14 Best National Parks to Visit in October!

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The best national parks to visit in October offer spectacular scenery and superb outdoor recreation, with hikes and scenic drives, and opportunities to observe wildlife.

October, especially the first half of the month, is prime leaf-peeping time in many parts of the country, and many of the parks in our round-up are known for their dramatic fall foliage. You’ll see mountainsides, valleys, and meadows draped in hues of yellow, orange, red, and rust. The photo ops are endless.

Fall in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
Fall in Grand Teton National Park is spectacular!

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The weather is definitely on the cooler side in many parks, and you may even catch snowfall towards the end of the month in higher elevations at national parks in the northern half of the US.

Bring layers, so you can explore in comfort without the crushing crowds of summer at popular parks.

From Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the east to Grand Teton National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park in the west, you have many options for parks with fall color. And parks like Joshua Tree in Southern California offer great weather for hiking.

Before we move on to our round-up of the most epic national parks in the USA to visit in October, a reminder to get your National Parks Pass, if you don’t have one already. If you plan to visit three national parks (or more!) this year, the pass will likely save you money.

And now, let’s get started discovering the very best national parks to visit in October!

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Colorado

With its towering peaks, pristine lakes, and dense forests, Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful wilderness sanctuary and one of the best places to visit in Colorado.

In October, its dense forests are a captivating palette of red, orange, and gold. With the summer crowds dissipating, you get a more immersive experience.

Rocky Mountain NP Colorado in autumn
Aspen trees turn yellow in the park in the fall

The park’s iconic animals engage in elaborate displays with the start of the mating season.

Rocky Mountain weather in October: The fall weather in the park is mild, with daytime highs in the mid to high 50s Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows dropping into the low to mid 30s.

While rain is unlikely in October, snowfall becomes more frequent as the month progresses.

What to do in Rocky Mountain National Park: The top things to do in the park in October are hiking, scenic drives, wildlife viewing, and stargazing!

You can admire the vibrant autumn colors and breathtaking mountain vistas from the popular Emerald Lake Trail (it takes you to three beautiful lakes: Dream, Nymph and Emerald), or the quieter Fern Lake Trail. Fall colors usually peak in the early part of the month.

The Trail Ridge Road scenic drive offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and stunning fall foliage. Key stops include the Many Parks Curve Viewpoint and the Alpine Ridge Trail.

Head to Moraine Park or Horseshoe Park, two popular spots to observe the impressive mating displays and hear the bugling of the park’s magnificent elk amidst the backdrop of colorful autumn scenery.

Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Moraine Park looks colorful in the fall

With longer nights, high elevation and minimal light pollution, a must-do park activity is to observe the dazzling night sky, admiring the constellations and the Milky Way stretching across the heavens.

Where to Stay

For a truly memorable stay, consider The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.

Or book a studio cottage at Streamside on Fall River for mountain views.

Suggested by Sam of Go Travel Colorado

2. Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

Acadia National Park is one of the best places in New England to see vibrant fall colors. It is one of the top New England travel destinations for leaf peepers in autumn.

Consider taking an East Coast road trip up from Boston to see the classic Maine rocky coast and historic lighthouses en route to the park. 

Fall colors in the park usually peak earlier in the month, so if you prefer a quieter, more relaxed visit, choose the second half of the month.

Fall colors in Acadia National Park, Maine
Fall colors at Acadia National Park

Acadia weather in October: Average daytime highs in the park in October tend to be in the mid to high 50s, with nighttime lows dropping into the low to mid 40s.

That said, the weather in Acadia National Park can be quite unpredictable in October, ranging from T-shirt weather to really cold.

Expect a few days of rain in October and pack rain gear. Snow, if it falls, is more likely toward the end of the month.

What to do in Acadia National Park: You’ll find a plethora of fall recreational opportunities at Acadia National Park, including hiking, camping, and sightseeing.

