many of the trails and campsite are far less crowded than they are during the warmer months of the year, making the backcountry a bit quieter and more enjoyable.
If you're planning a camping trip this autumn, we have some suggestions on where you should go, no matter which part of the country you live in. Read on for our selections of the best camping destinations in the U.S. for the coming fall.
Northeast: Acadia National Park, Maine
Fall comes early to Acadia National Park, with the leaves beginning to change color in early September. Still, the park is one of the absolute best places to set up camp in the autumn, offering stunning views of the wonderful shades of nature that highlight the trees at that time of year. The park is home to three different campsites, all of which are perfect for a fall getaway. But, if you want to experience autumn in Maine at its finest, book a spot in the Blackwoods Campground. Nestled in amongst the forest, you'll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the season, making Acadia a top draw as summer begins to fade.
Southeast: Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee
The centerpiece attraction at Tennessee's Fall Creek Falls State Park is its massive namesake waterfall, which plummets off a rock face 256 feet in the air. But, the park has amazing options for campers too, including more than 220 campsites spread out across five different areas in various parts of the 26,000 acre landscape. There are even more than 34 miles of trail to explore, most of which are awash in the colors of the seasons starting in mid- to late-October. Summer lingers later in the Volunteer State, but autumn is no less spectacular once it arrives.
South: Big Bend National Park, Texas
Fall in Texas often remains warm well into November, but it is still the perfect season for visiting Big Bend National Park, a remote section of the map that offers plenty of solitude for the adventurous travelers. Located along the U.S.-Mexico border, this is one of the least visited parks in the country, which only heightens its appeal for those looking to get away from it all. Big Bend doesn't offer much in the way of fall colors, but it makes up for it with stunning views of the surrounding landscape, which includes deep canyons to explore, and some of the clearest night skies you'll find anywhere. Chance are you'll still see plenty of natural red, yellow, and orange hues, they'll just be the colors of the rocks instead of the leaves.
Midwest: Isle Royal National Park, Michigan
The midwest is always blessed with plenty of lovely fall colors, but few places offer a more adventurous way to see them than Isle Royal National Park. Visitors first have to hop a ferry ride across Lake Superior just to get to the park, and once there they'll spend several days in remote isolation as they hike their way from one end to the other. Along the way, they'll discover 36 unique campsites, reachable only on foot or by kayak, in which they can pitch their tent for the night. Many of these spots offer spectacular views not only of the island itself, but the lake too. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you hike under the autumn leaves, as Isle Royale is home to moose, wolves, foxes, beaver, rabbits, and a host of other creatures as well.
West: Gunnison National Forest, Colorado
With plenty of wild backcountry to explore, thousands of trails to wander, and some of the best fall colors found anywhere on the planet, Gunnison National Forest is a paradise for campers. The region has 56 designated campsite, allowing visitors to choose where to set up camp based on their favorite outdoor settings. Those options include pitching your tent on the banks of an alpine lake, in an open meadow, buried inside an aspen grove, or even on the peak of a mountain. Since much of the park is located at higher elevations, fall tends to come early to the forest, often peaking in late September or early October. But even if you can't get there until later in the season, the trees still hold plenty of color for backpackers to take in even as fall begins to wind down.
Southwest: Carson National Forest, New Mexico
Home to New Mexico's highest point — the 13,161-foot Mt. Wheeler — Carson National Forest offers visitors plenty of surprises. For example, in contrast to most of the rest of the state, the region isn't a desert, which often catches first-time visitors off guard. It also gets cold enough to snow there in the winter, which isn't always what people think of when envisioning New Mexico. The forest features a 16-mile long hiking trail and is home to elk, bear, cougar, big horn sheep, and other large creatures. There are plenty of campsites to be found across the 1.5 million acres that make up Carson, but one of the best is Laguna Larga, which is located at 9000 feet in elevation and sits on the shores of a lake, making it the perfect fishing destination too.
Pacific Northwest: Desolation Wilderness, California
The Tahoe region of California offers plenty of outdoor spaces for visitors looking to escape the trappings of modern life, but few compare with the Desolation Wilderness. This amazing backcountry setting stretches out across nearly 64,000 acres and is sprinkled with alpine lakes, snowcapped peaks, and dense forests. Camping is available pretty much anywhere in the backcountry, allowing visitors to settle in wherever they choose. During the fall, the trails get less crowded and the cooler air makes for a pleasant experience both when hiking and while at the campsite. Flashes of color dot the landscape as autumn progresses, reminding visitors why it is one of the best seasons for outdoor adventures.