october is best time to visit this national park in usa
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21 Best US National Parks To Visit In October (2024 Review)

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Nicole

The United States is packed with staggeringly beautiful national parks at any time of year. However, for many, October is the best time to visit and explore them. Some national parks see the season change to fall with vibrant reds, oranges and yellows temporarily exploding over their natural landscape. The weather has cooled from the summer heat, welcoming you to explore the outdoors in mild temperatures. Finally, there are fewer crowds compared to the summer months, allowing you to truly enjoy all that nature has to offer. Here are the best national parks to visit in the USA in October.

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Other US Destinations In Different Months

For the best times to visit some of the best national parks in the USA, check out Best Times To Visit The 25 Best National Parks In The USA. However, if you know you want to travel to a national park in June, please see 23 Best National Parks To Visit In The USA In June.

If you are looking for places that offer milder summer temperatures, then this article offers some fantastic suggestions – 20 Best US Destinations To Escape The Sizzling Summer Heat. On the flip side, if you searching for the perfect US beach getaway in winter, please see 50 Best US Beach Destinations For A Warm Winter Getaway.

If you love uncovering beautiful waterfalls, then here are some helpful suggestions – 15 Best Waterfalls To Visit In The USA. If you dream of spending time lounging in some spectacular natural hot springs, then check out 10 Best Natural Hot Springs in Northern and Southern California.

Not sure when you want to travel or where you should go? Here are a list of other great places (cities, towns, beaches and some state and national parks) that would be fantastic options at other times of the year.

Other National Parks

If you have a passion for the outdoors and national parks in general, consider going beyond the United States. Here are some fantastic options in Canada and Europe:

Best National Parks To Visit In The United States In October

I have asked some of the best travel bloggers and industry experts for their thoughts about the best national parks to visit in October in the USA. Below, I introduce each of them, the best things to do, where to stay, the expected weather and how to get there.

best places to visit in the USA in October
Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

By Terri from Female Solo Trek

The National Park Service describes Acadia National Park as the “crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.” It is one of the most popular national parks visited in the U.S., attracting 3.5 million yearly visitors. The Park is spread over Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula in Maine. There are 27 miles of motor roads, 45 miles of carriage roads, and 158 miles of hiking trails. Dog hikers must be on a leash at all times.

If you want to beat the summer crowds, consider visiting Acadia National Park in October. While the fall leaf visitors will be out and about, it is still a great time to see 360-view summit views of ocean, mountains, and forest.

The number one thing to do (if you can get tickets) is to watch the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain. (Vehicle reservations are required through October 22.) You should also rent bikes and explore the Carriage Roads, designed by Beatrix Farrand.

If you love to hike, consider the Beehive Loop Trail if you do not suffer vertigo. Otherwise, come around to the opposite side so you can look at the fearless hikers coming up the rocky path. It is also fun to go on a scavenger hunt to find the cairns, which look like little rock people.

You can combine rugged hiking with luxury if you choose to stay in Bar Harbor. Once an island colony for America’s richest families, Bar Harbor is a lovely small town just outside Acadia National Park where you can roam down West Street and gawk at stunning mansions.

Weather And Directions

The best way to reach Acadia National Park is to fly to Boston Logan International Airport and then connect to a direct flight to Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport. Alternatively, you can make this into a road trip and drive 4 1/2 hours from Boston.

Hotel Recommendation

Terri says, “Bar Harbor offers luxurious 5-star hotels. Book your stay at the Cleftstone Manor or Anne’s White Columns Inn to experience the genteel life.”

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best national parks to visit in the USA in October
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

By Anna from Anna Meanders

The Rocky Mountains are the largest mountain system in North America, stretching from western Canada all the way down to the state of New Mexico. Located just over 50 miles northwest of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park spans 265,461 acres between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. The Park is primarily mountainous, with a number of gorgeous lakes and forest trails.