Drive the Park Loop Road, which will bring you around a large portion of Mount Desert Island. Pull off (safely!) to see the beautiful rocky coastline, and ocean cliffs.

In the early part of the month, you’ll see an abundance of fall color throughout the entire park route.

Also be sure to drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for panoramic views! While sunrise is a popular time to visit, the views are exceptional any time of the day as long as it is clear. Hike the short trail at the top for views from different angles.

Note that you’ll require reservations until about the third week in October.

The park’s carriage roads are very scenic in the fall, especially when the fall colors are putting on a show. You can walk (or bike!) the roads to enjoy the foliage up close.

A carriage road in Acadia NP, Maine, in autumn
The park’s carriage roads are great places to see fall color

If you are looking for Acadia National Park hikes, Jordan Pond is an easy and very picturesque trail, with lots of fall color. After your walk stop in at Jordan Pond House Restaurant for their famous popovers!

Where to Stay

The charming town of Bar Harbor, one of the best places to visit in Maine, makes a great base from which to explore the park.

Yellow House Inn is a quintessential New England B&B you’ll love!

Suggested by Sierra of Your Guide to Wandering

Planning to visit more than one national park in the next 12 months? Consider buying the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass!

Valid at over 2,000 federal recreation sites all across the USA, the pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees, and day use fees for a driver and passengers in a personal vehicle at areas that charge per vehicle, and for up to four adults at sites that charge per person. Children ages 15 or under are free.

The pass is valid for 12 months from the month of purchase.

Buy the National Parks pass online at REI!

3. Grand Canyon National Park

Location: Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most incredible national parks in the United States. Spanning over 1 million acres, the Grand Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world.

October is a perfect time to visit the Grand Canyon because the weather starts to cool off so you can enjoy exploring without being too hot. 

South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Road tripping from Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon is a popular thing to do in October to escape the heat in southern Arizona. Check out this guided tour from Phoenix that combines the Grand Canyon with Sedona if you’d rather not drive yourself.

The canyon is also a popular destination if you plan to visit Las Vegas.

October is also a great month to go camping, as reservations are easier to get and the park isn’t as crowded.

Grand Canyon weather in October: The weather in the park can vary in October, but daytime highs are generally around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lows at night are in the 30s.

The bottom of the canyon can still be very warm in October.

October is one of the least rainy months at the Grand Canyon, with an average of just 3 days of rain forecasted. 

What to do in Grand Canyon National Park: There are plenty of things to do in Grand Canyon National Park in October.

It’s a wonderful time to go hiking, as the temperatures aren’t too hot. One of the best trails in the park is the Bright Angel Trail, 15 miles roundtrip. This is the perfect backcountry camping trail if you’re up for an overnighter, if not, you can do just some of the trail and turn around whenever you wish.

Another awesome thing to do at the Grand Canyon in October is rent bikes and bike the Greenway Trail. This trail is 13 miles and is closed to cars so you can enjoy biking along the road or the bike path.

Be sure to catch sunrise at Mather Point or Yavapai Point. The sun rises around 6:30 a.m. in October, so you don’t have to be up too early to view it.

Sunrise at Mather Point at the Grand Canyon
People watching sunrise from Mather Point

For a bucket list experience, go on a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon. There is nothing quite like seeing the enormous canyon from the sky, and it’s something you’re bound to remember for the rest of your life. 

Where to Stay

One of the best places to stay near the park is Under Canvas Grand Canyon, set amidst piñon and juniper forests. 

Suggested by Jessica of Unearth the Voyage


Adventurous visitors to Vegas that are short on time can enjoy an extended helicopter ride over the West Rim, or this highly-rated helicopter experience that also includes a landing at the Grand Canyon and a champagne toast!

Bus tours to the West Rim or the South Rim are also available, if you’d rather not drive yourself.

4. Shenandoah National Park

Location: Virginia

The top leaf-peeping destination in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park offers scenic drives and hiking trails brilliant with color in October.

