17 Best National Parks to Visit in September!

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The best US national parks to visit in September are diverse and scattered about the country, but each of them offers stunning natural vistas, splendid outdoor recreation, and opportunities to see wildlife.

As kids return to school, and the warmth of summer gives way to a slight nip in the air early and late, September is a wonderful time to vacation in nature, even if it’s just for the weekend.

There are many US national parks perfect for bidding farewell to summer and ushering in the first days of fall, from Acadia National Park on the Maine Coast to Redwood National and State Parks on the California Coast.

In the first half of the month, you may see pockets of fall color in many parks that are known for leaf peeping, but it’s still early enough in the season in most places that you will not be beset by swarms of leaf-peepers.

Later in the month, be prepared to brave the crowds for some epic fall foliage!

Leaves changing color in Acadia National Park in Maine
Leaves turning at Acadia National Park in Maine

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If you plan to visit high elevation northern parks like Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton, time your visit for earlier in the month rather than later, to avoid running into bad weather and closures.

Before we get started on our round-up, 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 if you time your visit for National Public Lands Day, the fourth Saturday in September, entrance may be free!

Here, then, are the very best national parks to visit in September!

1. Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

The only national park in the US Northeast, Acadia National Park offers a diversity of sights, from its rocky coastline to the interior forests.

Landscape at Acadia National Park. Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the best national parks to visit in September!
Driving through Acadia National Park offers up stunning views!

September is one of the best times to visit Acadia National Park. Early September is the relatively quiet period after the summer crowds ebb and before the leaf-peeping crowds begin to arrive.

Late September is when the fall foliage begins to appear, making way for some of the most stunning views in the country. If it is crowds you are hoping to avoid, though, know that by late September the crowds to begin to pick up again.

Acadia weather in September: The weather in Acadia National Park in September is mild, with daytime high temperatures usually in the high 60s to low 70s, and nighttime lows in the low 50s.

There are usually a few days of rain in September, so remember to pack rain gear.

What to do in Acadia National Park: Drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road. It will take you to some of Acadia’s top sites and is an excellent way to see the park.

A stop at the epic Thunder Hole is a must! If you time your visit just right, you will be able to hear the roar of the waves crashing into the cavern.

Hiking is another must-do activity, with plenty of hikes for all skill levels. The mild weather will make for an enjoyable experience, and you will likely see some fall color as you hike some of the trails in Acadia National Park.

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine
Walking the scenic shore of Jordan Pond is a fun activity in Acadia!

Whether you are a big hiker or not, you will want to spend some time atop Cadillac Mountain admiring the views. The summit can be reached by car, but the park requires reservations to drive Cadillac Summit Road in September, so make yours ahead of time.

And if you plan to visit the park on a road trip, the drive up from Boston to Acadia National Park is one of the best East Coast road trips to put on your bucket list!

Where to Stay

Acadia Inn in Bar Harbor is an excellent place to stay, with access to park trails and an outdoor fire pit with s’mores throughout the year. 

Suggested by Melissa of Navigation Junkie

2. Glacier National Park

Location: Montana

With countless alpine lakes, dramatic mountains, and ancient glaciers, Glacier National Park offers one of the most stunning landscapes in the U.S. National Park system.

Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park, Montana
Hike to beautiful Virginia Falls!

September is a spectacular time to visit the park. The crushing crowds of the summer have died down, so you’ll have a better chance of enjoying the trails in peace and snagging a coveted parking spot at some of the most popular hikes, like the Avalanche Lake Trail or the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail.

And while the weather will turn a bit crisper, you’ll still be able to enjoy the high elevation trails and roads, like the Going-to-the-Sun Road, without ice or snow.

Later in the month, you’ll even be able to enjoy Glacier’s fall foliage, with aspens and other trees turning brilliant shades of gold along the park’s sweeping peaks. 

Glacier weather in September: The weather in Glacier National Park in September is pleasant but a bit cool, with temperatures ranging from highs in the mid-60s to lows in the mid-30s.

There’s a good chance you’ll have great hiking weather if you visit in September, with only a handful of rainy days.

What to do in Glacier National Park: During your visit, be sure to carve out time to take in the fall foliage.

