The best American parks for incredible fall colors
One of the best things about fall is the stunning scenery that comes from the changing colors of the leaves. Whether you have enough time for a weekend getaway or just a fall day trip, a hike to see some gorgeous fall foliage is an absolute must for the season.
A great place to seek out this magical scenery is in parks where you can hike, bike, picnic or camp among a variety of trees. These parks in particular will definitely feed your fall obsession and make for great photo-ops.
Acadia National Park (Maine)
The oldest American national park east of the Mississippi River and the only one located in the northeastern U.S., Acadia National Park is the perfect place to experience New England’s charm in the fall. Take to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for a fantastic view of the fall foliage, and, if you’re willing to get up early, you can be one of the first people in the country to see a day’s sunrise.
Adirondack Park (New York)
The Adirondacks is one of the best places to see fall foliage outside of New England, and the over 6 million acres of Adirondack Park is full of it. Along with plenty of beautiful trees, the park is also home to over 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, more than 10,000 lakes and all kinds of wetlands and forests.
Amicalola Falls State Park (Georgia)
Amicalola comes from a Cherokee word that means “tumbling waters,” an apt moniker for a park featuring the 729-foot Amicalola Falls, the highest waterfall in the state. Considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia, Amicalola Falls State Park is truly romantic spot, and autumn only adds to the magic of its hiking trails, cabins and campgrounds.
Baxter State Park (Maine)
Located in the North Maine Woods, Baxter State Park is an independently funded state park that is home Mount Katahdin, the state’s tallest mountain. Lakes, ponds, streams and rivers can be found within the park, as can waterfalls and wildlife, including black bears, owls, white-tailed deer, moose, raccoons, bobcats, chipmunks, hawks, coyotes, red squirrels and red fox. Visit this underrated park while some of those animals get ready for hibernation, and you’ll find trees blooming into bright colors.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Kentucky)
Located just south of Louisville, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest contains 15,625 acres and more than 35 miles of hiking trails. As beautiful as the leaves are when they change color here in the fall, the best part about coming to Bernheim is its many events promoting conservation of the forest and a deeper connection with nature.
Blackwater Falls State Park (West Virginia)
Blackwater Falls State Park is perfect for a romantic adventure, known for the famous Blackwater Falls that have graced many calendars, advertisements and more. The falls, and the rest of the park, gain a pop of color when the fall season changes the leaves, making for an even more stunning photo-op.
Boston Common (Massachusetts)
The oldest city park in the country, Boston Common is a Boston icon, found at the southern end of the Freedom Trail at the foot of Beacon Hill. The 50-acre park, which also has monuments to the Boston Massacre and the Civil War, is lovely year-round, but autumn is especially beautiful as its many trees change color.
Brown County State Park (Indiana)
The best spot for fall foliage in Indiana is Brown County State Park, which receives about 1.3 million visitors every year. The area’s views of the beautiful hills of southern Indiana are renowned, and autumn makes the experience particularly impressive. Trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding are available, as are two lakes for fishing. A park lodge, cabins and campsites all give the area a rustic vibe, particularly since much of the park’s infrastructure dates back to the 1930s.
Central Park (New York)
One of the most popular tourist attractions in America and most-filmed locations in the world, Central Park has an entirely different charm in the fall. Many of its 20,000 trees transform into bouquets of bright yellows, reds and oranges, making for lovely walks and gorgeous photos.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (Washington and Oregon)
Visit the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington-Oregon border, just about half an hour from Portland, and you’ll find an already beautiful spot that takes on breathtaking colors. Drive along the Columbia River Highway so that you can see the area’s tallest waterfall, the incredibly photogenic and 611-foot-tall Multnomah Falls.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
Enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Cuyahoga River in the only national park in Ohio. Located in the northeastern part of the state, it’s a beautiful place in the fall for biking, hiking, nature photography and all other sorts of outdoor activities.
Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
While there are plenty of reasons to visit Denali National Park in the summer, it’s also worth a visit in the fall. Encompassing over 6 million acres, Denali is larger than the entire state of New Hampshire. The park’s northern climate means it sees a pretty short autumn, so make sure to visit before the fall foliage fades, which it tends to do in October or sometimes even as early as late September.
DeSoto State Park (Alabama)
Autumn brings vibrant color to DeSoto State Park’s dogwood, hickory, maple and poplar trees, as well as through its wildflower blooms and berries. Hike over to DeSoto Falls, a 104-foot waterfall on the West Fork of Little River, for even more stunning natural beauty and maybe even a swim if it’s not too cold.
Elmore State Park (Vermont)
An officially registered national historic site, Elmore State Park is only open between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, so guests have a limited amount of time to come and enjoy the absolutely stunning transformation of the leaves here. Located in the beautiful lake town of Elmore, the park contains Lake Elmore and Elmore Mountain, and is a great site for hiking, watersports, picnics and camping.