But the park is also known for the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, gorgeous waterfalls, and wildlife and birds.

While fall is a beautiful time to visit the park, it is also one of the most crowded times of year. Visit during the week rather than on the weekends, and book lodging or campsites well ahead of time.

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, in the fall
Skyline Drive features sensational fall color!

Shenandoah weather in October: Bring layers, because weather in the park is variable in October. Average daytime highs are usually in the low to upper 60s Fahrenheit, with overnight lows dropping into the low 30s.

Expect a few days of rain during the month, and perhaps some flurries towards the end of October.

What to do in Shenandoah National Park: Driving Skyline Drive to take in the views is the top thing to do in Shenandoah National Park. The 105-mile road boasts dozens of overlooks, some facing east and some west.

While you will see fall color draping hillsides along this famous route in October, also keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. You may see deer, and even a black bear.

Try a few hikes to get up close to the fall color in the park!

The Little Stonyman Overlook Trail is less than a mile round trip, but it is quite steep. The vistas from the overlook are spectacular. If you prefer a less steep trail, try the Stony Man Summit Trail. It’s longer, but much less steep.

Stony Man Summit in Virginia
Stony Man Summit in autumn

The summit of Bearfence Mountain is a more challenging hike, with exposed ledges. But the views from the top are exceptional.

Another hike offering beautiful views is the trail to The Pinnacle from Jewell Hollow Overlook. You can also hike further to the overlook at Mary’s Rock if you like.

The park’s lodges, especially the Skyland Resort, make for wonderful autumn getaways. Experiencing the park at sunrise and sunset from overlooks near your accommodation can be magical.

Where to Stay

Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge are located inside the park.

Outside the park, the town of Culpeper offers lodging and dining as well as a historic downtown: try Holiday inn Express & Suites for comfortable rooms.

Suggested by us

5. Glacier National Park

Location: Montana

Glacier National Park is located in Western Montana, tucked away in the gorgeous Rocky Mountain Range. While you might expect glaciers (because of its name), know there are just a few left!

However, the real stars of Glacier, one of the great national parks in the west, are the turquoise lakes, dramatically carved mountains and valleys, and dense forests that have been around for ages.

Glacier NP Montana in the fall
Fall in the park

October is just outside of the most popular times to visit (June to September is peak season) but latecomers are rewarded with some of the best fall colors in the United States and a huge decrease in visitors.

Glacier weather in October: When visiting Glacier in October, you must watch the weather carefully. This is when the first snow of the season is expected, and nearly everything closes down for the year. This is because the lowest point of the park is about 3,200 feet, which means the park gets cold fast!

In October, daytime highs are around 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows get below freezing at 30 degrees.

You can expect rain for about half the days of the month.

What to do in Glacier National Park: In October, make high elevation activities in the park a priority, because they close down the earliest.

Driving the Going-To-The-Sun Road in October is not always guaranteed (it closes for the season at the first snowfall) but if you’re lucky you can take the 50-mile scenic drive without the crowds!

If the road hasn’t closed yet, drive up to Logan Pass to enjoy the views from the highest point in the park. Here, also hike the Hidden Lake Overlook trail, which is most beautiful at sunrise and sunset.

The Many Glacier Road is another scenic drive in the park in autumn.

For fall colors, the best locations in the park include Bowman Lake, Two Medicine Lake, Sun Point Nature Trail, and Grinnell Glacier Trail.

Aspen and cottonwood turn to blazing yellow and light orange, maples to a bright red. Larch trees put on a show in the western portion of the park in mid October, their needles turning to a deep yellow-orange before they fall.

Glacier National Park, Montana in autumn
Driving through the park in the fall

If the higher elevation activities are already closed, check out the Apgar Visitors Center and Lake McDonald, because those areas are open year-round!

With calmer waters, fall is also a wonderful time to take a scenic rafting trip along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Where to Stay

There are lodges in the park, but most of them close down by September.