October is the best time for a fall adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park. At this time of year, the Park comes alive with the brilliant foliage of the Aspens. The best spots to see the fall Aspens are along Bear Lake Road, across the Longs Peak and into the Wild Basin Aspen forest.  

The other significant event happening in Rocky Mountain National Park in October is the elk rut. It is in early October when hundreds of Elk migrate down into the lower meadows to attract a mate. This spectacle is full of drama. You can hear the bugling from as far off as a couple of miles, and the earth-rattling sound of antler-on-antler as the bull elks face-off to win the attention of a doe. During the elk rut, you can spot elk all over the lower meadows. However, the best places for a good sighting is in Moraine Park, around dawn or dusk. 

At the Eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll find Estes Park, one of two towns that are gateways to the Park (the other being Grand Lake). Estes Park is a charming mountain town full of cute tourist shops, excellent cafés, and plenty of walking trails up into the mountains and around Lake Estes. It’s one of the best places to stay when planning your trip, and the perfect spot to enjoy the Estes Park elk fest in the first week of October.

Weather And Directions

The weather in October is beginning to cool, but not yet cold – with daily averages between 48°F to 61°F. There are still plenty of sunshine hours to be enjoyed, and only a moderate chance of rain. There is a slim (but with Colorado, almost always possible) chance of the occasional snowstorm.

The best way to reach the Park is to fly into Denver International Airport. Then, drive for one and a half hours up into the mountains to the north west. 

Hotel Recommendation

Anna says, “For an exceptional dining experience in Estes Park, make sure to get a dinner reservation at Bird & Jim. Then, spend the night at Boulder Brook on Fall River with mountain lodge style cabins and river views. You can also opt for a more classic stay at the The Stanley Hotel – famous for its role in ‘The Shining’.”

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October is best time to visit Zion National Park
Zion National Park, Utah (Photo courtesy of David & Intan from the World Travel Guy)

Zion National Park, Utah

By David & Intan from the World Travel Guy

Zion National Park is a scenic desert canyon located in southern Utah, 160 miles from Las Vegas or 300 miles from Salt Lake City. It is one of the best places to visit in the United States in October because there are fewer crowds and the fall temperatures are better for hiking.

Some of the best things to do and see in Zion include doing the Angels Landing hike. This is a fantastic cliff trail where in parts, you have to hold onto chains for safety. Breathtaking views of Zion National Park surround you on all sides. The Angels Landing chain section is especially noted for being epic and scary!

Next, walk in the Virgin River for miles through the Zion Narrows. This is one of the world’s most popular slot canyon hikes with 2,000 foot high walls on either side. It’s a very unique experience. Alternatively, skip the hiking and take a scenic drive on the Zion-Mount Carmel highway for breathtaking views.

If you are looking for something quieter and with fewer people, head to Kolob Canyons where you also can explore lots of hiking paths.

Weather And Directions

The average high temperature of Zion National Park at this time of year is 67 F and the average nightly low is 42 F. It’s very sunny, but can be pretty cool in the morning.

The closest regional airports are St. George (45 miles from the Park) or Cedar City (60 miles from the Park), although there are more flight options going to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.

Hotel Recommendation

David & Intan says, “There are lots of hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and campgrounds to choose from in the town of Springdale, which sits right to the entrance of Zion National Park. A good hotel to check out is the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale, or if you’re camping, there are several National Park Service campgrounds in the Park.”

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best places to visit in the United States in October
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

By Bret & Mary from Blue Ride Mountains Travel Guide

Encompassing some 522,000 acres of wilderness and straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to some of the tallest mountains and most gorgeous stretches of protected forest in the eastern United States. 

Created in 1934 and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. It is second only to the Blue Ridge Parkway among the most visited units of the National Park Service System.

The Park is an increasingly popular haven for people who love nature, wildlife, and exploring the great outdoors. Part of the reason is that it is accessible from bustling Blue Ridge mountain towns such as Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina.

Even the burgeoning metropolis of Asheville NC, which offers an incredible array of restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions, is located just 37 miles away from the Park’s eastern entrance.