You will likely see aspen, cottonwoods, birches and maples in the park changing colors in September, especially in the western sections of the park. Although you may see a few larches changing color, larches generally turn in October.

The park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is widely regarded as one of the world’s most scenic drives, where you’ll drive along roadways carved into the side of towering mountains, all the while drinking in the views of the sweeping valleys and dramatic slopes around you.

Views from the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana, in the fall
September is a great time to drive the Going to the Sun Road for fall foliage views!

Fall can also be an awesome time to book a rafting tour along the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River. The river is usually a bit gentler in autumn, which is ideal for beginner rafters, and you’ll have a good chance of spotting wildlife along the shores.

Speaking of wildlife, September is one of the best months to see active wildlife in the park, as the animals prepare for the long and cold winter.

The Rising Sun area in St. Mary Valley is a stand-out spot to see animals, such as elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and even grizzly bears.

Note that some areas of Glacier National Park require reservations into the early part of September.

Where to Stay

The Lake McDonald Lodge is an iconic hotel in the park, sitting on the banks of the park’s largest fjord-like lake. The lodge is usually open until the third week in September.

While the historic lodge is definitely on the rustic side, its cozy accommodations is the perfect place to soak up those fall vibes and recharge for tomorrow’s adventures.

Suggested by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

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. Mount Rainier National Park

Location: Washington

Mount Rainier National Park is located about a two hour drive southeast of Seattle and one of the best places to visit in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Rainier is an active volcano and stands tall at over 14,000 feet. This national park has some of the best hiking trails in the lower 48 states. 

Fall colors on shrubs in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Fall color on shrubs in Mount Rainier National Park

September is the perfect time to visit, since the summer crowds have thinned out and the temperatures are comfortable.

Plus, late September is when the leaves and foliage start turning! The best part of Rainier in the fall is that not only the trees change, but the ground shrubbery does too, making it extremely colorful.

Mount Rainier weather in September: In September, the average high temperature in the park is 68°F, with the average low at 45°F.

There is a 25% chance of rain, and 50% chance of cloud cover throughout the month. 

What to do in Mount Rainier National Park: Hike Naches Peak, 3.2 miles round trip, for some of the best fall foliage views, with Mount Rainier looming in the background. 

Put the Fremont Lookout trail at the top of your list as well. This hike is 6 miles round trip and affords an epic view of Rainier. Do this trail for sunrise or sunset to see the mountain glow.

See huckleberry bushes that turn in the fall on the Bench and Snow Lakes trail, 2.6 miles roundtrip. You can even pick limited amounts of huckleberries, blackberries, thimbleberries, and salmonberries in the park.

Or take an easy walk from the Paradise parking area to Myrtle Falls. You’ll get fall foliage views, as well as a waterfall and Rainier in the background.

Earth Creek to Myrtle Falls in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Earth Creek to Myrtle Falls

Fall is a great time for wildlife viewing in the park. September is the rut — breeding — season for Roosevelt elk, and you can take an elk bugling tour to hear the elk wand watch them spar. Reserve well ahead!

Where to Stay

Stay at Mountain Meadows Inn in the town of Ashford, WA located a 45-minute drive from the popular Paradise section of the park. 

Suggested by Kate of Kate Roams the World

4. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Location: California

Featuring a number of hydrothermal features and all four types of volcano, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers spectacular scenery and the opportunity to be in nature away from the crowds that throng more popular parks like Yosemite.

Steam rising up from hot pools at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California
Steam rises into the air from hot pools in the park

September is a wonderful time to visit because the road through the park is still usually open and you can enjoy the widest range of activities in the park.

You’ll see wildflowers in September here at higher elevations!

Lassen Volcanic weather in September: Expect daytime highs in the mid to high 70s and nighttime lows in the mid to high 30s Fahrenheit. Higher elevations in the park will be much cooler. Bring layers!

September is a generally dry month in the park, although occasional snow showers can occur at higher elevations late in the month.

What to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park: Drive the scenic Lassen Volcanic National Highway, the 30-mile road through the park that is usually fully open all through September. It tops out at 8,512 feet above sea level.

You will find more than 150 miles of hiking trails in the park, with hikes for all levels.

