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26 Best National Parks to Visit in October (Amazing Spots You Need to See)

You’ve chosen a perfect time to travel to the incredible landscapes the US has to offer! Less crowds, wide open spaces and fall foliage on full display through much of the US, these are the best national parks to visit in October.

best national parks to visit in October white jagged mountain peaks fall foliage and lake reflection at Grand Teton
Best national parks to visit in October: stunning Grand Teton in WY

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

Fall is a glorious time to visit a national park. The summer crowds are gone and the winter break travel season hasn’t begun. You might just get to see the national park the way it was intended – just you and nature!

The cooler temperatures across most of the US means you’ll want to check the weather and pack layers and gear accordingly. But it’s one of my personal favorite times to travel, and I think you’ll love these parks in the fall, too.

This list of the best national parks to visit in October may include spots you’ve heard of over and over again – and parks that are completely underrated and worth visiting in the fall!

Must-watch video: best national parks for the fall in the USA

Map of the best national parks to visit in October

This list is covering a lot of the USA! From the variety of parks in the west coast to the few sprinkled on the east coast plus some bonus spots in between, this map shows the locations of the parks on this list, which can be helpful when planning your trip!

Oh and by the way, I’m continuously checking destinations and parks off my bucket list, but I haven’t been everywhere yet. So I’ve asked some of my fellow travel writers to assist with this list. I hope you enjoy these suggestions!

Best national parks to visit in the fall

From fabulous fall foliage to beachy spots and underrated parks in between, let’s dive into this list of the best national parks to visit in October!

1. North Cascades National Park, Washington

best national parks to visit in October lake and mountain scene with fall foliage and woman standing in front
Visit North Cascades NP in the fall😍

Average temp: high 51, low 32

One of the most unique places to enjoy the fall foliage is North Cascades National Park in northern Washington state.

Much like most places in the United States, the deciduous trees here turning flaming hues of orange and red come October. But what makes autumn in the North Cascades so spectacular is that other plantlife, from shrubs to wildflowers and even certain coniferous trees (called larches) explode into autumnal colors as well!

There are several great hikes that highlight the Cascades’ dramatic mountain landscapes, as well as the beautiful fall foliage.

One of the most popular trails in October is the Heather Maple Pass Loop. It’s a challenging hike that snakes past countless groves of golden larches, under the candy-apple leaves of towering maples and offers panoramic vistas of an endless sea of snow-capped mountaintops.

Nearby, the Blue Lake trail is another not-to-be-missed gem in the fall. You’ll hike to an alpine lake, completely surrounded by larches and beyond, the towering Cascades.

North Cascades is an enormous park, over an eye-popping 500,000 acres! You could easily spend weeks exploring its amazing sights. However, you can hit up many of its highlights in an action-packed 3-day weekend. 

During your visit, consider a stay in the charming Winthrop, a gold rush town from the 1800s that’s retained its antique wooden boardwalks and Wild Western vibes. For example, the Mount Gardner Inn looks like something straight out of an old western, but offers cozy, clean rooms with modern amenities.

You’ll fall in love with North Cascades, one of the best national parks to visit in October!

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

2. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (one of the most underrated and best national parks to visit in October)

orange rocky spires in Bryce Canyon national park
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Average temp: high 57, low 27

One of the most underrated national parks in the USA is Bryce Canyon in southern Utah! 

With stunning hoodoo’s (Earth’s largest concentration of these unique pillars of stone) that truly look out of this world, this park is one you’ll absolutely love. Visit Inspiration Point for amazing views of the amphitheater – the main attraction in the park.

Watch the sunrise at Sunrise Point, or the sunset at Sunset Point. The Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive is 19 miles and is stunning!

If you’re up for a hike, take the Queens Garden Trail down into the amphitheater where you can walk past the hoodoos up close. Continue on the trail to connect up with Navajo Loop, and take the Wall Street Trail back up out of the canyon. The switchbacks are intense in the best way possible!

You can combine a visit to Bryce Canyon with other amazing parks and take a Utah national parks road trip, or access it from parts of California, Nevada or Arizona within a day’s drive. Seeing the park can take just a day, or you could explore more of the hiking trails with up to 3 days in Bryce Canyon.

Staying in nearby Bryce Canyon City has so many accommodations to fit your comfort level and budget. If you’re into camping, try Ruby’s Inn (campground and RV park) right outside the park. Alternatively, you could try Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel or Stone Canyon Inn.

You’ll love seeing the unique landscape at Bryce Canyon, one of the best national parks to visit in October!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

3. Acadia National Park, Maine

best national parks to visit in October view of lake with rocky shore fall foliage on surrounding trees
Acadia National Park in Maine during October is stunning!

Average temp: high 55, low 38

If you’re looking for the best US national parks to visit in October, look no further than Acadia National Park! Located in the northeastern United States, Acadia is one of the most popular national parks in the country, especially during the fall.

In October, the leaves begin to change color, making for a beautiful scenic drive. The temperatures are also cooler, so it’s a great time to hike and explore the park.

There are many different things to do in the park, so you’ll definitely want to spend at least 2 days in Acadia National Park.