Of course, the popularity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is based upon so much more. It offers jaw-droppingly majestic mountain landscapes (16 of which are over 6,000 feet tall), wondrous waterfalls, trout-filled streams, and the largest intact forest ecosystem in the southeastern United States.

It goes without saying that there’s an endless array of things to do. This includes road trips to iconic landmarks such as Cade’s Cove, Clingman’s Dome, and Newfound Gap Road. The Blue Ridge Parkway begins at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance, stretching 469 miles to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. 

Autumn ranks right alongside spring as the best time to visit the Park. The temperatures are cooler, there are fewer people, and the fall colors in North Carolina really start to peak in mid to late October. 

But the major reason why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in October in the USA is a chance to see the last herd of wild Elk in North Carolina. The Cataloochee Valley Elk are typically in rut at this time of year, giving visitors a chance to see males giving their bugle-like mating call and fighting over females. Please remember that these animals can be very aggressive if you get too close. Please keep a respectful distance to ensure your and their safety.

Other popular activities at the park include fishing, day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, birdwatching, and watching for wildlife. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to around 1300 species of native vascular plants and animals including Black Bears, White-tailed Deer, and the world’s greatest diversity of Salamander species.

Weather And Directions

The average high temperature in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 67 degree Fahrenheit in October with plenty of days in the mid 70s. There is a chance of some rain over 7 days.

Asheville Regional Airport offers 60+ flights a day. The closest major airport is McGee-Tyson just south of Knoxville.

Hotel Recommendation

Bret & Mary say, “There are 9 different campgrounds in the Park, but the nearby towns also offer plenty of options for hotels and cabin rentals if “roughing it” isn’t your thing.”

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best national parks to visit in the United States in October
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (Photo courtesy of Agnes from The Van Escape)

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

By Agnes from The Van Escape

Mount Rainier National Park is located in southern Washington state. The Park was established in 1899 as the fifth park in the United States and protects an area of 369.3 square miles. The Park’s name comes from Mount Rainier, a stratovolcano 14,411 feet above sea level.

Mount Rainier is a famous climbing peak with approximately 10,000 climbers attempting to reach the summit each year. There are 25 glaciers around the Park, an extensive old-growth forest and many mountain meadows. Mount Rainier National Park is encircled by the Wonderland Trail and is covered by glaciers and snowfields.

One of the best things to do In October is hike. The Park offers hundreds of miles of exciting hiking trails of varying difficulty, from short, family-friendly nature trails to mid-length trails. It is also possible to hike and camp in the wilderness, though permits are required. The Naches Peak Loop Trail, Crystal Lakes Trail, Pinnacle Peak Trail, Silver Falls Trail, or Skyline Trail are great for day hikes.

Another thing to do is admire the ancient virgin forests. Exploring the forests is like taking a trip back in time. You can walk among ancient trees and enjoy the grandeur of the woods. The Grove of the Patriarchs is the best hike in the old forest.

Consider visiting Paradise Inn, one of the last remaining original western lodges. It was built in the 1920s. It’s worth stopping here for lunch in the historic dining room or a cup of coffee.

October is the best time for visiting Mount Rainier National Park as the weather is cool but perfect for hours of hiking. More importantly, there are much fewer tourists at this time of year, so you can enjoy the silence and admire the nature.

In the fall season, the colors are also excellent, so the scenery is impressive. A great time to visit is in the middle of October where you can observe the changing colors at Grove of the Patriarchs, Reflection Lakes, Paradise, and Sunrise.

Weather And Directions

There is still plenty of sunshine at this time of year, but showers are frequent, so it’s worth packing a rain coat. Be sure to wear several layers and pack warm clothing. The average high temperature in October is 54°F and lows are 36°F.

The nearest major cities to the park is Seattle (2 hours drive) and Portland (2.5 hours drive). Both have international airports, good air service, and plenty of rental cars. You can also take organized trips to Mount Rainier from both cities.