Bumpass Hill Trail, at about 3 miles round trip, offers access to the largest area of hydrothermal activity in the park. You will see mud pots, bubbling pools, and clouds of steam.

The walk around Manzanita Lake is beautiful, because it offers views of Lassen Peak, sometimes reflected in the still waters. This is a great area for birdwatching as well.

Manzanita Lake is stunning!

Lassen Peak is one of the largest plug dome volcanoes on the planet and you can hike to the summit along the Lassen Peak Trail. You can also hike to the top of Cinder Cone, another volcano in the park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is blessed with several lovely lakes, and you can go boating on many of them including Manzanita Lake, Butte Lake, and Summit Lake. Swimming and fishing are other popular water activities in the summer.

Where to Stay

Drakesbad Guest House is the only lodging in the park, but camping is popular. You can also find a vacation rental near the park if you are planning to spend a few days.

Suggested by Dhara of Roadtripping California

Looking for a rental car for your national park trip? Compare prices, find your car, and book on Discover Cars! They search numerous car rental agencies, from brand to budget, to offer you the best choices for your trip.

Check availability and book your car now!

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top places to visit in Colorado and makes for an excellent September getaway into nature. 

A picturesque park in the Colorado Rockies, Rocky Mountain National park is located 1.5 hours northwest of Denver. The park has high elevation trails and scenic drives and is one of the best US national parks to visit in September.

Driving Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Driving through Rocky Mountain National Park is a joy!

Rocky Mountain attracts far less crowds in September than during the summer months. And you will experience beautiful fall foliage, thanks to the park’s higher elevations.  

Rocky Mountain weather in September: Weather in the Rockies starts to cool down in September. Take your jacket, since daily temperatures range from 38°F to 59°F.

It helps if the jacket is waterproof. The total rainfall is about 2.2 inches but it usually rains every few days.

What to do in Rocky Mountain National Park: There are plenty of things to do in Rocky Mountain in September. 

The Bear Lake Corridor trails are a perfect activity in the park. You can enjoy the autumn colors while hiking to the Alberta Falls or Dream Lake.

If scenic drives are more your thing, drive the Trail Ridge Road. This epic paved road brings you through the alpine meadows of the Rockies. It is only open between late May and October.

You can go chasing waterfalls in the Wild Basin area. From Copeland Falls to Calypso Cascades the area’s waterfalls are very picturesque during fall foliage time.

Last, you can try your luck spotting wildlife. Your chances of seeing elk and moose are highest in Moraine Park and Milner Pass. 

Elk in the aspen trees in Colorado
Look for elk and moose as you explore Rocky Mountain National Park in September!

Where to Stay

When looking for lodging near Rocky Mountain National Park in September, look no further than the Woodlands on Fall River in Estes Park.

Suggested by Anastasia of Travel Realist

6. Olympic National Park

Location: Washington

Olympic National Park, located on the Olympic Peninsula near the Pacific Ocean, is a hugely diverse park, consisting of over 60 miles of shoreline, temperate rainforests, and gorgeous alpine environments.

Ruby Beach Olympic National Park Washington
Sunset at Ruby Beach

September is one of the most popular times to visit, because this is the time of year that most of the park is accessible. Snowmelt has uncovered high elevation trails, meaning the popular High Divide Loop backpacking trail is open!

The weather in September is cool in the evenings, but still warm during the day. This means that walking along ocean trails and paddling a canoe on Lake Crescent is pleasant.

Olympic weather in September: Daytime highs in the park in September tend to be in the mid to high 60s Fahrenheit but of course it’s cooler at the higher elevations. Nighttime lows are typically in the mid 40s.

The PNW rainy season doesn’t officially start until October, so visitors can still enjoy some sunshine here in September.

However, it’s still essential to pack a rain jacket, because there’s always a chance of rain in the Pacific Northwest! It can even snow at higher elevations in the park in late September.

What to do in Olympic National Park: The Hall of Mosses Trail is a popular trail in the park. In September, you’ll be greeted with an abundance of color from the changing maple leaf trees and rich green moss. It’s a fabulous place for photos!

Walk along the shore of Ruby Beach, another picturesque spot in the park. Come during low tide to explore tide pools brimming with marine life.