If you’re an avid hiker, you can check out the Precipice Trail, which is considered one of the most challenging trails in the park. Or, you can take a leisurely stroll along the Ocean Path, which offers stunning views of the coast and is suitable for everyone.

You also shouldn’t miss visiting Jordan Pond, which is a beautiful freshwater lake. In the fall, you can even see the reflections of the changing leaves in the water.

One of the most unique things to do in Acadia is seeing the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. As the first place in the US to see the sun, it’s definitely a must-do while you’re in the park.

When it comes to accommodations, Bar Harbor is the closest town to Acadia National Park. There are many different hotels and vacation rentals in the area, so you’ll be able to find something to suit your budget. Otherwise, you can also find many campgrounds on Mount Desert Island, which is where the park is located.

Whether you’re looking for a scenic drive, challenging hike, or beautiful lake, Acadia National Park is among the best national parks to visit in October.

Recommended by Kriszti of She Wanders Abroad – follow on Instagram

4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

best national parks to visit in October white jagged mountain peaks fall foliage and lake reflection at Grand Teton
Incredibly scenic Grand Teton NP in Western Wyoming

Average temp: high 52, low 24

Grand Teton is one of the best national parks to visit in October for its incredible fall beauty, wildlife sightings and lack of crowds. By October, the temperatures have cooled considerably and the visitors have disappeared, making it a great time to feel like you have the park to yourself!

The top things you must see in Grand Teton National Park are the 42-mile scenic drive, Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake, just to name a few. Some of the best hiking trails are Schwabacher Landing, Taggart Lake and Inspiration Point hike.

Be sure to pack bear spray and plenty of clothing layers for October. The golden hour around sunrise and sunset are excellent for wildlife sightings. Oh, and the Tetons look best when seen in the morning hours as the afternoon sun casts quite a glare as it falls behind the mountains.

You could spend a weekend exploring Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks together, or spend a week hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

There are plenty of places to stay nearby, too. Jackson Hole has quite an assortment of hotels, cabins and vacation rentals for every budget. Of course, if you bring the right gear, camping in the park is possible, too.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes – follow on Pinterest

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Smoky Mountains beautiful waterfall flowing into pond below with rocks and greenery surrounding it
Grotto Falls, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Average temp: high 63, low 36

One of the very best national parks to visit in October is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With stunning fall foliage peaking in October, you eyes will be greeted with some of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see.

To be honest, October is one of the busiest time for crowds in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. But for good reason! 

Hike to Clingman’s Dome, where you’ll experience 360-degree views of some of the best fall foliage in the south. Take the Cades Cove Scenic Drive to see stunning landscapes while (hopefully) spotting wildlife along the way. Or see a spectacular sunset from Morton’s Overlook.

Perhaps one of the coolest ways to experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the fall is to chase waterfalls. Abrams Falls, Laurel Falls Trail, Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls Smoky Mountains are all spectacular hikes in the park. Ranging from 3 to 8 miles, they’re all perfect for a morning or afternoon hike.

You’ll need at least a long weekend to spend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you love hiking, plan at least 4-5 days to explore the trails.

Nearby Gatlinburg, Tennessee has plenty of accommodation options, like Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg or Bearskin Lodge on the River. Or if you prefer camping, try the Elkmont Campground in the park.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

6. Redwood National Park, California

tall redwood trees above dirt trail with fog best national parks to visit in October
Those Redwood Trees 😳

Average temp: high 71, low 56

If you’re planning a national park trip in October, you definitely want to add Redwood National Park to your itinerary! You’ll love exploring this unique park and the 3 California state parks that connect to it. 

Redwood National Park is located on the Northern California Coast. Due to its location, it receives heavy amounts of coastal fog and mild temperatures.  

These conditions are perfect for the Redwood Trees to thrive, and also make visiting in October absolutely perfect! By visiting in the fall, you’ll miss all of the heavy summer crowds, but still be able to enjoy the park with lovely weather.  

Exploring Redwood National Park requires planning in advance. There are not many lodging options available. In the park, you can camp, but there are no lodges to stay in. 

You can get a hotel in one of the small towns nearby such as Eureka or Crescent City, but understand that you’ll have a half an hour drive at least to get to the park from these places. 

Pro tip: fill up on gas and bring some extra food and water with you as there aren’t services in the park itself.  

While in the park, make time to do a few of the small hikes such as Trillium Falls or Lady Bird Johnson.  Fern Canyon is the most popular hike in Redwood National Park and requires a permit.  

Drive through the scenic drives and byways you’ll find along the way that highlights some of the oldest and largest redwood trees on earth. Keep an eye out for large herds of Roosevelt Elk too! 

After a visit, you’ll agree it’s one of the best national parks in October!

Recommended by Chantelle of Flannels or Flip Flops – follow on Instagram

7. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (another unique idea and perfect for this list of national parks to visit in October)

wavy sand with green bushes and sand dunes in distance
Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

Average temp: high 61, low 33

If you’re doing a Colorado road trip or visiting one of the state’s mountain towns, it’s worth it to make a stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park. While it’s often overshadowed by Rocky Mountain, this park is truly one of the most unique terrains that you can visit in Colorado.

