Come autumn, many of America's National Parks are at their most visually stunning. It's not only the fall foliage that amplifies their beauty, but also the waning light casting the landscape in an almost magical iridescence. And after the heat of summer, the crisp air offers a welcome reprieve. Check out our picks for the 10 must-see National Parks in the fall, with tips on what makes these places so special this time of year, from wildlife activity to fewer crowds. Whether you prefer to drive through, or hike through, these parks will prove unforgettable.
Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine
The historic unpaved carriage roads in Acadia National Park are closed to motorized vehicles, making for an idyllic setting to hike or bike the park's blazing reds, oranges, and yellows afforded by maple, birch, and poplar trees. Alternately, you can drive the scenic loop along the rocky coastline. We recommend doing both.
Insider Tip: Drive 3.5 miles to the top of Cadillac Mountain at 1,530 feet, the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place in the U.S. to see the sunrise from October 7 to March 6.
Crater Lake National Park, OregonThe deep blue abyss of Crater Lake National Park collects in a dormant volcano crater surrounded by 2,000-foot cliffs. This is a breathtaking sight that's set in a harsh environment with a very short window for visits. Even in July, there's still snow on some of the hiking trails, and by mid-October you're too late—it's already winter again. The best time to visit is September, when the weather is crisp and the summertime tourists are long gone.
Insider Tip: Starting in 2013, Crater Lake will be closing East Rim Drive to motorized vehicles the third weekend of every September. Guests can walk, hike, bike, or run along the rim of the deepest lake in the U.S. without any car traffic.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The Tetons have large stands of deciduous trees—cottonwoods, aspen, willows— whose leaves blaze yellow and orange come fall. There's also plenty of wildlife action in Grand Teton National Park as elk spar and sound their mating bugle, bull moose search for a mate, and bears scramble for berries before hunkering down for hibernation.
Insider Tip: In order to manage the elk population, the park allows hunting from mid-October to December. Where orange or bright colors if you plan to do any hiking.
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