Drive up to Hurricane Ridge during sunrise or sunset for some spectacular colors in the sky. In September, you won’t have to wake up super early for sunrise or stay out too late for sunset.

Take a kayak out on beautiful Lake Crescent in the morning when the waters are calm. Rentals are available through much of the month, and the scenery is gorgeous.

Lake Crescent Olympic National Park washington
Lake Crescent in the early fall

Finally, if you want a little adventure, get a reservation to go camping on the beach! Shi Shi Beach and La Push Second Beach are the most popular camping spots, and it’s a little bit easier to snag a permit in September.

Where to Stay

There are four historic lodges within the park borders: Kalaloch, Lake Quinault, Lake Crescent, and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Each has its own unique style and environment.

We recommend booking a night or two in any of these lodges to enjoy a stay in Olympic National Park!

Suggested by Emilie of The Mandagies

7. Crater Lake National Park

Location: Oregon

Crater Lake is a stunningly beautiful lake formed in the caldera of an ancient volcano. It’s the deepest lake in the U.S. and one of the clearest and bluest as well.

Crater Lake, Oregon
A view of stunning Crater Lake

September is the perfect time to visit Crater Lake National Park, because the brilliant fall colors make an unforgettable contrast with the deep blue of the lake.

It’s also a great time to see more wildlife, such as bear, elk and martens, as the animals are actively preparing for winter.

Crater Lake weather in September: The weather at Crater Lake is quite variable in September, so expect anything from thunderstorms to possibly even snow. 

September is usually quite dry, with only 4-5 days of rain predicted on average.

Days are usually warm, with temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit, perfect for exploring. Nights can be cool though, so bring layers for early and late in the day.

What to do in Crater Lake National Park: One of the best activities in the park is a scenic drive along the rim of the crater. The drive is 33 miles long and has 30 overlooks, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the view.

The park also has fantastic hiking trails for every level. Some popular trails with lake views include the Garfield Peak Trail and the Watchman Trail (incredibly popular at sunset). The Sun Notch Trail, one of the best beginner hikes in the PNW, offers great views of the caldera.

A view of Crater Lake from the Watchman Trail in Oregon
A view from the Watchman Trail

Wildlife viewing is another wonderful way to take in the park. While you are most likely to see the animals in the early morning and late evening hours, keep an eye out for wildlife on both the Rim Drive and hiking trails as well.

Lastly, the boat tours are an incredible way to experience the lake. They operate through mid-September, and provide amazing views of the lake’s cliffs and Wizard Island, which is actually a 763 foot volcanic cinder cone.

Where to Stay

Crater Lake Lodge is the best place to stay, but make reservations far enough in advance to score a stay here.

Suggested by Tammi of Wander Healthy

8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: Tennessee and North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America and for good reason!

With stunning waterfalls, ample wildlife, picturesque hikes, and a rich Appalachian and Native American history, there is much to do and learn at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North carolina
Laurel Falls in the fall

September is one of the best months to visit because the weather is mild. Plus, summer crowds begin to die down and fall crowds are not yet at their peak, which is typically October.

Also, in September you’ll begin to see the fall foliage really come out, especially later in the month.

Great Smokies weather in September: with temperatures in the mid-70s Fahrenheit and less rain than the summer months at only 8 days on average.

What to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: On any Great Smoky Mountains itinerary, there are a few must-dos that are particularly wonderful in September.

First, hike to Laurel Falls to see a gorgeous cascading waterfall. This hike is a 2.5-mile out-and-back trail and it’s paved, making it accessible to all!

One of the most popular scenic drives in the park is Cades Cove, which is only an 11-mile loop, but can take a few hours to explore with the slow traffic and stops along the way, such as John Oliver Cabin where you can learn about Blue Ridge history and life. Look for bears!

John Oliver Cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC
The John Oliver Cabin in the park

Other scenic drives, especially in the fall, include the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Cove Creek Road, and Foothills Parkway.

Another must-do activity is hiking to Clingmans Dome, a short (but steep) ¾-mile hike to a man-made observation tower that provides amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.

Where to Stay

The best places to stay include camping in the park at sites like Elkmont Campground or setting up your base in Gatlinburg, the closest city, at hotels like Howard Johnson for as little as $45 per night.

