Summer may be the most popular season for visiting national parks, but the other seasons can make for a great visit as well. Some of the perks of visiting off-season include fewer visitors than in the busier months. Additionally, an offer season visit can result in unique wildlife viewing opportunities, and chances to experience the parks in a new way. Many parks, however, do have some seasonal closures – with summer coming to an end, here are the top 7 national parks to visit in the fall and what you need to know to plan your upcoming trip to them.
1. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone’s most popular season is by far summer – the park can see upwards of over 800,000 visitors a month in peak months such as July and August. For comparison, the park typically sees around a mere 30,000 visitors in the winter months. Due to its remote location, the park does experience seasonal closures in some areas, based on weather and road conditions. However, several notable areas are open year-round, including much of Mammoth (Mammoth campground, general store, and post office welcome visits 12 months a year). Additionally, many campgrounds and hotels do stay open until late October or early November. Details about the exact seasonal closures are available on the park website.
2. Grand Canyon National Park
Though the Grand Canyon may be in the desert, it still sees a considerable amount of snow. The good news is that the South Rim of the park is open year-round. It typically sees slightly fewer visitors in nonsummer months, meaning fall can be a great time to visit and beat the crowds. The North Rim, meanwhile, does experience seasonal closures. The exact date varies based on weather – typically closing sometime in November or December. This means those looking for an early to mid-fall trip can consider adding the North Rim to their itinerary. Those planning a later fall trip may want to check the NPS website for any relevant closures and keep plans flexible in case of inclement weather.
3. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is another great park to visit in the fall if you’re looking to beat the crowds. An autumn visit to Glacier can be especially memorable – the trees will be turning colors and fewer people means the wildlife will be more active. The Going To The Sun road – one of the main roads in the park – is currently scheduled to remain open until October 17th – weather permitting. Lodging such as hotels are not available in the fall, however, camping at campgrounds such as Apgar Campground is still available to visitors.
4. Zion National Park
A fall visit to Zion National Park can be a great choice for those looking for cooler – but not too cold – temperatures for outdoor activities, as well as seeing vibrant changing leaves. Temperatures in the fall can get down to the 30s, meaning visitors may want to consider layering clothes or bringing a warm coat for their outdoor adventure. Many of the park’s amenities, including shuttle buses, run through the fall, albeit with more limited hours.
5. Olympic National Park
Those near Washington State – or those looking to see a gorgeous rainforest – will love a trip to Olympic National Park. In addition to viewing the Hoh Rainforest and enjoying a less populated trip, visitors can also look forward to checking out unique destinations such as Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which offers daily passes to enjoy a soak in their warm mineral pool. As temperatures drop in Washington State, this can be a great trip idea. The springs remain open daily until October 31st, making it a great stop for an early to mid-fall trip.
6. Joshua Tree National Park
Unlike some of the other parks on this list, which begin to see less visitation in the fall, autumn at Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular times to visit. This is due to the heat in the area, which begins to subside in fall. While a visit in fall may not avoid other visitors, the cooler temperatures, stunning scenery, and unique foliage make the fall one of the best times to visit Joshua Tree.
7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
If you’re looking to see some truly stunning changing foliage, consider a trip to Cuyahoga valley national park in Ohio. Gorgeous year-round, the park’s forests became a vibrant collage of colors during autumn. Mid to late October is often considered the peak fall foliage season. In fact, the month of October, in general, is a great time to see the changing leaves.
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