15 national parks for fall color

What better place to witness the changing of the seasons than at your favorite National Park?

These 15 national parks offer spectacular fall foliage viewing, as evidenced by these stunning photographs. Find out the best times to visit below, and as always, don't forget to follow "leave no trace" principles when visiting wild places. 

1. Yosemite National Park, California. Unfortunately, Ansel Adams' iconic black-and-white photos just couldn't capture fall's classic colors. But you can with your own eyes from late October into November. 

Yosemite National Park, CA

photo: Rennett Stowe, flickr

2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. You can participate in the Fall Foliage Bike Festival, hike a part of the Appalachian Trail, or spend an afternoon cruising down Skyline Drive. Colors are generally at their best in the later half of October.

Shenandoah National Park, VA

photo: Mrs. Gemstone, flickr

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee. Spanning two states, this park is at its most colorful between mid to late October. Enjoy yellows, oranges and red as you explore all the outdoor fun this place offers.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park, TN

photo: coloneljohnbritt, flickr.

4. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina. Why settle for one or the other, when you can have both? This scenic drive stretches from Shenandoah to the Smokies and peak fall colors are expected mid-to-late October. 

Pisgah National Forest, NC

photo: Kevin McNeal

5. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. Ohio's best kept secret, Cuyahoga can be experienced via the scenic railroad. The last two weeks of October offer pinnacle opportunities to witness brilliant reds, oranges and yellows.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH

photo: Cuyahoga jco, flickr

6. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Some say September is the prime time to spy the bright yellow aspens, but you should have through mid-October to catch some stunning vistas. Reflections in Teton's clear lakes offer double the color.

Grand Teton National Park, WY

photo: flickr, jeffgunn

7. Acadia National Park, Maine. Fall color reaches its prime in late September but can last through October in this northern region. Cadillac Mountain offers the most noteworthy panorama of this highly favored park.

Acadia National Park, ME

photo: flickr, jeffgunn

8. Glacier National Park, Montana. This treasured park is at its most beautiful from mid September to mid October. To get views from Big Mountain, you can hike the eight-mile Summit Trail, or you might try floating through a colorful landscape down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Glacier National Park, MT

photo: flickr, Rhock1

9. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Like other high elevation parks, colors at Rainier begin changing as early as August. Visitors are advised to visit in late September and be aware that the park begins to close in early October.

Mount Rainier National Park, WA

photo: flickr, jeffgunn

10. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Towering mountains may leave many speechless, but in fall there's only one word needed to describe the landscape - yellow. Bright golden aspens contrast starkly with evergreens, causing many to flock to the area in September, earlier than usual due to high elevations.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

photo: flickr, Steven Bratman

11. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Every year, photographers flock to the higher North Rim in autumn to capture splashes of color on an unbelievably beautiful landscape. Some parts of this area begin to close as early as mid October, so late September is the ideal time to plan your adventure. 

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

photo: flickr, lurw

12. Zion National Park, Utah. This wild paradise becomes more beautiful and surprisingly less crowded later in the year. October into November is usually the ideal time to see the splendor of the season here. 

Zion National Park, UT

photo: flickr, CFBSr

13. Denali National Park, Alaska. While it may shock some that a park this far north could be well known for its foliage, it will likely not surprise visitors to see them start changing as early as August. In addition to radiant reds, oranges and golds, Denali also boasts ripe berries in its brief season of fall.

Denali National Park, AK

photo: flickr, Threat to Democracy

14. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas. Visitors might be surprised to find such rich colors at a lesser-known park in West Texas.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

photo: National Park Service

15. Appalachian National Scenic Trail, from Maine to Georgia.  From September to November, this legendary hiking trail is alive with color. The White Mountains National Forest section in New Hampshire is the most highly recommended this time of year, peaking in late September. 

White Mountains

photo: flickr, FredHsu