Hotel Recommendation

Agnes says, “Mount Rainier National Park offers two lodges and four campgrounds inside the park. Paradise Inn and National Park Inn are perfect for a night.”

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October is best time to visit Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, California (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Yosemite National Park, California

By Ciara from Wellness Travel Diaries

Brimming with sun-kissed mountains, cozy fall vibes and giant sequoias is one of the best national parks to visit in the United States — Yosemite National Park. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this National Park is a gorgeous destination for travelers any time of year. However, October is one of the best times to visit.

The fall season brings cooler weather compared to the intense heat of summer months, beautiful fall colors in the Valley Floor, and fewer people. It’s the perfect season for camping, and you’re more likely to snag a campsite without booking far out in advance.

Yosemite National Park spans 1,169 mi². Consider using a guide to explore Yosemite to help you plan your fall getaway adding iconic stops like Tunnel View, Olmsted Point and many more stunning lookout points.

Whether you’re an avid hiker or novice, Yosemite offers hikes for the entire family. Beginner-friendly hikes include Wawona Meadow Loop, showcasing the beauty of the grassy meadow before entering the famed Valley Floor. From there you’ll find famous, more heart stopping hikes like the Mist Trail — one of the most popular hikes where you hike along side a powerfully flowing waterfall. Expect water to be flowing generously from this waterfall even during the fall.

Weather And Directions

In October, expect little to no rain with average nighttime and daytime temperatures between 50-75 F°.

When visiting the Yosemite National Park, keep in mind that the closest major airport is Fresno Yosemite International Airport and it is around an hour’s drive. While it’s the closest, other major airports include San Francisco International Airport (just under 4 hours drive) and Los Angeles International Airport (just under 6 hours). These locations work great for those who would like to combine exploring a big city with a road trip. Plus, you’ll have more time to explore the towns located near the Yosemite gate such as Oakhurst and Mariposa, which are the most popular small towns just outside the Park.

Hotel Recommendation

Ciara says, “Stay inside the Yosemite and camp at Wawona Campgrounds or consider staying in the charming small town of Oakhurst at the brand new Holiday Inn Express.”

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best national park to visit in the United States in October
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota (Photo courtesy of Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey)

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

By Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey

Minnesota isn’t your typical destination for people looking to visit a national park in October which is what makes Voyageurs National Park so special. The Park is located just below the Canadian border in International Falls, Minnesota. More than one-third of the Park is made up of water. Many places can be reached only by boat, though there are plenty of other things to do on land. Besides the lakes and ponds that fill the Park, you’ll mostly find forested areas.

Voyageurs National Park is one of the best national Parks to visit in the USA in late September and October because of the amazing fall colors that fill the trees. The Park is also less visited in the fall, so there are fewer crowds!

One of the best things to do in the Park is rent a canoe or kayak and set out to explore. There are access points all over, making it easy to adventure on the water during your visit. Another awesome way to spend your time is to book a guided boat tour. This will allow you to see the whole Park with an expert.

If you prefer to stay on land, head towards the Ash River Visitor Center to do some hiking. The Blind Ash Bay Trail is a popular trail. This easy, 3-mile hike will give you some of the best views of Voyageurs National Park, especially in the fall. The Beaver Pond Overlook also has great views. October is the best time for this hike as you’ll see spectacular fall foliages.

Weather And Directions

In October, it’s still mostly sunny and the temperatures fluctuate between nightly lows of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and daily highs of 70 degrees.

The best way to reach the Park is through Duluth International Airport. The park sits about 2.5 hours north of Duluth.

Hotel Recommendation

Kassidy says, “When you’re ready to call it a day, the Thunderbird Lodge is a fantastic accommodation choice. Otherwise, visitors can book a site at one of the four campgrounds within the Park.”

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best national parks to visit in America in October
Glacier National Park, Montana (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Glacier National Park, Montana

By Taryn from Chasing Trail

Glacier National Park in northwest Montana is one of the best places in America to visit in October. This iconic national park somehow becomes even better in autumn, putting on a spectacular show of fall color and comfortable weather with almost no crowds. 