The most reliable lodging choices are in Columbia Falls or Kalispell. Cedar Creek Lodge is a great choice, as it’s right in town and close to the West Glacier entrance.

Suggested by Emily of The Mandagies

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Check availability and book your car now!

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: Tennessee and North Carolina

The most visited national park in the USA, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for its spectacular natural sights and historical landmarks like homes, churches, barns, and mills that document life from times past.

October is a wonderful time to visit, because fall color peaks at mid and lower elevations in the park during the month. fall wildflowers bloom along trails and roadways.

It’s a busy time for the park, so plan to visit during the week if you can, and pick a few hikes and drives that are less crowded, and book accommodations well ahead of your visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina, in the fall
Fall colors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains weather in October: Expect daytime highs to be in the mid to high 60s Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows dropping into the low to mid 40s.

About 8 days of rain on average are forecast for October, so pack rain gear!

What to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The Cades Cove Scenic Drive is a stunning drive through the park, offering views of the mountains and the forests, as well as many historical sites. It can be crowded, though, so expect delays.

Newfound Gap Road is a super scenic drive, and the views from Newfound Gap, at 5,046 feet, are spectacular. This is another very popular drive so plan on doing it early in the day.

The forested Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.5-mile-long scenic loop in the park, is another great fall colors drive. There are many historical sites to see as well.

Driving Great Smoky Mountains NP in the fall
The park offers many scenic fall drives

If you visit in the earlier part of the month, you may wish to drive part of the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside the park for great fall color viewing. Clingmans Dome Road is another scenic drive in early October.

If you want to hike to see fall colors in the park, try the hike to Inspiration Point, the Oconaluftee River Trail, The Baskins Creek Falls trail, or the hike to Look Rock Tower.

Don’t overlook fall festivals in the Smokies communities: Autumn at Anakeesta and Dollywood’s Fall Festivals are two popular and fun fall events to put on your October itinerary for the Great Smokies.

Where to Stay

The Inn on the River in Pigeon Forge is located just a 20-minute drive from the park. Some rooms offer views of the river, and the hotel features indoor and outdoor pools.

Suggested by us

7. Zion National Park

Location: Utah

Zion National Park in Utah is one of the most breathtaking US national parks, known for its towering sandstone cliffs, narrow canyons and incredible views.

October is the ideal time to visit Zion as it sees fewer crowds then, compared to the peak summer season. The trails are less congested and it’s a more pleasant experience, plus popular hikes like Angels Landing and The Narrows are more accessible.

Zion national Park, UT, in the fall
A bright yellow cottonwood near the Virgin River in the park

While you still have to use the park shuttle in October, lower crowds result in shorter wait times and more room on the shuttles.

Zion Weather in October: The park’s October weather makes it an excellent time to explore, as you can enjoy the trails and viewpoints without the summer heat.

Temperatures are mild at around 50°F in the mornings and 80°F during the day, making pleasant conditions for hiking.

October’s monthly rainfall is relatively low, with an average of just around 0.8 inches.

What to do in Zion National Park: In October the famous Angels Landing hike is a must-do. It’s a challenging trail that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the park! Note that you need a permit.

Another highlight is the Zion Narrows, an unforgettable and unique hike walking through the water-filled narrow slot canyon of the Virgin River!

Additionally, take the Riverside Walk Trail along the Virgin River for stunning canyon views and the opportunity to spot wildlife.

Hiking Zion National Park in Utah in the fall
A hiking trail in Zion in the fall

October marks the transition into fall, adding some vibrant autumn colors to the already stunning scenery of Zion. Areas along the Virgin River, the Watchman Trail, and the East Rim Trail have beautiful autumn hues, making Zion one of the best US National Parks to visit in October.

Where to Stay

The Zion Lodge is the only lodging facility inside the park and is a great place to stay, offering convenient access to the park’s trails and attractions.

