This year marks the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, and what better time to plan a trip than when the air turns a bit brisker and the nation’s parks take on fiery, beautiful colors? Here are five national parks worth exploring this autumn.
In September, travelers will see colorful vistas in the high mountains of Zion National Park, with autumn hues spreading down to the lowlands into November. The bright fall colors light up at the beginning and end of the day as sunshine spotlights the contrasting colors of Zion’s red rocks and autumn’s yellow and gold leaves.
Club Member John Scarsi took the above photo of leaves changing at Zion National Park when he visited in 2013.
In Colorado, not only does Rocky Mountain National Park burst into color during the fall, but wildlife in the area put on unforgettable shows for travelers, too. Starting at higher elevation points, aspen trees begin to turn yellow in late August. As the season continues into October, the trees’ yellow leaves spread down to lower elevations. Lucky travelers may see elk bulging runs in September and October, or spot bighorn sheep head-butting contests in October and November.
Drive through the Great Smoky Mountains in fall, and you’ll find a whole slew of colors. A variety of tree species, including American beech, mountain maple, pin cherry and yellow birch, bloom into beautiful bright yellow, orange and red leaves. Visit lower elevations from mid-October to early November to see the area at its peak.
Oak, sagebrush and aspen leaves transform into a beautiful golden yellow in the fall. Contrasting with the blue sky, reflecting lakes and the volcanoes’ rugged craters and steam vents, the park’s autumn gold bloom is a sight to see. Dress in layers, as temperatures can vary from the 30s to the 70s in the park during this time of year.
See some of New England’s finest foliage in Acadia National Park beginning in September and usually peaking in mid-October. While there, keep an eye out for some incredible bird sightings, from sea ducks to spring warblers, or sign up for a Park Ranger Bird Walk.
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