Suggested by Alanna of Periodic Adventures

9. Yellowstone National Park

Location: Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho

Easily one of the best national parks parks for September, Yellowstone is a 3,500-square-mile wilderness area that extends into three western US states. 

However, the majority of the park is in Wyoming and this is a great place to see vast forests, stunning canyons, rushing rivers, natural hot springs, and incredible geysers. 

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
The colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring are incredible!

In particular, September is an amazing time to visit since the color of the leaves on the trees begins to change from green to vibrant autumnal hues. 

The weather is warm and generally free of rain, making it easy to enjoy your Yellowstone National Park itinerary.  

And while the park can still be crowded at the start of the month, visitation declines towards the end of September. Therefore, try to visit at the end of the month to see the best foliage and to have the park more to yourself.

Yellowstone weather in September: Daily highs in Yellowstone National Park in September are usually in the low to mid 60s Fahrenheit and the lows in the low to mid 30s, with around 7 days of rain forecast for the month. 

What to do in Yellowstone National Park: September is a great time of year to photograph bison, elk, bears, wolves, and antelope in the in Lamar and Hayden Valleys before visiting the famous Old Faithful Geyser. 

Bison at Yellowstone National Park
Bison grazing in the park

This famous local landmark gets its name from the fact that water routinely erupts from the ground here every 63 to 70 minutes.

Also be sure to take in the jaw-dropping beauty of the Grand Prismatic Spring. It is the third largest hot spring in the world and features a rainbow of stunning colors. 

There are several hiking trails that will allow you to explore Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Geyser Basin, two popular areas in the park.

In Mammoth Hot Springs, home to some of the most striking travertine terraces on earth, hike the popular Beaver Ponds Trail or the short and easy Boiling River Trail.

At the Norris Geyser Basin, you’ll find boardwalk trails and paved and unpaved paths, and you’ll see thermal activity throughout the area.

Where to Stay

Spend the night at the gorgeous Park Hotel Yellowstone.

Suggested by Jamie of Photojeepers

10. Katmai National Park

Location: Alaska

If you’ve ever seen photos of giant grizzly bears catching salmon at a waterfall there is a good chance that photo was taken at Katmai National Park in Alaska.

Bear at Katmai National Park in Alaska
Bear with salmon at Katmai

Katmai is an amazing park but you can’t drive to it, so it isn’t as heavily visited as other parks.

In September the salmon flow down the river and bears try to eat enough for hibernation. July is the other peak time to visit the park. It’s so crowded in July that there are time limits for how long you can be at some of the lookouts. September has much smaller crowds.

Katmai weather in September: In September the highs in Katmai National Park are generally in the mid 50s Fahrenheit, with lows in the mid 40s. It could be windy or cloudy, so pack a rain jacket and layers. 

What to do in Katmai National Park: The best way to reach Katmai is by float plane. Book a tour to fly from Anchorage and arrive mid-morning. After a safety lesson at bear school, you’re free to explore the park. 

You visit Katmai to observe the bears.

There are two places you can be. The first is the boardwalk that is located by the entrance to the park. There are a few different viewing platforms and a bridge to go between them.

The second is down a path that leads to Brooks Falls, and this is where you’ll find viewing platforms around the waterfall.

Watching bear at Brooks Falls in Katmai NP Alaska
Watching bear fish at Brooks Falls

Spend time at both but give yourself plenty of time to get back from the falls, because there is just one path that is shared by both people and bears, and if it’s blocked by a bear you just have to wait until the bear moves.

Stay in a group, and if you see bear, give them space, and make noise, so they are alerted to your presence.

For a bucket-list activity at Katmai National Park, consider a flightseeing tour! You’ll soar over the mountains and valleys of the park, and maybe even spot wildlife from the plane.

Flightseeing tours of Katmai depart from many places such as Anchorage, Homer, King Salmon, Kodiak, and Soldotna.

Where to Stay

The only place to stay in the park is at Brooks Lodge. Otherwise, stay in Anchorage and fly down for the day.

Suggested by Jami of Celiac Travel Pack

11. Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Utah

Bryce Canyon has some of the most interesting land formations in the entire United States and September just happens to be a fantastic time to visit this otherworldly location!

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the deserts of southern Utah and boasts the largest collection of hoodoos in the world.