In Springdale, just outside the park entrance, Red Rock inn Cottages offers mountain views and a garden.

Suggested by Catrina of 24 Hours Layover

8. Mount Rainier National Park

Location: Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, in Washington state, is a hiker’s paradise, with rugged mountains, technicolor wildflowers, and fairytale pine tree forests. 

Come October, the park is an excellent place to enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s unique fall foliage: instead of vibrant colors on the leaves of deciduous trees, you’ll instead find dazzling displays of burnt orange, gold, and scarlet hues in the park’s wildflowers and shrubs, carpeting its alpine slopes.

Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, in the fall
Skyline Trail in the fall

And better yet, you’ll get to enjoy the park’s incredible hiking trails without the crush of summer visitors.

Mount Rainier weather in October: You should definitely plan your visit towards the beginning of October.

The daily highs are usually in the upper 50s Fahrenheit at the start of the month, dropping down to just above freezing at night. It continues to get colder throughout the month.

By the end of the month, it’s not unusual for Mount Rainier to have its first dumping of snow, so visiting later in October may mean snow on hiking trails—and potentially even closed roads.

What to do in Mount Rainier National Park: During your visit, be sure to hit some of the awesome Mount Rainier hikes to see fall foliage. 

For example, the Skyline Loop will take you through fields of Indian paintbrush and blueberries to an up-close-and-personal view of the massive Nisqually Glacier. 

Alternatively, the Naches Peak Loop is a family-friendly option with several alpine lakes, views of Mount Rainier, and of course, eye-popping fall foliage.  

If you’re looking for a backpacking option, the Summerland Trail is an underrated gem, taking you through endless meadows of autumnal wildflowers to a backcountry camp that offers peekaboo views of the mountain.

Indian paintbrush blooming at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington
You may see paintbrush still in bloom in the fall at Mt. Rainier

For a lower impact option, consider driving the Chinook Scenic Byway, a stunning scenic drive that winds through 107 miles of Mount Rainier National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Along the way, you’ll pass towering pine tree forests, rushing waterfalls, ancient glaciers, and some of the best fall foliage the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Where to Stay

Consider making the small town of Ashford, Washington your base camp during your exploration of the park. 

The Mountain Meadows Inn is a small, charming lodge to relax after your day in the park, complete with a fire pit where you can share tales from the day and plan tomorrow’s adventures.

Suggested by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

9. Joshua Tree National Park

Location: California

With its impressive monzogranite boulder formations and fields of Joshua trees, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-visit desert park in Southern California.

Boulders in Joshua Tree NP, California
A boulder formation in the park

While you won’t find fall color of note here, October is a great time to visit Joshua Tree National Park if you want pleasant temperatures for exploring the park!

Joshua Tree is known for its many hiking trails, rock scrambling and climbing, and diverse desert flora and fauna.

Joshua Tree weather in October: Expect daytime highs in the high 70s and low 80s Fahrenheit, and nighttime lows in the high 50s.

October is a relatively dry time in the park, so you’ll likely get lots of sunshine in October. But you may also get the occasional thunderstorm, so be wary.

What to do in Joshua Tree National Park: Catch sunrise (or sunset) at the Cholla Cactus Garden. You can walk the short boardwalk trail through the large field of cholla. Just be careful not to brush up against the spines.

Drive Park Boulevard to appreciate all the rock formations en route. There are many places to stop to explore more. Hidden Valley Trail and Barker Dam Trail are two of our favorite hikes along the route. Stop to pose for a photo with Skull Rock!

Enjoy rock scrambling, or go rock climbing in the park. You can even take a beginner rock lesson if you wish. The boulders here are irresistible, and kids have a blast scrambling all over them.

Rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Rock climbing is a popular activity in the park!

Drive up to Keys View for an epic sunset. The views from the lookout on a clear day are phenomenal. You’ll see the Coachella Valley spread out below you, Salton Sea shimmering in the distance, and mountains all around.