During the summer months, Great Sand Dunes has its peak season, which is when the majority of the people visit, which is why it’s great to visit in October. An October trip to the park also means that even though none of the park has shade, it won’t matter, because the weather will be a lot cooler.

No more than a day is needed to visit unless you want to spend the night in the dunes, which is possible with a permit. These are offered on a very limited basis, so it’s best to plan wisely.

During one day in Great Sand Dunes, travelers can go sandboarding (or sand sledding), hike 750 feet to the top of High Dune (the tallest sand dune in all of North America), and spend time learning about the dunes in the visitor center.

Stay until the evening to check out the milky way and stargaze!

There aren’t many places to stay nearby, but an awesome option is at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge, which is mere minutes away from the park entrance by car.

Recommended by Krystianna of Volumes & Voyages

8. Saguaro National Park, Arizona

saguaro cacti with sunset in background best national parks to visit in october
Saguaro National Park at sunset

Average temp: high 86, low 57

October is perfect for visiting Saguaro National Park because it is not the busiest season (spring) or hottest season (summer). In fact it’s a great time for hiking many of the non-shaded trails throughout the park.

The amazing landscape of towering saguaro cacti makes you feel like you walked into a Dr. Suess book. It’s truly a beautiful desert environment with more to see than you might think.

Drive or bike the Bajada Loop Drive or choose a hike. The Valley View Overlook Trail is a simple 0.8 mile easy route with a rewarding view. You can also choose from other easy, moderate or challenging trails.

The entire park has many options to choose from for all levels, including family friendly trails perfect for hiking with kids.

Add some time for visiting Signal Hill to see over 200 petroglyphs. These Native American petroglyphs are commonly known as “rock art” and are between 500-1500 years old. Don’t forget to stop by the Saguaro National Park visitor’s center before you go for some shopping and info about the Junior Ranger program.

Really, 1-2 days is perfect for exploring Saguaro National Park highlights (unless you’re backpacking), but the trip could easily be made longer with all of the things to do in nearby Tucson, Arizona or 2 hours away in Phoenix. Visit a zoo, museums, go shopping and try new restaurants.

There are 6 campsites within Saguaro National Park, and all require permits and cannot be reached by driving. If you’re not interested in backpacking, don’t worry. Plenty of accommodations are near just outside of the park.

Recommended by Katie of Family Travel Folio – follow on Instagram

9. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

boardwalk and trail with tall trees surrounding it
Overlooking Weston Lake, Congaree NP, SC

Average temp: high 78, low 52

One of the best national parks to visit in October is Congaree, where the steamy Southern weather finally cools down and those pesky bugs disappear.   

This park, hidden in the countryside of South Carolina, is the largest remaining stand of old growth hardwood trees in the nation. If you love learning about different types of trees, you’ll adore Congaree. Even if you don’t know your live oak from your cypress, you’ll still marvel at the mysterious swamp, the quiet herons and the lurking alligators here.   

For first time visitors, take the Boardwalk Loop Trail. This raised trail takes you from the visitors center through the cypress swamp and back. Note that the lower portion of the Boardwalk Loop trail can be closed if there’s been excessive rain, so check the park’s website before you visit. The Boardwalk Loop has a total hiking distance of 2.6 miles.   

For those who’d like to get a bit closer to some of the flora and fauna, add the Weston Lake Loop Trail onto the Boardwalk Loop. This add-on extends your hike to just under 5 miles round trip, and it includes 2 stops at Cedar Creek before you pass by Weston Lake.   

Kids who are visiting the park will love the free Junior Ranger program here, which encourages visitors to learn more about the birds, insects, mammals and reptiles that call this part of South Carolina home. 

A good introductory trip on the park could be done in a day trip from Columbia (45 minutes away) or Charleston (1.5 hours away). However, the park really deserves 2 days or more to truly explore it

With a second or third day at the park, visitors can relax in the on-site Longleaf and Bluff campgrounds, rent a canoe to explore the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail, or catch their own dinner in one of the main park waterways (SC fishing license is required). 

Pro tip: while the South Carolina weather is typically mild in October, it would be smart to bring a sweater as the temps can dip in the evenings and early mornings.

Recommended by Natalie of Cosmos Mariners – follow on Pinterest

Best national parks to visit in October in the USA – continued

Can you believe this list?! Told ya there’d be some unexpected spots! Let’s continue on…the next one is my favorite park in the US!!

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

reflective lake McDonald glacier national park with trees and mountains in distance
Reflective Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana

Average temp: high 51, low 29

With it’s northern location, you might not think Glacier is one of the best national parks for October. However, the weather keeps tourist at bay while you can experience a much quieter, natural park.

One of the best things to do in Glacier National Park is drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s typically open seasonally through the 3rd Monday in October. This phenomenal drive is one of the most scenic in the USA! At just 50 miles, you’ll want an entire day to explore all the viewpoints and hikes along this drive.

One of the best hikes in the park is the Avalanche Lake Trail. Coming in at 4.6 miles round trip, this trail guides you through towering trees overhead as you start with Trail of the Cedars.

Beyond that, you’ll hike upward until you get to the stunning Avalanche Lake. It’s a perfect backdrop for a picnic lunch or snack before heading back to your vehicle.