The star of the show in Glacier in October is hiking. Because the Park straddles the Continental Divide, visitors get to experience a wide variety of terrain, often walking through multiple biomes on one trail. Some of the best hikes in Glacier for fall foliage include the Rocky Point Nature Trail near Lake McDonald, Bullhead Lake, and the Forest and Fire Nature Trail just north of Apgar. 

Another fantastic activity during October in Glacier National Park is stargazing. Not only does Glacier enjoy dark, clear skies thanks to minimal light pollution, but it’s also far enough north that you have a chance of spotting the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. The shores of Lake McDonald are an excellent place to stargaze, as the view north to the horizon is largely unobstructed. 

No October trip to Glacier is complete without taking the Going-to-the-Sun Road scenic drive. The 50-mile scenic drive traverses the Park and crosses the Continental Divide, offering some of the most stunning scenery in the world. Note that the higher elevations of this drive typically close for the season in late October due to heavy snow. 

Columbia Falls is the town closest to the Glacier National Park and also has the most relaxed vibe. There are plenty of mom-and-pop restaurants and shops, neighborhood bars, and grocery stores, plus some fantastic unique accommodations.

Weather And Directions

Average high temperatures is 55 degree Fahrenheit with around 6 days of rain.

The best way to visit Glacier National Park is to fly into Glacier Park International Airport in nearby Kalispell, about 30 minutes from the West Glacier entrance.

Hotel Recommendation

Taryn says, “In-park lodges and campgrounds all close in late September, but there are several nearby lodging options convenient to the Park. The most popular choices include staying in Whitefish, Kalispell, or Columbia Falls, all close to West Glacier.

In nearby Columbia Falls, ROAM Beyond lets guests experience upscale glamping in Montana. You are immersed in nature and encouraged to unplug. It also offers many hotel-like comforts and amenities, such as wi-fi, heating, and outrageously comfortable beds. It’s also just 20 minutes from West Glacier and about 15 minutes from the airport, making it convenient for an October weekend getaway.

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October best time to visit Big Bend National park
Big Bend National Park, Texas (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Big Bend National Park, Texas

By Ketki from Enchanting Texas

If you want one of the best national parks to visit in the United States in October, then try Big Bend National Park in Texas. Not only is it one of the best places to visit in Texas, but this 1,252 square-mile park is well-located in South Texas. Therefore, you could do a long, but fun, road trip from several major cities like Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, or Houston. 

Big Bend National Park comprises the Chisos mountain range and the Chihuahuan Desert. Accordingly, October is the best time to visit since you’ll avoid the intense heat of the summer. Plus, at this time of year, the leaves on the few trees that do live in the Park come alive with vibrant red and orange hues that contrast well with the austere desert landscape. 

You will be overwhelmed with amazing things to do in Big Bend National Park. Take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that leads to the ruins of Sam Nail Ranch and marvel at the local wildlife. Next, take the Santa Elena Canyon Trail to Santa Elena Canyon and observe the steep limestone walls during this 1.6-mile return hike. 

Lastly, enjoy sweeping views of the famous Rio Grande river before doing other popular hikes like the Lost Mine Trail and the Window Trail. Then, unwind with a relaxing dip at Big Bend Hot Springs near the Mexican border. 

Weather And Directions

Expect highs of 75 F and lows of 55 F with clear, sunny days. It only rains an average of three days in October. 

The closest major city to the park is El Paso. So, the best way to reach Big Bend is to fly into El Paso International Park, rent a car, and drive about 4.5 hours. 

Hotel Recommendation

Ketki says, “Spend a relaxing night in the La Loma Del Chivo hotel in Marathon, Texas. This town is only a 40-minute drive from Big Bend National Park and makes a great home base since you can try authentic Texas barbeque at amazing restaurants like Brick Vault Brewery.”

