Special Report

The Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall

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21. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado
> Visits in 2018: 442,905
> Change in visits from 2017: -9.0%

With a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and Medano Creek running through the valley, Great Sand Dunes National Park is more than just sand. It is a prime viewing spot for the aspen, sumac, and cottonwood foliage, which peak through mid-October.

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20. Redwood National Park, California
> Visits in 2018: 482,536
> Change in visits from 2017: 8.4%

Getting to Redwood National Park requires a scenic drive along California’s coastal Route 101, so keep an eye out for migratory birds, gray whales, seals, and sea lions. Once you’re in the park, you can witness some of the tallest, oldest, and largest coastal redwoods. Take a walk through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove or the Prairie Creek Trail, and keep an eye out for maple and understory foliage colors.

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19. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
> Visits in 2018: 499,435
> Change in visits from 2017: -1.5%

In addition to four types of volcanoes — shield, plug dome, composite, and cinder cone — Lassen Volcanic National Park also has oak, aspen, and sagebrush that turn golden in autumn. Head to Manzanita Lake for a colorful view in front of Lassen Peak, a 10,457-foot active volcano that last erupted in 1914.

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18. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
> Visits in 2018: 533,206
> Change in visits from 2017: -9.3%

Though known for its massive cavern, Mammoth Cave National Park also contains woodlands and rolling hills that provide for a classic deciduous forest color display in November. The park is much less crowded than other Southern parks, though it sees a high number of non-recreational visitors (researchers, commuters, conference attendees), with 142,923 in 2018.

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17. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
> Visits in 2018: 563,420
> Change in visits from 2017: -8.2%

Mesa Verde National Park houses 600 Pueblo cliff dwellings that were occupied between A.D. 600 and 1300. They’re some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the country. In the autumn the park turns fiery red with gambel oak foliage, especially at the lower elevations near the park’s entrance.