You’ll want at least 3 days to visit the park, although you can easily customize your time with a Glacier National Park itinerary up to 7 days.

Staying near the west entrance allows for the most variety in accommodations. There are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in the nearby towns of West Glacier, Coram or Columbia Falls. If camping is more your style, get a spot inside the park at Apgar Campground.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

11. Joshua Tree National Park, California

smooth tan rocks sand and Joshua Tree blue sky
Joshua Tree NP – perfect for fall!

Average temp: high 83, low 54

Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California is one of the best national parks to visit in October.

Due to the hot desert climate, summer is usually brutal for outdoor activities in the park like hiking, biking, or rock climbing. Fall offers cooler temperatures, making October a much more enjoyable time to visit! 

The north end of the park is the place to go to see the famous Joshua Trees. This is also where the majority of hiking, bouldering and biking take place. The South end of the park features towering mountains and cacti, and is easily worth the extra drive to reach.

Whether you intend to visit for a whole week or just a quick overnight trip, Joshua Tree National Park offers a lot to see and do.

One of the most notable hiking trails in the park is the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail. This hike is a moderate 3 mile trek between cactus covered land, and ultimately leads to a natural oasis. 

In the fall months, when rain is more likely, the plant life surrounding the pool is a vibrant green against the brown earth. It’s a quiet and beautiful experience. 

As the days begin to get shorter, consider camping overnight inside the park boundaries. There are a number of campsites within the park. Joshua Tree National Park is also a designated Dark Sky Park, making it the perfect place for stargazing!

Recommended by Monica of This Rare Earth

12. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (absolutely had to include this on the list of best national parks to visit in October)

best national parks to visit in October mountains with snow and valley with blue sky
Views from the Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Average temp: high 46, low 29

Spring, summer, winter, or fall, it’s always a perfect time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. If “leaf peeping” vibrant fall foliage is on your bucket list, plan a trip to Colorado in October for some of the brightest butter-yellow aspen trees you have ever seen!

RMNP covers an area of 415 square miles with the Continental Divide running north to south through the park.

What can you do in the park in October? If the weather cooperates and there is no snow:

  • Drive Trail Ridge Road, one of the best scenic drives in Colorado
  • Climb to the Elevation Marker at the Alpine Visitor Center for an iconic photo
  • Drive Old Fall River Road
  • Hike to Alberta Falls, Lake Haiyaha, Mills Lake, Loch Lake, Ouzel Lake, Deer Mountain Trail and more
  • Visit Bear Lake
  • Take pictures
  • Check out the Fall Foliage
  • Ride Horses

Depending on the number of days you have available, you could spend a day or a week exploring the park. Camping is available within the park at Moraine Lake Campground for summer and winter camping. If you’re looking for hotels or vacation rentals, you will stay in nearby Estes Park with trips into the park each day. 

Note: reservations to visit the park are required through the second week of October.

Recommended by Jolayne of simplyjolayne

13. Everglades National Park

everglades np in florida view of marshes white clouds blue sky
Wide open spaces at Everglades NP in Florida

Average temp: high 86, low 70

October is one of the most pleasant months to visit South Florida and Everglades National Park.

The intense summer heat and humidity have broken, resulting in amazing weather—warm/hot days and cool nights. The peak tourism mayhem ends around Labor Day (when schools are back in session) and begins again Thanksgiving week. 

In October, you’ll find smaller crowds in the Everglades, quiet campgrounds and hiking trails and easy parking everywhere.

Since October is a bridge month between the wet and dry seasons in the Everglades, the weather could be suffocating like during summer months. If you happen to visit during a particularly hot and humid day in October, you will enjoy your Everglades activities more before 10am and after 5pm.

Those are the best times for kayaking, hiking and animal watching in the Everglades during hot days in October (or any month). Besides indoor activities (like at visitor centers), a wonderful Everglades activity in the middle of hot days is an airboat ride. 

The most popular Everglades area for South Florida visitors is Shark Valley. While there, explore the 15-mile tram road (there are always gators and other wildlife along the road), the observation tower and the Bobcat boardwalk. A guided tram tour is available but you can also bring bicycles for the tram road.

The other popular Everglades area is south of Shark Valley and includes most of the hiking trails. Several short hiking trails are available in the Pine Island and Flamingo areas.

Really intrepid hikers will want to hike a portion of the 1500-mile Florida Trail, which starts at the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center. A favorite hotel when visiting Everglades National Park is Lemon Tree Inn in Naples Florida.

Everglades is one of the best national parks to visit in October!

Recommended by Charles of US Gulf Coast Travel – follow on Facebook

14. Mt Rainier National Park, Washington (one of my favorite national parks to visit in October)

mountain with some snow red colorful field in front
Stunning fall foliage at Mt Rainier, Washington

Average temp: high 47, low 33

If you’re looking for the best national parks to visit in October in the USA, then look no further than Mt Rainier! 

With a stunning array of fall foliage on full display, autumn is one of the best times to visit this beautiful park. As a bonus, the crowds have dwindled for the season so you might even feel like you get the mountain to yourself!