Bryce Canyon NP Utah

September temperatures in Bryce Canyon are quite pleasant and summer crowds have dissipated, making a visit much more relaxing.

Bryce Canyon weather in September: Daytime temperatures in Bryce Canyon National Park in September tend to be in the low 70s Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows in the low 40s.

September is a relatively dry month in the park, so you can expect lots of sunshine!

What to do in Bryce Canyon National Park: There are around 15 different day hikes/combination hikes in Bryce Canyon, with trails for all hiking levels.

The scenic hiking trails at Bryce Canyon afford little shade, so the cooler temperatures that September brings make it a great time to try out the trails.

If you have the time for only one hike, be sure to do the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, a moderate trail that takes you into the canyon and back up.

After a long day of hiking, settle down in one of the camp sites under the cozy pine canopy. Tent camping and RV camping sites are available in the campgrounds at Bryce Canyon National Park.

See Bryce Canyon from the back of a horse! Two- to three-hour guided trail rides typically run from April through October.

Horseback riding in Bryce Canyon NP Utah
Go horseback riding in Bryce Canyon

If you aren’t into hiking, or have mobility issues, there are several overlooks that line the perimeter of the expansive bowl-like amphitheater in Bryce. These viewpoints offer stunning views of the unique landscape of the park below.

Where to Stay

If you choose not to camp, the Lodge at Bryce Canyon is conveniently located in the park. 

Suggested by Angie of We’re Not in Kansas Any More

12. Big Bend National Park 

Location: Texas

Heading to Far West Texas in September gives you the perfect opportunity to explore Big Bend National Park, which features three different landscapes: mountains, desert, and river.

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend National Park, Texas
Striking views along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive

The easiest way to get to this remote park is to fly into El Paso, Texas, and drive 4.5 hours, or fly into Odessa, Texas, and drive 2 hours and 45 minutes to the park entrance. 

By September, daytime temperatures in the park become manageable, making hiking more comfortable. September is also one of the least busy times of year to visit Big Bend, with peak tourism in the park occurring from February to April.

Big Bend weather in September: Daytime highs in Big. Bend National Park in September tend to be in the mid 80s Fahrenheit, with the mountains a few degrees cooler. Nighttime lows are usually in the low 60s.

Bring rain gear, since the park usually sees a few days of rain during the month.

What to do in Big Bend National Park: During September, hiking is one of the top things to do in the park. Lower daytime temperatures and increased cloud cover mean better hiking conditions for day.

Try the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, about 1.6 miles round trip and relatively flat. The scenic trail crosses Terlingua Creek and climbs to a viewpoint before dropping down to where the canyon wall meets the Rio Grande.

Or hike the longer Spring Trail to see the Mule Ears, a rock formation in the park. You can also see the Mule Ears from an overlook along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

The Grapevine Hills Trail to Balanced Rock is a short trail with a nice payoff!

Balanced Rock Big Bend NP Texas
Balanced Rock in Big Bend National Park

Catching a September sunset in Big Bend National Park at The Window is another must-do activity. The Window View Trail is a super short walk that leads to a view of the unique landmark.

Love scenic drives? The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive through Big Bend National Park offers 30 miles of lovely landscapes without the need to even get out of your car.

Where to Stay

Stay at the Chisos Mountains within the park, or at the Lajitas Golf Resort in Terlingua.

If you enjoy camping, fall is one of the best seasons to camp in Big Bend National Park.

Suggested by Robynne of Trueman Travels

13. Denali National Park

Location: Alaska

Denali National Park is the crown jewel of Alaska and one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on Earth.

Located in the deep interior, Denali is home to soaring mountain peaks, pristine alpine lakes, abundant wildlife, and vast expanses of untouched wilderness.

Denali Mountain in Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali looms over the landscape

Come September, most tourists have left Denali in time for the start of school and the imminent snowfall ahead, making it the perfect time to explore the park without crowds.

Late September also marks the beginning of rutting season for the local population of moose, which means epic photos for you!

Denali weather in September: The end of summer brings mild days and cool nights, with daytime high temperatures in the mid to high 40s Fahrenheit and lows in the low 30s.

Expect some rain and snow, and pack accordingly.