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best places to visit in America in October
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

By Chris from Explore Now Or Never

Grand Teton National Park is one of the best places to visit in October in the USA. Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton stretches along 310,000 acres between the area known as Jackson Hole up to the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park to the north. 

The main attraction at Grand Teton is seeing “Les Trois Tetons” (the three breasts), the dramatic mountain range named by French tappers. Framed by this mountain view, the Park is home to scenic lakes and rivers and wildlife galore.

There are many things to do in Grand Teton National Park. In fall, the foliage is spectacular. Take a hike at scenic Phelps Lake or head to the top of Signal Mountain for sunset. A trail ride on horseback makes the best way to admire the fall colors with a panoramic view of famous Oxbow Bend.

October is the best time to embrace the wonder here with fewer crowds. Wildlife is particularly active this time of year, as male elk bugle during mating season and bears search for berries to fatten up before hibernation. Get out early or at dusk in Grand Teton National Park for peak wildlife viewing as that’s when they’re most active. 

Weather And Directions

October is cool in Grand Teton National Park. Expect temps in the low 50s Fahrenheit with about seven days of rain on average.

Many visitors combine a visit to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. They frequently fly into Bozeman, Montana if visiting Yellowstone first or to Jackson Hole Airport if visiting Grand Teton first. Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport in the U.S. that’s actually located inside a national park. Otherwise, visitors from the west often fly into Salt Lake City and drive 4 1/2 hours.

Hotel Recommendation

Chris says, “For those who appreciate shopping and other amenities, nearby Jackson makes a great base for both hotels and restaurants. Otherwise, consider a stay at historic Jackson Lake Lodge in the Park itself. With fabulous views of Les Trois Tetons from the back deck, you can’t go wrong.”

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best places to visit in usa in October
Congaree National Park, South Carolina (Photo courtesy of Mary from Bucketlist Places)

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

By Mary from Bucketlist Places

Congaree National Park might be one of the most underrated national parks in America. Nevertheless, this hidden gem is perfect for an October getaway. The Park comprises an enormous old growth bottomland hardwood forest (like a swamp, but technically a floodplain), and has one of the highest tree canopies in the world.

Congaree National Park is about 18 miles outside of Columbia, South Carolina, and is located on the banks of the Columbia River. Entrance to the 26,000 acre park is free, but the experiences are priceless.

Definitely plan to hike in Congaree National Park, even if it’s just a short walk along the very-accessible Boardwalk Trail. The Oak Ridge path is much less well-trodden and perfect for spotting wildlife.

Altlernatively, try the view from the water and canoe along the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail to get up close and personal with river otters, turtles, deer, and sometimes even alligators. 

If you prefer some city time, head about 20 minutes northwest to South Carolina’s capital, Columbia. While in town, don’t miss the South Carolina State Museum and its dome planetarium, and the magnolia trees in gardens of The Governor’s Mansion. 

Fall colors usually peak in late October, so bring your camera and enjoy this enchanting marshy forest.

Weather And Directions

October is a warm autumn month in midlands South Carolina. Temperatures are usually between the mid-50s and low-70s with very few days of rain. Plus, with lower humidity and fewer insects, you’ll be much more comfortable exploring the Park and its changing foliage.

The best way to reach Congaree National Park is through Columbia. The city is easy to access via ground travel, and you can even catch a bus from New York City to Columbia. Those flying into the area should pick the Columbia airport, CAE, only a few miles outside of the city center. Driving from the airport directly to Congaree National Park takes about a half hour.

Hotel Recommendation

Mary says, “Congaree National Park does have two designated campgrounds where visitors can stay overnight. Reservations are required at the Longleaf Campground and Bluff Campground. If you’re really adventurous, you can hike into the Park’s backcountry and select your own campsite.

If you prefer not to rough it, there are some excellent boutique hotels in Columbia like Hangar Lofts Hotel and Hotel Trundle, and plenty of more affordable options, too.

