Fall is here, and it’s a great time to go on a trip to one of the country’s beautiful national parks.
The United States is full of gorgeous national parks, and fall can be the perfect time to check some of them off your bucket list. But with so many spanning the entire country, it can be difficult to determine which ones you want to see first. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of the parks we think you absolutely need to visit. So, grab your hiking boots—here are the five best national parks to explore during the fall:
Zion National Park
Located in Utah, Zion National Park may be the best the entire country has to offer when it comes to hiking. With paths naturally carved into the mountains, the park caters to both seasoned and new hikers, allowing the experts to traverse some of the most difficult terrain in the nation while still gifting beginners with perfect views. Whether you’re looking to wade through the Virgin River, conquer Angels Landing or simply cruise through the mountains in your car, be sure to put Zion National Park on your bucket list. It can also be the perfect place to camp, offering a sense of community while also allowing you to take in this incredible wonder all by yourself.
Yellowstone National Park
Spanning across the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is a sight to behold for anyone who appreciates the beauty that nature has to offer. Though it offers perfect summertime weather, true travelers can get an unparalleled experience by visiting in the fall to see the vast array of wildlife and the park’s legendary geysers and hot springs. Be sure to stop by Old Faithful, as it’s the park’s main attraction, but continue deeper into the park for plenty more hidden gems to behold, especially in the gorgeous fall weather.
Yosemite National Park
Incredible hikes? Check. Waterfalls unlike anything you’ll find in the continental United States? Check. Perfect photo ops at every single turn? Check. Yosemite has it all. Situated in the northern part of California, Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks in America, and it’s no wonder why. Though it’s mostly known for its gigantic waterfalls and granite rock structures, fall is still an ideal time to visit before Yosemite gets too cold in the winter, potentially causing closures. You may not get those traditional fall leaves on the trees, but you’ll undoubtedly leave the park with plenty of photos and just as many memories.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
While you can’t go wrong visiting Yosemite in the fall, you may miss out on the fall colors you were promised. But don’t fret. Great Smoky National Park is here to fill that gap and go so much farther. Famous for its fall colors and changing leaves, Great Smoky National Park spans more than half-a-million acres on the Tennessee and North Carolina border. As you probably could have guessed with the word “mountain” being in the name, the park is also known for its gorgeous peaks and hiking trails, taking you through the legendary mountain range. The animals and vegetation are also highlights of this extremely special park, and you don’t have to get lucky to catch a black bear and her cubs out for some sun and some snacks before they hibernate for the winter.
Grand Canyon National Park
A true masterpiece and wonder, the Grand Canyon will leave you questioning everything you know about the planet’s composition. While it tends to leave visitors wondering if the gigantic canyon is real or if it’s the greatest optical illusion on Earth, we can assure you, it’s real, and it’s glorious. The best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park is right in the middle of fall, right after the Arizona heat has faded. Boasting some of the country’s most breathtaking hikes, it can certainly challenge you with climbs that will leave your legs wobbly, but for those willing to brave the massive heights and descents, it’s definitely a rewarding experience. Add in the wildlife you can take in at one of the world’s seven natural wonders and you can all but confirm for yourself that it’s so much more than just a gigantic hole in the ground, so large that it can be seen from space.