Editor's note: Throughout the fall there are numerous reasons to visit national parks. Here's a look at some of those excuses...if you really need one! For more details on a specific event, check the individual park's website.
No one really needs an excuse to visit a national park in the fall, one of the most glorious seasons across the National Park System. Still, the Traveler offers up the following list of excuses if you feel you need one! (For more ideas, search www.nps.gov/ for a specific park)
Acadia National Park: Don't miss the 2nd Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival, which is right around the corner (September 9-13). Live music, poetry readings, art exhibits, and science-related programs are on the agenda, according to Bar Harbor officials. There are opportunities for stargazing from different sites in the national park throughout the festival. Indoor and outdoor events are planned, but in case of rain, there will be a portable star lab on hand, according to festival organizers.
Aztec Ruins National Monument: On Friday (Sept. 10) beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the park visitor center archaeologists Michael and Kathleen Gear, authors of the First North Americans series of mystery books, will talk about combining science and fiction.
Bent's Old Fort Historic Site: There are a couple special fall events at this historic site in La Junta, Colorado. On September 18 the site will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Celebration and will highlight the rich and colorful history of Mexico’s frontier with period adobe work, music and dance, trading cooking, storytelling, livestock use, santos carving, aparejo packing, and other special presentations.The event will wrap up with a fandango featuring authentic music from 19th-Century Southern Colorado. On October 9 the fort will be the backdrop for a Fur Trade Encampment. This event celebrates the trappers, traders, and tribes associated with the fur trade in the Southwest. Their camps, set up near the fort, will be open for touring.
Bryce Canyon National Park: A full-moon hike through the hoodoos is scheduled for both September 23 and September 24. Tickets are required for these hikes and are free, but only distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sign-up begins at 8:00 a.m. at the visitor center (line starts forming at 7:30 a.m.) on the morning of the scheduled hike.
Capitol Reef National Park: September into October is apple harvest time in this red-rock beauty in central Utah. A number of varieties are grown in the park's orchards -- from heirlooms such as Ben Davis and Grimes Golden and classics such as Braeburns and Golden Delicious to unique Capitol Reef Reds. Check with the visitor center to see which are ready for picking.
Colorado National Monument: On National Public Lands Day, September 25, help out crews working to rehabilitate the Echo Canyon Trail, a popular trail leading into a unique, picturesque box canyon within the monument. Meet at the Devils Kitchen Picnic Area by 8 a.m.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park: A full slate of activities are planned throughout the fall at Cuyahoga Valley. Here's a sampling: Countryside Farmers' Markets are scheduled for Thursdays through September 23 at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays through October 30 at Howe Meadow from 9 a.m. to noon. Fall excursions on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad are scheduled for Wednesdays through Sundays through October. For schedules and ticket prices, check this site.
Denali National Park and Preserve and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: These two parks are vibrant in early fall. Early September is prime time in the north for red tundra and tree leaves changing to orange and yellow (no red maples here). Weather ranges from horizontal rain, maybe snow, to glorious sun.
Gettysburg National Military Park: You can enjoy the Fall foliage while touring the military park on horseback with the folks from Hickory Hollow Horse Farm. One- and four-hour guided trail rides across the battle grounds are possible with guides who point out little-known facts and tucked away scenic spots that they say can only be found by horseback.
Glacier National Park: Fall hiking and bicycling along the western side of the Sun Road is one of those 'Hidden Season' kinds of experiences. Hikers/bicyclists allowed through road construction zones when possible and after hours and on weekends.
Grand Canyon National Park: During Earth Science Week in October, the park will be celebrating National Fossil Day on October 13. For the celebration, the National Park Service created a poster that reflects the more than 230 units of the National Park System that contain fossils. Grand Canyon officials will officially open its Trail of Time on Fossil Day; and have its special guest fossil walk on October 16.
Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site: Western heritage comes alive at Grant Kohrs with a host of special activities this fall. For starters, from September 15-17 the Montana Academy of Living History will be displaying such "heritage skills" as team driving and quilting to dutch oven cooking. Head to the ranch by 6 p.m. on September 17 to catch “Hot Dogs and History” with T. J. Casey, who will entertain you with music, poetry and stories. On September 18 and 19 the Big Sky Draft Horse Expo will be held at the fairgrounds across from the ranch in Deer Lodge. And "Pumpkin Sunday" will be celebrated at the ranch on October 17 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.
Great Falls Park: On September 25 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. and again from 3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. join a ranger to take a 45-minute walk along the Falls overlooks. Learn about the waterfall and explore the natural and cultural history of the park.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park: On weekends through October take a guided tour through this historic town. Tours run from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and start at the information center.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site: Head into the orchard and pick some apples! Once upon a time there were 250 trees in the orchard, which dates to the late 1700s. These days there are about 200 trees, featuring more than 30 familiar and historic varieties, according to park officials. Come harvest time in September and October you can pick your own, for a small price per pound.
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore: On October 9 and again on October 16 learn about the U.S. Life-Saving Service during a ranger-led walk along Lake Michigan from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Be sure to dress warm.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument: The last weeks of September and early October are spectacular, says Superintendent Dennis Davis. Visitation has moderated, the temperatures are cool for the hike up to the cave, and the fall colors are spectacular in American Fork Canyon. The yellows of the aspen and cottonwoods enhance the vibrant reds of the bigtooth maples. The locals know to visit in the fall for this spectacular show of colors.
Voyageurs National Park: On September 25, National Public Lands Day, you can help mark Voyageurs' 35th anniversary by hiking the Oberholtzer Trail with a park naturalist. This one-hour hike begins just outside the Rainy Lake Visitor Center at 11:00 a.m.
Wilsons Creek National Battlefield: On September 18 rangers will lead a moon-light tour of the battlefield. $5 tickets are required. Tours leave every 15 minutes from 6:45 p.m.-10 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to buy their tickets early, as the event is usually a "sell out" and tickets are rarely available "at the door."