What to do in Denali National Park: To make the most of your time in Denali National Park, be sure to book a bus tour.

The Tundra Wilderness Tour runs through mid-September and goes 43 miles into the park up to East Fork River, the furthest in you can go at this time.

This 5.5-hour trip through the park with an experienced driver and guide provides you with an affordable, exciting way of seeing the park with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife.

Landscape in Denali NP, Alaska
Picturesque vista in Denali National Park

After your tour, head on over to Denali Park Zipline, where you can swing through the treetops to enjoy exceptional views of the Brooks Range.

End your day with a campfire at nearby Denali Cabins, where you’ll be in the perfect spot for early season northern lights! Denali Cabins are open up to the middle of September.

The cabins are situated in the middle of dense forest with no light pollution, and you’ll have ample opportunities to view the auroras over Mount Denali.

If you are in the area longer, consider returning to the park on a flightseeing tour! You’ll fly over the absolutely spectacular scenery in the park, and some tours even offer a glacier landing, weather permitting.

Where to Stay

Stay at the Denali Cabins, which are open until mid-September, or at the Grande Denali Lodge, which has a well-reviewed onsite restaurant.

Suggested by Emily of Emily Embarks

14. Grand Teton National Park

Location: Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is home to some of the most diverse wildlife in the continental United States. Located in northern Wyoming, this park encompasses over 310,000 acres of pristine wilderness.

Grand Teton NP Wyoming
Colors just starting to turn at Grand Teton National Park

As summer ends, visitor numbers begin to drop. This means fewer crowds, shorter lines, and a more peaceful experience as you explore the park’s jagged mountain ranges and alpine lakes.

September also signals the start of the magical transformation into winter — a time when the explosive hues of fall foliage light up Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton weather in September: In September, daytime temperatures in Grand Teton National Park average 66 degrees Fahenheit, while nighttime temperatures can drop to around 32 degrees.

Rainfall (or snowfall) is limited to just a few days over the month, so you’ll have plenty of sunny days to enjoy the park.

What to do in Grand Teton National Park: Adventure through Grand Teton National Park, hiking its over 250 miles of trails, which showcase vibrant fall colors and the tail end of the wildflower blooms.

Aspen at Grand Teton NP, Wyoming
Aspen in the fall at Grand Teton National Park

Embark on a scenic drive along Teton Park Road or do the picturesque Jenny Lake Scenic Drive before trekking on popular paths like Cascade Canyon, Taggart Lake, and Inspiration Point.

You can also raft down the Snake River or take a boat ride across Jenny Lake.

September is prime time for wildlife viewing as it marks the beginning of the elk mating season. During this time, participate in Grand Teton’s many safari tours to observe bull elks bugle and fight for female attention while bears bulk up on berries in preparation for hibernation. 

Where to Stay

Overnight at the Signal Mountain Lodge, a convenient accommodation option within the park with excellent views of the Teton mountains.

Suggested by Catherine of Nomadicated

15. Redwood National and State Parks

Location: California

Redwood National and State Parks is the place to go if you are looking to walk amongst the tallest trees on the planet. The complex is made up of Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Redwood National and State Parks in California
Hiking through misty redwood trees in the park

September is one of the best times to visit because there are more sunny days during this month compared to other months of the year. The best part about visiting in September is that the crowds are lower than in the summer.  

Redwood weather in September: Daytime highs in September in Redwood National and State Parks tend to be in the high 60s or low 70s, with nighttime lows in the mid 50s.

About 4 days of rainfall are forecast on average for the month.

While temperatures are pleasant, it can be cool and misty among the trees, so be sure to pack layers and a waterproof jacket.

What to do in Redwood National and State Parks: When visiting Redwoods National Park, you will want to find the old growth areas. Stopping at one of the visitor centers and talking to a ranger is very helpful because the redwoods are so spread out. Many of the roads are unpaved and unmarked! 

Hiking is one of the best things to do at Redwood National and State Parks. You will want to make sure to hike Stout Grove, Fern Canyon, and Lady Bird Johnson Grove. These areas are full of old growth trees, with some of the biggest redwoods in the park. 

There are several scenic drives in the park. Howland Hill Road, mostly unpaved, is about 10 miles long and offers numerous pullouts. The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is paved. Enderts Beach Road is paved and super scenic.