The park is a Dark Skies Reserve, so find a spot after dark to observe the night sky. You will see millions of stars on a no moon night. Although the “core” of the Milky Way is not visible in October, you can still see the band of stars.

Where to Stay

The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Twentynine Palms is just north of the park, convenient for returning in the evening for night sky viewing.

Suggested by us

10. Grand Teton National Park

Location: Wyoming

With its dramatic mountains, picturesque river, and diverse wildlife Grand Teton National Park is one of the most epic national parks in the USA.

Visiting in October means that you will bypass the crowds of summer, making for a much more relaxed visit. Vibrant fall color is another reason to visit, and it is also an excellent time to see wildlife in the park.

Moose at Grand Teton NP, WY, in the fall
Look for wildlife as you drive or hike!

Grand Teton weather in October: It is definitely on the cool side in the park, so pack layers. Daytime highs are generally in the upper 40s to low 50s Fahrenheit, and with nighttime lows dropping into the 20s.

About 8 days of precipitation are forecast on average for October, and it may fall as snow rather than rain.

What to do In Grand Teton National Park: October is still a great time to hike in Grand Teton National Park. Trails are open, although weather may prevent access at times, especially at higher elevations in the park.

Be sure to dress appropriately and be prepared for abrupt shifts in weather.

In October, you will likely see wildlife in the park as you hike or drive. Elk and moose are looking to mate, and you may see males sparring or bugling. Bears are preparing to hibernate, and pronghorn, elk, and other species start heading south for the winter.

Fall is a wonderful time for scenic drives in the park, with roads usually open until the end of October. Many pullouts allow you to stop and take in the views of the Teton Range, the Snake River, and bright yellow stands of aspen and cottonwoods.

You’ll likely see leaf colors in the park in the first half of October, although timing can vary by year.

Grand Teton, Wyoming, in the fall
Fall colors at Grand Teton National Park

If you enjoy landscape photography, October is a great time to visit Grand Teton on a photography trip, with the yellow leaf color contrasting with the granite of the mountains.

Some of the visitor centers in the park are open in October, although some close at the end of September.

Where to Stay

Plan to stay in Jackson, since lodges and campgrounds in the park usually close at the end of September. Stay at The Lexington at Jackson Hole, located just a few blocks from the historic town square.

Suggested by us

11. New River Gorge National Park

Location: West Virginia

New River Gorge is a newer national park, and offers excellent leaf peeping in October, especially towards the middle of the month. It is considered one of the top national parks to visit for fall foliage.

The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the major landmarks in the park, and Bridge Day is celebrated each year on the third Saturday in October. The bridge is closed to vehicular traffic on that day, and instead open to BASE jumpers!

The Bridge at New River Gorge NP in West Virginia
The New River Gorge Bridge in the fall

New River Gorge weather in October: Daytime highs in the park are in the low 60s Fahrenheit, with overnight lows in the low 40s. Daytime weather is still great for outdoor activities in the park in October.

The park does usually receive a few days of rain in October, so come prepared with rain gear.

What to do in New River Gorge National Park: Start your visit at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, which features amazing views of the gorge and the bridge. This is a great place for fall color viewing in October.

Also be sure to walk the short boardwalk trail into the gorge to the two observation decks for more spectacular views. The gorge is about a mile wide, and the bridge is one of the longest steel arch span bridges in the world!

Grandview is another must-visit place in the park for views over the river and fall color viewing. There are several hiking trails here as well as picnic areas. Hiking trails range from easy to strenuous. Look for wildlife as you hike: you may see fox, deer, and many types of birds.

Be sure to visit Sandstone Falls, the largest waterfall on the New River. The drive to the falls is super scenic, and especially nice for leaf color in the fall. You can even cross the river in some places along the drive!

Sandstone Falls at New River Gorge NP WV
Sandstone Falls looking gorgeous in the fall!