Forest Park (Missouri)
Known as the “Heart of St. Louis,” Forest Park has been the site of many historic events in the city, such as the 1904 Summer Olympics and the 1904 World’s Fair. You’ll find the St. Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Science Center in the park any time of year, but you have to visit in the fall to witness the wonderful changing colors of its leaves.
Garner State Park (Texas)
Snap some amazing photos for your Instagram feed at Garner State Park, the most popular state park for overnight camping in Texas. Located in the southern part of the state, there’s plenty to do here such as fishing, canoeing, paddle boating, hiking, picnicking, bike riding and more. In the fall, the Texas Hill Country terrain takes on some stunning hues.
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
Located in Teton County in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park contains the northern parts of the Jackson Hole region as well as the Teton Range, a 40-mile-long mountain range full of gorgeous foliage in the fall. Stay at one of more than 1,000 drive-in campsites or hike the over 200 miles of trails to enjoy this truly photogenic national park and its autumn scenery in all of its glory.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited national park in the country according to the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has countless things to do in the autumn. Take a drive down U.S. Highway 441, also known as Newfound Gap Road, for an absolutely breathtaking view of the fall scenery here in October and November.
Hacklebarney State Park (New Jersey)
Approximately 980 acres make up Hacklebarney State Park, a popular hiking spot in northern New Jersey. While people come to traverse its many hiking trails throughout the year, fall is especially gorgeous in this state park characterized by the Black River that runs through it, creating tranquil small waterfalls as it runs past huge boulders.
Hocking Hills State Park (Ohio)
With gorgeous scenery and plenty of serene spots to enjoy nature, Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most spectacular state parks in the country, especially in the autumn. Full of cliffs, caves, waterfalls and other natural wonders, the 2,356-acre park is a great place to explore nature at its finest.
Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)
The birthplace of American democracy, Independence National Historical Park is home to Independence Hall, the site where the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution were debated and adopted. The iconic Liberty Bell is located across from it. There are plenty of other landmarks in the park that history buffs will love, which is why it’s been called “America’s most historic square mile,” but anyone can appreciate its careful layout and a pleasant walk among the colorful trees in autumn.
Katy Trail State Park (Missouri)
At 240 miles, the Katy Trail is one of the longest rail-trails in the country. It used to serve the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad but today serves as a path along the Missouri River for cyclists, hikers and joggers. Trees line much of the trail, which is great for a lovely walk or bike ride in the crisp autumn air.
Letchworth State Park (New York)
At Letchworth State Park, you’ll find breathtaking views in what has been dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East.” The park is home to a 550-foot gorge over which the Genesee River runs into three waterfalls. You can witness its gorgeous fall colors by hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting — or even by hot air balloon.
Lieber State Recreation Area (Indiana)
Lieber State Recreation Area is a scenic park with a lake, beautiful falls, hiking trails, camping grounds and a nature center. While its aquatic center is closed outside of summer, a visit in the fall has its own advantages, most of all the stunning scenery.
Macedonia Brook State Park (Connecticut)
Located next to the border with New York, Macedonia Brook State Park is a 2,302-acre park with a 51-site campground and plenty of space for hiking, picnicking and even fishing. Enjoy beautiful fall colors up in the mountains as you hike the Macedonia Ridge Trail that runs through the park.
Minnehaha Regional Park (Minnesota)
Minnehaha Regional Park is best known for Minnehaha Falls, a picturesque spot that’s the most photographed site in the state. This Minneapolis park has a lot to offer: It’s home to multiple historic structures, such as a Victorian train depot and the first wood-frame dwelling built west of the Mississippi River. Minnehaha Park’s winding walkways and serene waterfalls are even more enchanting in the fall, when orange and yellow leaves add some color.
Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
One of the best national parks in the winter thanks in part to the beauty of the snow-covered mountain, Mount Rainier National Park is pretty stunning in the fall, too, when that same mountain is surrounded by bright colors. Popular among mountaineers attempting the summit, the park has another great spot for a view on the Wonderland Trail, a nearly 100-mile trail circumnavigating the mountain.
Nockamixon State Park (Pennsylvania)
Most people visit Nockamixon State Park in the summer, but it’s a definite must-see sight in the fall too. Located in Bucks County, this top weekend getaway spot is home to the beautiful Lake Nockamixon, an artificial reservoir where boating is a popular endeavor, as is fishing.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)
Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning natural monument characterized by sandstone cliffs reaching up to 200 feet above lake level. The autumn leaves make those cliffs extra stunning, and one can fully appreciate the sight by kayak.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Michigan)
The Porcupine Mountains, also known as the Porkies, are located in the northwestern part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the surrounding park is home to all sorts of wildlife, such as beavers, black bears, gray wolves, coyotes, foxes, river otters, bobcats and, aptly, porcupines. American basswood, eastern hemlock, sugar maple and yellow birch trees are among the many species that brighten up the forest in the fall.