Coming prepared with layers for weather, you’ll want to hike the Skyline Trail Loop in Paradise, Mt Rainier. It’s one of the top things to do in Mt Rainier!

This 5.5 mile trail is stunning with lush reds and oranges during late September and early October. By the end of October more snow starts to settle on the mountain, which can be equally as beautiful if enjoyed safely.

With 5 distinct districts in the park, you can easily spend a week there, although a Mt Rainier day trip could be equally as fun, if you’re limited on time. 

Check out the Reflection Lakes, a popular spot for gorgeous views. Or, take time to experience views of the park that don’t include Rainier herself – like Bench and Snow Lake Trail, a real stunner! Head on over to Sunrise Visitor Center and catch the beautiful views or one of the many hiking trails in that area.

The park is large so you could stay on the West side, in Ashford. (I recommend Mountain Meadows Inn). Otherwise a stay in Packwood puts you centrally located between the west and east entrances of the park, considering it’s directly south of the park. Cowlitz River Lodge is a great spot in Packwood.

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

15. Death Valley National Park, California

view of brown tan rocky terrain at Death Valley national park
One of the best national parks to visit in October – Death Valley

Average temp: high 93, low 62

October is arguably the best month to visit Death Valley National Park in Southern California. World famous for being the hottest place on earth, a summer visit to Death Valley really limits the things you can do and the time you can spend outside.

Contrarily, winter mornings can be surprisingly cold and daylight is limited. October temperatures range from about 65-90 degrees F (18-33 C) and it’s the perfect weather for exploring this underrated national park.

Death Valley is an arid land devoid of trees. Yet at the same time it features some of the most unique and stunningly beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see. Be sure to experience the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at Badwater Basin.

Walk among jagged rocks of salt at the Devil’s Golf Course. Take in the colorful mountains at Artist’s Palette. Climb the epic sand dunes of Mesquite Flats. And don’t forget to stop by the viewpoints of Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View for some gorgeous scenes. 

Death Valley is a park that can easily be done as a day trip, thanks to its close proximity to Las Vegas (2 hour drive). The main highlights can be seen in less than a day if you skip going on any long hikes.

For a more intimate experience, spend the night in the park at Furnace Creek. There are 2 large campgrounds (October is perfect camping weather) as well as a hotel and some restaurants. There’s even an actual golf course that is not owned by the devil.

No matter how long you stay you’re bound to be in awe of the magical desert landscape of Death Valley National Park! 

Recommended by Chris of Around the World with Me – follow on Instagram

16. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

treetop mountain scene with fog lingering in distance
Foggy views at Shenandoah NP in Virginia

Average temp: high 58, low 39

For vibrant fall foliage, there’s nothing more satisfying than the dramatic bursts of gold and fiery orange leaves at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. As the colorful display gets underway in October, it’s time to plan a leaf-peeping escape to the mountains.

Motor along 105-mile Skyline Drive and stop for more than 75 scenic overlooks that entice visitors to pull to the side for stunning views across the magnificent Shenandoah Valley.

Each pull-off is more striking than the last! Splashes of amber and golden yellow drape the mountainous landscape. Gooney Run Overlook (milepost 6.8) and Hogback Overlook (milepost 20.8) are especially picturesque.

Hikers, savor a rock scramble to the top of Bearfence Mountain for colorful, foliage-filled 360-degree panoramas. Alternatively, it’s a short hike along the Appalachian Trail to reach big views from Compton Peak. For waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park, look to Dark Hollow Falls or South River Falls for vibrantly-colored leaves as you hike to tumbling waterfalls. 

Make it a weekend at Skyland Resort, which has a full-service restaurant and easy access to several of the best park hikes, including Stony Man and Millers Head.

For those who prefer to camp, look to Loft Mountain Campground. The park’s largest campground wows with dramatic vistas across the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll love visiting Shenandoah in the fall, one of the best national parks to visit in October.

Recommended by Erin of Go Hike Virginia – follow on Instagram

Must see national parks in USA for fall

We’re just over 1/2 done and this list is so spectacular. The USA has the most amazing landscapes, it’s truly hard to believe it.

This next one is a popular one, and fall is a perfect time to visit…

17. Arches National Park, Utah

large red rock arch on sunny day
Double Arch in Arches NP, Utah

Average temp: high 71, low 41

October is the perfect time of year to visit Arches National Park! This national park has become increasingly popular over the last few years. 

To maintain crowd control and cut down on the long lines waiting to enter the park, the National Park Service has issued a limited timed entry system to only allow a limited amount of visitors to the park each day. This timed entry system expires early October (check dates here) which makes October a great month to visit Arches. No more worrying about not being able to get into the park! 

Additionally, the weather is generally beautiful in October and the crowds are lower. This can help make your visit to Arches National Park much more enjoyable. You would be able to see much of the park with just one day in Arches National Park, but a 2-3 day visit would be best. 

Hiking is the most popular activity to do in the park. There are some incredible hiking trails in Arches National Park! A few of the favorites are the hikes to Delicate Arch, Sand Dune Arch and Double Arch. 

If you’re camping during your trip, Spanish Trail RV Park is a great option for lodging and accommodations. It is about 15 minutes from the park entrance and has very reasonable pricing. 