Adventure loving visitors to the park can still go whitewater rafting in the park in October. Many outfitters offer guided trips on the New River. While the Upper River features easy rapids, the Lower Gorge features huge rapids from Class III to V.

And of course, if your visit includes the third Saturday in October, you’ll have fun watching the BASE jumpers and rappellers on the bridge!

Where to Stay

Fayetteville is the gateway to New River Gorge National Park, and offers lodging and dining. Quality Inn New River Gorge offers comfortable rooms close to the park.

Suggested by us

12. Yosemite National Park

Location: California

Yosemite National Park is one of the USA’s most visited parks. Best known for its towering granite cliffs, stunning waterfalls and iconic scenic views, Yosemite is a bucket list destination any time of year.

Visiting Yosemite in October means significantly less crowds. During the summer months, traffic can cause delays and visitors get frustrated trying to get to views with limited parking.

Visiting in October will allow you to have more options for booking accommodations and seeing all the sights you came here for!

October also falls inside the window for fall color in the park. The contrast of the blue-hued granite landscape against the punchy golden yellows of the maple and oak trees is stunning. 

Yosemite National Park, California, in the fall
Yosemite Valley in the fall

Yosemite weather in October: The weather in Yosemite in October is mild. A daytime average temperature of 72°F keeps it much more ideal for hiking than the heat of summer. Temperatures do cool down at night to 40°F on average.

And rainfall is not a typical weather pattern in Yosemite until November, making October a great time to visit.

What to do in Yosemite National Park: Fall in Yosemite National Park offers great hiking, camping, and scenic driving.

Tunnel View is one of the most scenic viewpoints in Yosemite National Park, with sweeping views of the landscape. Positioned just above Yosemite Valley, you’ll be able to see the entire valley floor with any golden trees, as well as impressive granite cliffs. 

Glacier Point Road winds up through the trees and opens to some of the most impressive views of the iconic Half Dome from the viewpoint at the end of the road.

Sitting at an elevation of 7,500 feet, Taft Point offers one of the most spectacular views of Yosemite Valley. The hike is an easy 2.2 miles with 200 feet of elevation change with a bird’s eye view for incredible scale and appreciation of the carved out valley below. 

Valley Loop Trail is an excellent trail to soak up all the golden colors of fall. The hike takes you on a 12 mile trek along the valley floor, with views of El Capitan and Half Dome.

Yosemite NP, California, with fall color in the valley
Fall colors in Yosemite National Park

Tioga Road is usually open through much of October, and the scenic drive offers up the chance to explore the Yosemite high country, with many alpine lakes and Tuolumne Meadows, which features shades of tan and rust in the fall.

Where to Stay

For close access to the park and nearby food options, stay at Yosemite View Lodge!

Suggested by Melissa of Miss Rover

13. Hot Springs National Park

Location: Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park offers visitors the chance to explore Bathhouse Row and its historical past with buildings from the late 1800s, as well as numerous hiking trails and scenic drives that provide spectacular views of the fall foliage in October.

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
One of the pools in Hot Springs National Park

October is an ideal time to visit the park as the weather is comfortable and the park is beautifully adorned with fall foliage, making a beautiful backdrop for the historic buildings on Bathhouse Row.

Hot Springs weather in October: With daytime highs in the mid-70s Fahrenheit and nighttime lows in the 50s, the weather in October is perfect for exploring the park.

What to do in Hot Springs National Park: The main attraction in the park is Bathhouse Row, a collection of nine historic bathhouses.

While most of the bathhouses have been repurposed for other uses, Buckstaff and Quapaw Bathhouses are still in operation for you to take a soak, along with other modern spa services.

Stop into the Lamar Bathhouse to pick up souvenirs, including a water jug. Then, head outside to fill the jug with the thermal water from the spigot.

The Fordyce Bathhouse, which is the park’s visitor center, provides detailed information on the springs and the history of the bathhouses.

