Special Report

The Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall

Source: kellyvandellen / Getty Images

11. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
> Visits in 2018: 1,518,491
> Change in visits from 2017: 7.2%

From mid-October into November, Mount Rainier National Park is awash with autumn colors. Huckleberries, vine maples, and willows create rainbows of color, while tamaracks, one of the few coniferous trees that drop their leaves before winter, turn gold among the evergreens. Some of the best places to see the foliage are Chinook Pass, Reflection Lakes, and Grove of the Patriarchs.

Source: dpenn / Getty Images

10. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
> Visits in 2018: 2,679,478
> Change in visits from 2017: 4.2%

Already known for its red and pink striped rock formations, Bryce Canyon takes on another layer of colorful contrast as quaking aspens turn bright yellow against the evergreens and the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos — tall, skinny spires of rock that rise from arid basins.

Source: Alexander Reinhold / Getty Images

9. Glacier National Park, Montana
> Visits in 2018: 2,965,309
> Change in visits from 2017: -10.3%

Autumn hits early in Glacier National Park, with foliage starting to change in mid-September in the western region and late September on the eastern side of the park. As most park facilities close by the end of September, Glacier takes on an air of peace and wildlife becomes more active as the colors change. Be sure to visit by mid-October, when the last trees turn yellow and Going-to-the-Sun Road closes for the winter.

Source: 4nadia / Getty Images

8. Olympic National Park, Washington
> Visits in 2018: 3,104,455
> Change in visits from 2017: -8.7%

The temperate rainforests in Olympic National Park see 12 to 14 feet of rain a year, so dress appropriately and you’ll be rewarded with the possibility of elk, bobcat, and eagle sightings. Salmon spawn in the fall, and many predators come out to feed as the fish jump up the cascades to their spawning grounds. Bigleaf and vine maples turn shades of yellow, orange, and red, contrasting with the lush, green, moss-covered trees.

Source: rtrueman / Getty Images

7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
> Visits in 2018: 3,491,151
> Change in visits from 2017: 5.3%

The 12,000-foot peaks of Grand Teton National Park are stunning no matter what the season, but autumn brings a dramatic carpet of color along the rivers and hillsides below the mountains. Deer, elk, moose, and bears are active in the fall as they mate and prepare for winter, so autumn is a great time to see wildlife in the park.