Reader Participation Day: Help Plan Our Special Fall in the National Parks Series

Fall in Acadia National Park can be truly spectacular. Photo by QT Luong,, used with permission.

We're planning a special fall-in-the-parks series, and we'd like your input on our story line-up. While we've got the obvious parks covered -- Great Smoky, Shenandoah, Grand Teton, etc -- what national park do you think should definitely get some attention for a fall visit?

The park that gets the most mentions will be added to the to-do list. And keep in mind that we're fairly good with the obvious choices. What we need your help with is the unusual! So, tell us which one, and why, and we'll put our scribes to it.

And feel free to mention lodges, too. Again, we know most of the renowned places, but would love to write about some off-the-beaten-path national park accommodation that is truly wonderful in the fall.


Capitol Reef in Utah is one of the most overlooked parks, but one of my favourites so definitely deserves to be included as does Glacier in Montana, another favourite.

Zion, when the cottonwoods along the Virgin River turn gold and the weather cools to gentle warm breezes instead of blast furnace hot.

Great Basin NP in Nevada is amazing when the aspens and maples turn.

Fall is a bad time for the Santa Monica Mountains NRA, because it tends to be on fire.

Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains when the leaves are changing. October is a great time to sit on the porch of Big Meadows Lodge sipping one of their peppermint schnapps hot chocolates and gazing out over the scenery.

Guadalupe Mountains NP with Mckittrick Canyon is also a favorite. "During the Fall, McKittrick Canyon comes alive with color from the turning foliage of maple and hardwood trees. The bright colors stand in stark contrast to the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert."

while your doing your article on grand tetons how bout you check the health and welfare of the land and animals. thanks to dick cheney its toxic

Not sure what you mean by "toxic," anonymous. Any specifics?

Redwood N&SPs, Lassen VHP, Whiskeytown Lake NRA, Yosemite NP, Kings Canyon/Sequoia NP, and Santa Monica Mountains NRA all have pockets of beautiful color that are seen at various times during California's three-month fall color season. Last year's reports, photos and when they were posted can be reviewed at

New River Gorge National River, WV was stunning in fall colors.

I would love to see you highlight the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail! Most people don't realize that NPS manages trails as well as parks, and the trails often connect many of the smaller parks so that people can enjoy them!

Try visiting the west side of Glacier National Park in mid October to see the fall color. The bright gold of the western larch needles against the snow capped peaks is extraordinary.

I definitely have to throw in two cents for Capitol Reef. Fall is one of the best seasons in this gorgeous park. Zion's not bad either, of course. ;) But I'm pretty partial to CapReef.

Petrified Forest National Park in AZ, honestly the rest of the year is either TOO hot or TOO cold to visit, most of the "snowbirds" take the "fall" season to visit, it usually gets a bit of rain and its a brisk cool morning and evening with a warm breezy day.
There are so many things to see and learn in the Petrified Forest, why not visit it during the nicest time of the year!

I was surprised by how many people suggest to visit southern Utah in fall. Hey, southern Utah is spectacular and worth visiting any time of the year, but I had not thought of it in term of foliage and fall colors.

But then I remembered Utah State Route 12, the one from Bryce NP to Capitol Reef NP, passing the northern (higher elevated) part of Grand Staircase-Escalante NM. And now I agree with southern Utah as a place for fall. This route - designated as All-American-Route under the National Scenic Byway program - has amazing red rock landscapes and rolling hills with aspen and a few poplars that will look spectacular in fall. If you go there specific for that season, just ignore the parts with the coniferous woods and spend your time either in Red Rock country but without the heat of summer or around the deciduous trees.

Fall is great time to explore National Parks, that offer a scenic landscape, but which are not "crown jewels". Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Hopewell Furnace, George Washington Birthplace, Eisenhower Farm, Booker T. Washington,Catoctin Mountain, Prince William Forest, Friendship Hill, Fort Necessity, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, and Harpers Ferry all might just rival Shenandoah. You can visit these sights in clusters and/or in connection with traditional trips. One great NPS area for general scenery was, of all places, Carl Sandburg's Home near Asheville, North Carolina.