Once you are finished exploring Bathhouse Row, set out on one of the hiking trails in the park to see the beautiful fall colors.

The Grand Promenade, located behind Bathhouse Row, is a beautiful easy walk. For more opportunities to see foliage, check out the North Mountain, West Mountain, or Sunset Trails.  

Grand Promenade Hot Springs National Park Arkansas
The Grand Promenade is a beautiful walk! PC: Twin Family Travels

Another option to see the fall foliage is to drive the West Mountain Scenic Drive, which provides three stunning overlooks, or the Hot Springs Mountain Scenic Drive, which takes you to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

Where to Stay

For a unique stay within the park, you will want to stay in the historic Hale Hotel which features nine unique rooms and a restaurant. 

Suggested by Caitlin of Twin Family Travels

14. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Location: Ohio

Located along the Cuyahoga River near the bustling metropolises of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park makes for a great fall getaway, with vibrant fall foliage and a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.

It’s a small park, and contains the four arteries that connect the two cities: the river, the canal towpath, the railroad, and the road.

Everett Covered Bridge, Cuyahoga Valley NP, OH in the fall
The Everett Covered Bridge is a great photo spot in the fall!

Cuyahoga Valley weather in October: You’ll find that the weather in October in the park is usually mild, with daytime highs in the mid 50s Fahrenheit, and nighttime lows in the low 40s.

The park experiences rain off and on throughout the month, so pack rain gear.

What to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Fall foliage colors in Cuyahoga Valley National Park usually peak in mid October, so that’s the best time to visit for leaf peeping. But you’ll find some color in the park no matter when in October you visit.

Some of the best spots in the park for leaf peeping include the Oak Hill Trail, Brandywine Falls (which is spectacular in its own right!), the Everett Covered Bridge, Hale Farm, and Kendall Lake.

Hike the boardwalk trail to Brandywine Falls and make it a loop by also doing the scenic Brandywine Gorge Loop Trail. Brandywine Falls is arguably the best photo spot in the park and a must visit.

Blue Hen Falls is another picturesque waterfall, although it’s much smaller. You will likely find it much less crowded than Brandywine Falls. The trail to get here from the Boston Mill Visitor Center is 3 miles round trip.

Blue Hen Falls Cuyahoga Valley NP Ohio
Blue Hen Falls in the fall

Biking the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail is a lovely way to soak up the mellow fall ambience in the park. You can rent bikes in the town of Peninsula. Or, take a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad!

Where to Stay

Inside the park, stay at Stanford House or The Inn at Brandywine Falls. Outside the park, you’ll find numerous options in both Akron and Cleveland.

Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls overlooks the gorge of the Cuyahoga River and is walking distance to shopping and dining.

Suggested by us


Planning more visits to US national parks?

Read our article on the most exciting national parks in the west or our round-up of national parks road trips from Las Vegas: you’ll find more than a dozen national parks near Vegas to explore, from Utah’s Mighty 5 to the Grand Canyon.

Also read our articles on how to things to do in one day in Joshua Tree National Park and the very best things to do in Death Valley National Park, including the must-do Artist’s Drive.’

If you want national park choices by season, we have an extensive round-up of national parks to visit in the summer, plus national parks to visit in the fall, and US national parks that are perfect for winter visits.

Visiting a US national park in another month? Check out our other round-ups of the best national parks to visit by month!

And if you haven’t bought your National Parks Pass yet, get it now! 
Buy online at REI.

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Discover the most exciting US national parks to visit in October for all colors, great weather, and. fun outdoor adventures. Shenandoah, Great Smokies, Grand Teton, New River Gorge, more!

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Dhara's travel interests are eclectic, spanning everything from natural wonders to history, culture, art and architecture. She has visited 22 countries, many more than once, plus almost all 50 states of the USA, and has amassed a hoard of cherished travel moments.

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