Selfishly, we love that fall is an underrated time for national park visits. Fall foliage and perfect hiking temperatures without the crowds? Yes, please! As much as we’d like to keep our fall road trip destinations to ourselves, what’s the purpose of having a team of trip planners if we aren’t going to share their trip plans with the world? Here are 5 national parks to fit into your September, October, and November travel calendar.
To find vibrant fall foliage on the West Coast, start with North Cascades National Park. Visit in late September or early October to see a Washington favorite: larch trees. One of the most popular hikes in the area for larch viewing is Heather - Maple Pass Loop. Because this trail is actually in the national forest outside of the park, you can find a nearby pull-off to spend the night in order to beat the crowds to the trail.
It’s no surprise that in the summer months, this natural wonder is filled with tourists. That’s why autumn is one of the best times to visit. Visit Grand Canyon National Park in September through November for mild hiking weather and far fewer visitors. The North Rim closes in early October, but the South Rim is open year-round. The drawback to fall camping is that although daytime temperatures are ideal for hiking in the sun, nighttime temperatures can hover around freezing. Pack layers and plan on using the heat in your Cabana. Then you’re all set!
While most national parks are going into low season come fall, Death Valley National Park is just getting started. As the hottest place on Earth, it’s no wonder Death Valley sees low visitation in the summer months. The most popular time to visit the park is in spring, but late autumn has cool temperatures, clear skies, and few crowds. If you’re visiting after October 14, you can make a reservation for Furnace Creek Campground. The other campgrounds are first-come first-served, but rarely fill up.
Olympic National Park
We won’t lie –– we visit Olympic National Park in every season, and it’s impossible for us to pick a favorite. With such diverse terrain, there is always something unique to see and do here! In the fall, you have a good chance of seeing elk and hearing them bugling, you can see fall colors pop out in the rainforest, and you can watch the Coho salmon spawning in the Sol Duc River. October and November are also some of the best months for spotting whales along the Olympic Coast.
Rocky Mountain National Park sees an early autumn filled with wildlife and vibrant colors. The changing colors of the Aspens is awe-inspiring, and the elk rut lasts from mid-September to mid-October. If you’re planning a bucket list-level road trip from LA or Seattle this fall, Rocky Mountain National Park is a perfect end goal! From Los Angeles, stop for Utah’s national parks. From Seattle, add Yellowstone and Grand Teton to the itinerary.
Ready to make the most of shoulder season? Book your Cabana and get on your way!