Ben Lord

Ozark National Scenic Riverways for sure. What could be better than spending a day paddling downriver or visiting springs, surrounded by bluffs full of brilliant orange, red, and yellow trees?

eg, Big Spring in fall:

Kurt's re-posting of his very informative "Traveler's Checklist: Acadia National Park (Sept. 14,2009) provides a wonderful overview of the only national park in the Northeast. Acadia, "Where The Forest Meets The Sea," is easy to traverse because of its compact size. Since most of the park was once privately owned - Acadia owes its existence primarily to the dedication and philanthropy of wealthy private citizens such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr, Charles W. Eliot and George B. Doerr - visitors find themselves driving in and out of the park in their travels. Thus, you have access to the scenic beauty of the park while never being far from the ammenities of one of the quaint villages and towns that dot Mount Desert Island.
The Fall is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year here. Days are warm and bright, while nights are cool, clear and starry. The 27-mile Park Loop Road winds along the rocky coastline with frequent turnouts for viewing the spectacular scenery such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff (on a clear day, you can see the Schoodic Peninsula, a part of the park that is located on the mainland), where the road turns inland through the park's woodland and mountain interior, past Jordan Pond (Don't forget Kurt's suggestion to stop for the traditional popovers and tea, while viewing Eagle Lake and The Bubbles, a rounded glacial feature. Lobster dinners, of course, are available, but prices are considerably cheaper if you visit one of the many lobster pounds on the island).
Continuing further, a drive up Cadillac Mountain (1,5300-feet) provides a spectacular view of Frenchman's Bay and the Porcupine Islands. For a closer look take a schooner cruise or a ranger-naturalist led boat cruise from Bar Harbor to view eagles, osprey, harbor seals and numerous seabirds. Cadillac Mountain offers an opportunity to be one of the first to view the sunrise or sunset on the mainland of North America! Since Acadia is located along the Atlantic Flyway, the park is an excellent place to view the fall migrations (so bring a pair of binoculars with you). Or join park rangers and volunteers for the daily HawkWatch. Kurt mentioned the Night Sky Festival (September 17-21), but if you decided to visit the summit for a glorious sunset. After many of the other visitors have left, stay around to view the starry skies. With no densely populated urban centers within a day's drive, the stars and constellations of the Milky Way are easily seen.

And don't hesitate to get off the main roads for some quiet solitude. Whether by hiking, walking, bicycling or horse-drawn carriage. Rockefeller had an aversion to the newly-invented, noisy automobile to the island, so he build a system of gently-graded carriage roads lined with broken stone and a series of beautiful stone bridges crisscrossing his property to offer a refuge from the "horseless carrage"and encourage the use of horse-drawn carriages for transportation. They lead to some of the most spectacular vistas in the park and a're still off limits to automobiles!

There are hikes for Acadian visitors of all abilities and fitness levels - whether it be a leisurely storll or a strenuous hike. One of the most spectacular is the Precipice Trail. It's the shortest in the park - straight up! While the "Beaver Log", the park's official newspaper, advertises it as "not for the faint-of-heart," it is challenging without being overly strenuous. Metal railings and ladders, installed in the 1930's as part of the high-quality trail work done by the CCC, assist the hiker/climber.

The Ranger-Natualist Program (also posted in the "Beaver Log") runs until mid-October and offers a wide range of activities. Take advantage of the walks, talks, hikes, cruises, evening campfire programs (at the two campgrounds) and do start your visit by stopping at the Hull's Cove Visitor Center.

Finally, the picture at the top of this article shows the fall foliage from the top of Cadillac Mountain. However, more vivid colors are found in the woods and alog the shores of ponds and streams in lower elevations.

Acadia certainly offers somthing for everyone. So, enjoy the essence of Acadia. But please leave it the way you found it. We sure like it the way it is!!!

You could visit Lake Mead NRA. The weather is lovely in October, the hiking is getting great and you would get a chance to see the newly finished Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman bridge. Its a sight not to be missed. If you want to get out on the lake, take a cruise on the Desert Prince Cruise. There is a lot of things to do once the temperatures drop!

Gauley NRA has its dam-release days in the Fall, making it a mecca for white-water rafters...

Any of the Southern Utah parks, for sure. And I think I already saw a vote up there for Guadalupe Mountains NP, which I will second!