Recommended by Janae of Adventures With TuckNae – follow on Instagram

18. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

lower falls Yellowstone large canyon waterfall with trees yellow rocks blue sky
Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, WY

Average temp: high 48, low 24

One of the best national parks to visit in October in the USA is Yellowstone National Park. As America’s first national park and one of the most iconic, this must-see geological and natural wonder is ideal to visit for all it has to offer.

October is a great time because it’s much less crowded than the summer, meaning you can see all of its beauty in a more natural way.  It’s also when the animals will be getting ready for winter, so chances of wildlife spotting are high. The fall colors and sky make for spectacular photography in the fall, especially October! 

While there is so much to see in this park, and you could spend a week or more, a 3 day Yellowstone itinerary is usually long enough to enjoy its biggest attractions. 

Things not to miss in Yellowstone:

  • Old Faithful Geyser
  • Grand Prismatic Spring
  • The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone National Park,
  • Lamar and Hayden Valleys to see animals
  • Mammoth Hot Springs

While it will be less crowded at this time of year, one thing to note is some of the campgrounds and trails will begin to close, so you’ll want to get there earlier in the month if you plan to camp.

Other places to stay include Old Faithful Inn, Lake Lodge Cabins at Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, or one of the hotels just outside the West Yellowstone entrance. 

October is a magical time to visit Yellowstone, making it one of the best national parks in the fall in the USA!

Recommended by Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids – follow on Instagram

19. Sequoia National Park, California (one of the best national parks to visit in October, for sure)

huge tree orange bark green leaves sign that says general sherman
Largest tree in the world at Sequoia National Park, California

Average temp: high 45, low 17

One of the most unique and best national parks to visit in October is Sequoia National Park. Nestled in Eastern California near Fresno and Visalia, this national park is away from the coast and boasts another one of California’s beautiful scenes: it’s forests!

Massive Sequoia Trees are what draw people in for a Sequoia National Park visit. You’ll find the world’s largest tree (by volume), General Sherman. Hiking trails and walking paths take you to the coolest parts of the park where you’ll find groves of ancient Sequoia Trees!

While in the park, you can also hike Moro Rock for 360-degree views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The 350 steps to the top can be a workout, but you’re rewarded with spectacular views of eastern California.

Be sure to visit the neighboring Kings Canyon National Park for amazing views of the canyons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Fresno is the closest large city to Sequoia National Park, offering a variety of hotels and vacation rentals. However, if camping is more your thing, try Sequoia RV Ranch or Big Meadow Campground.

You could spend just a day visiting Sequoia National Park, or a weekend seeing the two neighboring parks to get the highlights. It’s an incredible spot to visit in October!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

20. Olympic National Park, Washington

best national parks to visit in October view of log on beach with rocky cliff at sunset
Beautiful Olympic National Park at sunset 😍

Average temp: high 46, low 34

Olympic National Park on the western peninsula of Washington is an incredible park, especially in October! The park is huge, covering a diverse array of landscapes – you’ll find mountain views, alpine lakes, temperate rainforests and rugged beaches all within a few hours of each other.

October is the absolute best time to visit this national park. Summers bring lots of crowds, and many places in the park are popular – but once fall rolls around, most of the crowds have left, but the weather is still mild and perfect for exploring! 

Some of the best hikes include Mount Storm King, Shi Shi Beach and the Staircase Rapids trail. You can find campgrounds in the park, or stay in one of the lodges! The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a great place to stay in the park, with hot pools that you can relax in after a day of adventures.

When you visit Olympic National Park, keep in mind that mountainous regions often start accumulating snow around mid October!

For lower elevation areas, you can usually explore until later in the fall, but be prepared with rain gear. Drizzle is common on the Olympic Peninsula and the weather can be a little unpredictable. But it’s so worth it to avoid the summer crowds!

Recommended by Anna of Anna Tee

More of the best national parks to visit in October

Wrapping up this list – but first, a few more stunning sights that you should definitely consider. If you’re up for a flight (or two), this next park is a must-see, for sure!

21. Virgin Islands National Park, United States Virgin Islands

teal and blue water with beach and mountains in distance USVI national park in October
Beautiful beaches in USVI National Park 😍

Average temp: high 88, low 78

To visit one of the best national parks in October, consider the US Virgin Islands! The Virgin Islands National Park is located on the island of St. John.

The park is home to stunning white sand beaches, protecting and preserving the coast and the nearby waters. It’s one of the only parks on this list that water shoes or flip flops are equally as important as hiking shoes, too!

You’ll want to bring your snorkeling gear, as snorkeling is one of the best things to do within the park. Be sure to keep a safe distance from sea turtles, sea life and coral. Don’t touch any of them as it can create havoc on the ecosystem.

Pro tip: bring an underwater camera, like this GoPro, which captures your photos and videos beautifully. Just be sure to get the float strap to keep it attached to you as you snorkel!

Visit the stunning Trunk Bay, one of the most picturesque sights you’ll ever see. Or hike Caneel Hill Trail with panoramic views of St. John and check out the Catherineberg Ruins to understand the island’s troubled past.