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best national parks to visit in America in October
Arches National Park, Utah (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Arches National Park, Utah

By Daria from The Discovery Nut

Located just outside of Moab, Arches National Park is one of the most popular national parks in Utah thanks to the combination of its stunning colors and rock formations.

Home to more than 2,000 sandstone arches, Arches National Park attracts visitors from all over the world. And while many of the arches remain hidden in the desert landscape, some of the most famous ones, like the Delicate Arch, have become the symbol of Utah. 

Hiking is the most popular activity in Arches National Park as the Park offers many easy and moderate hiking trails as well as a few advanced ones that are better for experienced hikers. One of the most popular hiking trails that sees the most visitors is Delicate Arch. Devil’s Garden Loop is another. It is a perfect half-day hike that takes you through spectacular red rocks.

If you feel adventurous, book a guided tour of Fiery Furnace, one of the most incredible areas of Arches National Park. In the heat of the day, it remains nice and cool thanks to its canyons being sheltered from the sun. Named after the red glow during sunset, Fiery Furnace is a maze-like canyon spanning about 2 miles that offer no clearly marked trails or signs.  It’s also possible to obtain a day permit and visit this place without a guide. However, visitors need to have solid navigation skills. Hiking without permits is prohibited. 

After exploring Arches National Park, you can spend days and even weeks checking out all the activities that Moab has to offer. These include paddle boarding on the Colorado River, camping in the back country and exploring the many other arches and scenic drives in the area.

Weather And Directions

October is the best time to visit Arches National Park because it marks the beginning of the shoulder season. Temperatures stay around mid 60s during the day which makes it a great time of year for hiking and spending time outside.

The nearest airport to Arches National Park is in Moab, but it’s a small regional airport. Most visitors fly into Salt Lake City International Airport located about 200 miles away. It offers many domestic and some international connections.

Hotel Recommendation

Daria says, “There are no hotels inside Arches National Park. The only campsite at Devil’s Garden fills up very fast. Your best option is to book a hotel or reserve a campsite in Moab. For example, Hampton Inn Moab is a great stay with basic amenities.”

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October best time to visit national parks in USA
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (Photo courtesy of Rachel from Means To Explore)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

By Rachel from Means To Explore

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park and one of the best national parks to visit in the United States in October.

Once a polluted mess thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the Cuyahoga River has since been abandoned by industry. Thankfully, it has been restored to its beautiful naturally-forested state, and protected by the National Park Service.

View Ohio’s tallest waterfall, Brandywine Falls. Then, hike through the forest and see trees clinging to cliff edges at The Ledges. Alternatively, stroll along the river for a chance to spot a beaver or otter.

If you curious about the past, stop by the Boston Mill Visitor Center for a ranger-led discussion of the history of the river (it caught fire more than once!), or hop on the historic train for a scenic ride through the Park.

Hiking trails traverse the forests, waterfalls (yes, there’s more than one!) and sandstone cliffs are dotted throughout. First-time visitors won’t want to miss these 6 must-see sights in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In addition, it’s a free entry park.

October is the best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The flow of Brandywine Falls isn’t dependent on snow melt or rainfall, so you will never be left disappointed by just a trickle. The weather is pleasant, while wildlife is also more active as they prepare for winter. Lastly, the forest turns every shade of yellow, red, and orange for phenomenal fall foliage viewing.

Weather And Directions

The temperature is in the 60’s with mostly sunny days. Expect around 9 days with some rain.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only 30 minutes from Cleveland and its international airport.

Hotel Recommendation

Rachel says, “Important note: there are no campgrounds in this park! There are several state park campground options nearby, but none within the National Park itself.

Cuyahoga Valley is equidistant between Cleveland and Akron. If you like hotels, stay near one of the cities. If you like bed and breakfasts, try The Inn at Brandywine Falls, located right next to the famous falls!”