Potawatomi State Park (Wisconsin)
Door County is the perfect spot for a fall weekend trip, and the perfect spot to see fall foliage there is Potawatomi State Park. Located on Sturgeon Bay, the park is a popular camping site, with limestone cliffs and steep slopes only made more beautiful by the changing colors of the season.
Prospect Park (New York)
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is beautiful year-round and is home to a 90-acre meadow, multiple waterfalls, a zoo and the only lake in the borough, among other attractions. The park has approximately 30,000 trees across about 200 different species, and the effect in the fall is stunning.
Quabbin Reservoir Park (Massachusetts)
Quabbin Reservoir is a popular spot for hiking, fishing and boating. South of the reservoir, you’ll find an observation tower and lookout from which to enjoy picturesque views. Trees surround the reservoir, and their vibrant leaves brighten up the scenery before falling for winter.
Ricker Pond State Park (Vermont)
One of seven state parks within Groton State Forest, Ricker Pond State Park is only open between the Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends, so make sure to catch the fall foliage before the leaves all drop. A popular spot for camping, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and motor boating, the park is home to a 95-acre lake that’s even more picturesque when surrounded by brightly colored trees.
Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
You’ll find Rocky Mountain National Park in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the north-central part of Colorado. Year-round, it has breathtaking scenery in the form of its fascinating wildlife, alpine lakes and mountain tundra, but fall in particular brings its forests to life. The park is also amazingly beautiful in the winter.
Roger Williams Park (Rhode Island)
A popular playground for locals, Roger Williams Park is a historic park in Providence with more than 100 acres of ponds within its 435 acres. In addition to a zoo, natural history museum, casino and botanical center, the park has more than 5,000 trees and is a sight to see in the fall.
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Shenandoah National Park contains part of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and is perfect for stargazing and leaf peeping. If you’re looking for some gorgeous fall colors, the park’s Skyline Drive is particularly popular; the two-lane road runs the length of the entire park and has 75 overlooks with stunning views.
Silver Falls State Park (Oregon)
Silver Falls State Park has an area of more than 9,000 acres, making it the largest state park in Oregon. It contains more than 24 miles of trails for walking, 14 miles for horseback riding and a 4-mile bike trail. Most notable is the Trail of Ten Falls, also known as Canyon Trail, which runs almost 9 miles along a river and past 10 waterfalls, a particularly gorgeous sight in the fall.
Starved Rock State Park (Illinois)
Guided hikes are offered year-round at Starved Rock State Park, and you can pick a trail based on your skill level from its 13 miles of well-marked paths. Located 90 miles southwest of Chicago, the park is 2,630 acres of bluffs, canyons, waterfalls and incredible wildlife and plants. If you take the staircase up Starved Rock, you’ll get an amazing view of the Illinois River and all the surrounding fall colors.
Tallulah Gorge State Park (Georgia)
Surrounding the 1,000-foot Tallulah Gorge and its six waterfalls known as Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Gorge State Park is a popular hiking spot in northern Georgia. Multiple trails run along the rim of the gorge, where you’ll find overlooks with fantastic views of the waterfalls and fall leaves.
Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)
In the winter of 1777 and 1778, the Continental Army had its third winter encampment during the American Revolutionary War in southeast Pennsylvania, a site that came to be known as Valley Forge. To this day, Valley Forge National Historical Park preserves and celebrates the history of the site with museums, historical buildings, memorials and recreated encampment structures. In addition to walking and trolley tours, the park has 26 miles of biking and hiking trails where you can enjoy the fall weather and scenery of the park on your own.
Washington Park (Oregon)
Portland’s Washington Park holds a lot within its 410 acres, including a zoo, arboretum, children’s museum, forestry museum, amphitheater, playgrounds, sports areas, rose garden and Japanese garden. Located on a wooded hillside, the park is filled with fountains and public art for you to enjoy alongside the colorful fall trees of its gardens and arboretum.
White Mountain National Forest (New Hampshire)
Technically a federally managed forest, White Mountain National Forest is a popular spot for skiing, hiking, camping and other ways of enjoying nature. The site has 23 campgrounds and 1,200 miles of hiking trails, including the Greenleaf Trail which, upon the magical transformation of the White Mountains in the autumn, becomes one of the best hikes for fall foliage.
Yosemite National Park (California)
The iconic Yosemite National Park lies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, home to 800 miles of hiking trails, 1,600 miles of streams and more than two dozen waterfalls. Famous for its evergreen giant sequoia trees, Yosemite has an impressive diversity of fauna and flora, with many trees coloring the landscape in various reds, yellows, oranges and browns in the fall.
Zion National Park (Utah)
Zion National Park is most famous for Zion Canyon, a 15-mile long and 2,640-foot deep canyon with reddish and brown Navajo Sandstone walls. The park has four different terrestrial zones, however: desert, coniferous forest, riparian and woodland, with numerous plant species among them. Beginning in September and peaking in late October, the autumn tree colors are just one of the many beautiful spots in the park.
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