You’ll love visiting Virgin Islands National Park, one of the best parks to see in the fall with lower crowds and a bit less humidity, too!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

22. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

view of Grand Canyon national park in October red grey and tan canyon on partly cloudy sky
Epic views during fall in the Grand Canyon!

Average temp: high 83, low 58

If you’re looking for one of the very best national parks to visit in October, look no further than Grand Canyon National Park! It may not be the first national park that springs to mind for a fall getaway, but given the sweltering temperatures here in summer, October is actually the perfect time to visit!

Not only will you be able to enjoy the national park without overheating, but you’ll also enjoy it with fewer crowds, and a wider range of accommodation options since October isn’t the peak season for the park.

Many people just spend one day in Grand Canyon National Park, and if you’re on a time limit this is a great option. You can take a day trip to the Grand Canyon during a trip to Las Vegas or you can also visit it for the day from Phoenix or Sedona.

If you have more time and want to embark on a couple of hikes you’ll need at least 2 full days in the park. There are 2 main spots to visit in the Grand Canyon National Park – the South Rim and the North Rim. Both are fabulous so if you have enough time you should visit both!

At the South Rim, don’t miss the epic Bright Angel Trail, an 8.8 mile day hike that covers some of the park’s most stunning natural landscapes. Many travellers also arrange helicopter flights during their trip to the Grand Canyon and, although pricey, it really is worth it!

Grand Canyon Village is the best place to stay in the National Park. From here, you’ll be able to watch the sunrise and sunset in the park which is an unmissable experience. Mather Campground is popular with travellers on a tight budget, and Bright Angel Lodge gets rave reviews from mid-range travellers.

Recommended by Ella of Many More Maps

23. Yosemite National Park, California

national park scene with cliffs trees waterfall
Yosemite National Park, California

Average temp: high 72, low 41

Yosemite National Park is a spectacular place to visit any time of year, but it really shines in October.

The crowds are leaving, the leaves are changing and the chill in the air reminds you that you’re nestled in the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas. You won’t run out of amazing trails and scenic views in Yosemite, so you’ll want to spend at least several days exploring the majesty of this national park.

The weather in October makes it a perfect time to tackle some classic hikes in Yosemite like Half Dome and Clouds Rest. In the fall you’ll enjoy a little more solitude than during the peak visitation of the summer.

Get out of the Valley and check out Tuolumne Meadows as well, since Tioga Road, which runs through it, usually closes for the winter by November. October is also ideal for hiking the John Muir Trail, which starts in Yosemite and heads 211 miles south to Mount Whitney.

While the classic Yosemite waterfalls won’t be running high (if at all) in October, you can revel in the beauty of the soaring granite walls without the crowds, which might be even better than chasing waterfalls. Plus, you’ll have better luck snagging a coveted campsite at popular Yosemite Valley campgrounds like Upper Pines, which is open year-round.

Recommended by Allison of She Dreams of Alpine – follow on Instagram

24. Zion National Park, Utah (another favorite on this list of best national parks to visit in October)

Zion rocky cliffs with red orange and greenery in the foreground
Classic USA sights in Zion National Park

Average temp: high 66, low 39

Zion National Park, tucked away in Southern Utah near a town called Springdale, is one of the best national parks to visit in October in the US. 

During the summer, Zion is packed with avid campers and hikers and consistently sees temperatures over 100 degrees. During the fall, Zion becomes a peaceful refuge with pleasant days that are perfect for exploring.

Arguably the 2 most popular “must-do” hikes in Zion National Park are Angels Landing and the Narrows. 

Angels Landing is a 4.8 mile round trip hike with unbeatable views. There is almost no shade on this difficult hike, and so it is important to take on the switchbacks and aerial views in moderate temperatures. 

This trip is so popular that the National Park Service has instituted a new lottery permit system for hiking Angel’s Landing. You can apply up to 3 months in advance. Permits cost $6 for up to six people.

Another perfect hike to do during October is perhaps Zion’s most iconic hike – the Narrows. This hike can be anywhere from 2-10 miles round trip and is almost completely in a riverbed. You’ll get soaking wet!

Make sure you take water shoes or sneakers that you are prepared to get wet! The water, at times, can be up to your waistline, but it is refreshing and stunning when you have an opportunity to hike it during the change in fall foliage. 

Two to 3 days is the perfect amount of time to get your feet wet (literally) in Zion. A great spot to stay is the Zion National Park Lodge. It has unbeatable character, is inside the park and is the best situated accommodation to catch an early shuttle up to the trailhead in order to get an early start.  

Recommended by Taylor of Traverse with Taylor – follow on Instagram

25. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

teal water bright fort brick path blue sky
Dry Tortugas NP, Florida

Average temp: high 85, low 75

Located about 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is one of the most remote spots on this list of best national parks to visit in October. To get there, you’ll need to travel by boat or seaplane. 

Take a day trip from Key West and explore the unique landscape and history Dry Tortugas has to offer. Visit Fort Jefferson, the most popular of the 7 Dry Tortugas Islands.

Bring your snorkel gear or take a snorkeling tour to the islands. It’s one of Florida’s most undisturbed reef systems, beaming with vibrant marine life. Just be sure to wear mineral sunscreen, the most reef-safe you can use to protect our oceans.

