Special Report

The Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall

When getting out into nature means waiting in traffic for two hours, there’s a problem. In 2017, U.S. National Parks saw over 330 million visits — that’s slightly more than the population of the United States — causing traffic congestion in many of the most picturesque locales. Here are other places that are sick and tired of tourists.

Luckily, many national parks are less crowded in the fall, when summer vacation traffic dies down and visitors centers and other amenities go into off-season hours or shut down completely. 24/7 Tempo found the best national parks to visit in the fall based on which parks boast autumn foliage colors and are known to be less crowded in the autumn off-season. Here are the places with the best fall foliage in every state.

With the exception of a few foliage hotspots like Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the months of October and November bring fewer visitors to our foliage-bearing national parks, and provide a more peaceful viewing experience.

To determine the best national parks to visit in the fall, 24/7 Tempo reviewed National Park Service websites and those of several travel publications to determine off-season months for each park. Parks that are known to have increased traffic due to foliage viewers in the fall were eliminated, as were parks that experience no reported foliage change.

Seasonal weather changes were taken into account and most national parks in Alaska were not considered, as driving conditions in the fall can be dangerous and many park roads shut down after first snowfall. Parks in the South that experience higher visitor numbers in autumn due to prohibitive summer temperatures were also eliminated.

Visitation and recreational days spent in each park (one recreational day = 12 visitor hours spent in the park), as well as total visitation figures for each state, are from the 2018 Statistical Abstract on National Parks, published by the National Park Service.

Click here to see the best national parks to visit in the fall.

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