Look for wildlife! The park is home to Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer, and you may even see a bobcat or a coyote early or late in the day.

Roosevelt elk
Look for the majestic Roosevelt elk in the parks!

Where to Stay

One of the best places to stay near Redwood National Park is the Out N About Treehouse Resort in Cave Junction, Oregon. It is about 45 minutes from the park.

Suggested by Lisa of Planning Away

16. Great Basin National Park

Location: Nevada

Great Basin National Park, in Eastern Nevada, is part of the largest United States desert. While deserts are usually known for their extreme heat, this is a cold desert, meaning it has harsh winters that have created several very unique features.

Moderate temperatures make fall the perfect time to visit Great Basin. By September the summer crowds have disappeared and you will often find yourself alone. Best of all, the aspen trees start turning a glorious gold after Labor Day.

Great Basin NP Nevada
Landscape in the park

Great Basin weather in September: September means daytime temperatures in the mid-70s and mid-40s at night. Rainfall is light, but by late September there is an occasional brief snow at higher elevations.

What to do in Great Basin National Park: Plan to tour the Lehman Caves. The stalactite and stalagmite formations within the caves are stunning. Most ranger-led tours run about an hour, and it’s important to get tickets in advance. 

The most popular thing to do here is cruise Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to about 10,000 feet. You’ll enjoy gorgeous views on the way up. Don’t miss the Mather Overlook where you can see the Mather Glacier, a living rock glacier.

The craggy bristlecone pine tree, some thousands of years old, is the true celebrity in the park. You can see a grove of these ancient trees on a trail that begins near the Wheeler Peak Campground.  

Ancient bristlecone pine at Great Basin National Park in Nevada
Bristlecone pines can be thousands of years old!

Also famous are the pinyon pines that grow near the visitor’s center. Fall means visitors can harvest the pine nuts, which is quite a valuable treat.

Where to Stay

Great Basin National Park is isolated so lodging is limited. If you aren’t camping the best lodging is The Whispering Elms Motel, a charming old-style motel close to the park’s entrance.

Suggested by Ladona of Walking the Parks

17. Indiana Dunes National Park

Location: Indiana

One of the most popular national parks in the Midwest, Indiana Dunes National Park offers various activities for visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you’re a hiker, beachgoer, history buff, or birding enthusiast, you’ll find something to love at this park.

A view of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes NP, IN
A view of Lake Michigan over the dunes

While summer is peak visiting time, consider visiting Indiana Dunes National Park in September for milder weather, fewer crowds, and fall colors. Trees in the park start changing colors in September.

Indiana Dunes weather in September: September in Indiana Dunes National Park is typically mild, with average high temperatures in the mid 70s Fahrenheit and low temperatures in the mid 50s.

While it’s a generally dry month, 6 days of rain are forecast on average.

What to do in Indiana Dunes National Park: Hiking is a popular activity in the park, where you will find over 50 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to rugged trails through the dunes.

Head to the Bailly Homestead area for easy to moderate hiking, fall colors, historic structures, and farm animals!

Indiana Dunes National Park is a lovely place to hit the beach, with over 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and nine beaches. Cowles Bog Trail leads to a great beach and provides excellent scenery. At Kamil Beach, you can hike a trail along the ridge of the dunes.

Path to Kamil Beach in Indiana Dunes National Park in Indiana
Heading to Kamil Beach

If you love birding, bring your binoculars! You can spot some 350 species of birds in the park. September is an excellent time to spot migratory birds traveling south for the winter.

Enjoy the Indiana Dunes Outdoor Adventure Festival, which has a wide array of events for all ages and activity levels. Another super popular event at the park is the annual Century of Progress Homes Tour, which is the last weekend of September. Book tickets in advance!

Where to Stay

If you enjoy camping, consider camping at the nearby Indiana Dunes State Park, which also has hiking and beaches.

If you prefer a hotel, check out Bridge Inn, located at the eastern end of the park in Michigan City. Michigan City has many restaurant options.

Suggested by Teresa of An Acre in the City


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 best US national parks to visit in September for great weather, fun outdoor activities, and fewer crowds. Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Bryce Canyon, 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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