While in the park, consider going kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding to enjoy the sights of the area. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot sea turtles. There are 5 species of them living around the islands!

Visiting Dry Tortugas National Park is awesome in the fall due to the limited crowds. Peak summer travel season is over and the snowbirds aren’t out yet for the winter holidays. You’ll find better pricing on accommodations, too.

You’ll want to stay in Key West, which has a variety of hotels and vacation rentals for any budget. Make your trip to Dry Tortugas part of a greater Key West road trip, or fly into Key West to see the sights for a few days. 

The Florida Keys are a unique spot in the USA, and Dry Tortugas is a gem in the area!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

26. Kings Canyon National Park, California

best national parks in October view of trees river and rocky peaks behind in Kings Canyon
The beautiful Kings Canyon National Park, California

Average temp: high 53, low 18

Popular National Parks that come to mind when you think about California are Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or even Sequoia National Park. A national park that is often passed by without consideration is Kings Canyon National Park which is nestled inside the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The largest city in proximity is Fresno and to reach the park it is only an hour’s drive directly east. 

Kings Canyon is one of the best national parks to visit in fall because it’s very early in the fall season so if you enjoy hotter weather it will still be in the low 80s during the daytime and really cools off in the evening going all the way down to the low 50s. There’s also not much rain during this season so hiking a muddy or dangerous trail is unlikely. 

What makes the national park so great is that it is comparable to Yosemite but without heavy foot traffic. 

There are many excellent hiking trails inside Kings Canyon National Park but backpacking Raes Lake Loop is one of the best for an epic multi-day hike. Five days is the most common length to accomplish the 41.4 miles.

If you want some shorter options there are day hikes like the Zdumwalt Meadow Trail which is around a mile or the even shorter General Grant Loop Trail.

Before hiking or camping on any of the trails make sure to check the park’s official website to see if you will need to obtain a permit. Also, be mindful of wild animals, an approved bear canister is required for your safety. During hotter temperatures, there may be rattlesnakes on the trail. 

If not camping, High Camp Sierra offers deluxe tented cabins with hot showers and included meals in a setting surrounded by nature.

Recommended by Chelsey from Chelsey Explores

Best national parks to visit in October – a recap

jagged mountains trees and pasture with horses grazing
Super scenic Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Filled with massive canyons, amazing views and scenic fall foliage drives, these best national parks to visit in October will take your breath away! There are so many great parks, however will you choose?!

Let’s recap that list again, in a more succinct manner…

Awesome national parks to visit in October

  1. North Cascades – Washington
  2. Bryce Canyon – Utah
  3. Acadia – Maine
  4. Grand Teton – Wyoming
  5. Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee
  6. Redwood – California
  7. Great Sand Dunes – Colorado
  8. Saguaro – Arizona
  9. Congaree – South Carolina
  10. Glacier – Montana
  11. Joshua Tree – California
  12. Rocky Mountain – Colorado
  13. Everglades – Florida
  14. Mt Rainier – Washington
  15. Death Valley – California
  16. Shenandoah – Virginia
  17. Arches – Utah
  18. Yellowstone – Wyoming
  19. Sequoia – California
  20. Olympic – Washington
  21. Virgin Islands – USVI
  22. Grand Canyon – Arizona
  23. Yosemite – California
  24. Zion – Utah
  25. Dry Tortugas – Florida
  26. Kings Canyon – California

Related content you might like:
32 Best Places to Visit in September in the USA
Best National Parks Guides on Inspired Routes
Favorite Hiking Destinations on Inspired Routes

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26 amazing national parks USA fall getaways photos of mountain scenes with fall foliage

simplyjolayne

Sunday 31st of July 2022

I have visited exactly half of the national parks that you have listed. There is so much more that I need to see!

Nikki

Monday 1st of August 2022

Oh wow that's so cool Jolayne! I hope you get to check a few more off the list really soon.

Jenn | By Land and Sea

Saturday 30th of July 2022

Such a comprehensive list of so many lovely national parks!

Nikki

Monday 1st of August 2022

Thanks Jenn. Glad you liked the post!

Alanna

Saturday 30th of July 2022

Grand Teton literally looks like the Dolomites! What a great round up and stellar recommendations!

Nikki

Monday 1st of August 2022

Cool, right Alanna? Appreciate your comment - glad you enjoyed the recommendations :)

Juli

Saturday 30th of July 2022

thanks for sharing all these ideas. I was just thinking of taking my son on a trip this October for a mother-son trip and now you really have my brain spinning with ideas on where to go! Gorgeous photos too!!

Nikki

Monday 1st of August 2022

Awesome Juli! One of these national parks would be perfect for a mother-son trip. I hope you guys have a great time, wherever you decide to go!

sam

Saturday 30th of July 2022

SOOO many amazing places! How do you choose?! I love Autumn and agree, the shoulder seasons are always a great time to travel! Less crowds, cheaper prices, and still great weather!

Nikki

Monday 1st of August 2022

Yes Sam!! It's one of my favorites and sounds like yours too. Thanks for checking out the post :)