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best national parks to visit in United States in October
Joshua Tree National Park, California (Photo courtesy of Theresa from The Local Tourist)

Joshua Tree National Park, California

By Theresa from The Local Tourist

Joshua Tree National Park is a southern California park that straddles the Mojave and Colorado deserts. The eponymous tree is the park’s most famous feature. It is known for its bizarre landscape with unique rock formations. 

Those rock formations make for excellent climbing and Joshua Tree lures climbers from around the world. Birders are also drawn to the area. Roadrunners and mockingbirds are a couple of the year-round residents, and the Park is on the migratory path of many other species.

Hiking is probably the Park’s most popular activity, and there are 300 miles of trails. It’s vital to bring plenty of water – this is a desert after all. Off-roading is another fun thing to do, and you’ll need a 4WD to drive those backcountry trails.

The closest town is Twentynine Palms, which sits on the northern border of Joshua Tree National Park. With more than twenty restaurants, you can find a place to fill up before or after exploring. There are also art galleries, art studios, and art tours, with several murals and public art installations.

One of the best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park is October. Because Joshua Tree is in the desert, summer temperatures hit the triple digits. By fall, it’s much more temperate.

Weather And Directions

October’s perfect because the weather is not too hot or cold, with a high of 81 during the day and low of 51 degrees at night. You won’t have to worry about rain as Joshua Tree National Park gets fewer than 30 inches per year. The rainy season is between December and March.

The Park is located about two to three hours east of Los Angeles, making LAX the closest International airport.

Accommodation Recommendation

Theresa says, “Because Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Sky Park, camping is ideal. There are nine campgrounds with Jumbo Rocks the largest. It’s in a great location near Skull Rock, one of the most famous formations in the Park.”

best places to visit in October in America
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

By Samantha from Find Love And Travel

Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places to visit in the USA in October. This massive park is located over 2,221,700 acres mostly in the state of Wyoming. Not only will there be fewer crowds, but you will also get to experience the stunning fall foliage of its dramatic mountainous and forested landscape.

One of the best things to add to your Yellowstone Itinerary during October is to view wildlife. The Park has an abundance of different animals to see including bison, elk, deer, bears, wolves, and Big Horn sheep. During October it is the best time to see wildlife about to enter or just ending their mating season. Make sure to visit Lamar Valley for the best chances to spot this. 

Hiking is another sought out activity in October. Yellowstone National Park offers many trails at all difficulty levels. Some trails to consider with lovely views are Fairy Falls, Grand Prismatic Springs Overlook, and Brink of the Lower Falls trail.

Additionally, you can experience some of the most famous attractions in Yellowstone without crowds. Those include Grand Prismatic Springs which is one of the largest in the world. In addition, stop by Old Faithful, a geyser that can shoot over 180 feet, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. 

Weather And Directions

You will want to pack warm clothes. Since Yellowstone National Park is at a high elevation, temperatures range between the 50’s to the teens. You can even experience snow!

The best way to reach Yellowstone is to fly into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN). From the airport, it is around 90 miles to both the North and West entrances.

Hotel Recommendation

Samantha says, “One of the best places to stay is in West Yellowstone. This is a lively town just outside the west gate to the Park. It is also the closest gate to some of the main attractions such as Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Springs.” 

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Great Falls Park, Virginia

By Rachel from The Rx For Travel

Great Falls Park is located along the Potomac River, a location rich in American history. It sits where the Virginia and Maryland borders meet. Great Falls Park may not be a very large national park (800 acres) compared to others (i.e., Denali in Alaska is 6 million acres), but it is still amazingly beautiful. There are many great things to do in Virginia which includes exploring the waterfalls and wilderness of Great Falls Park.  

One of the first things to do here is – you guessed it – see the Great Falls. There are 3 different overlooks to which you can walk for clear views and perfect picture spots. For families with small kids, don’t forget to check out the Junior Rangers program which allows kids to earn badges during their time in the Park. 

Throughout Great Falls Park, you will also find multiple trails, some for hiking, some for biking, and even some that are appropriate for horseback riding. With trails for every different skill level, there really is something for everyone.  

Located just a short drive away is Washington D.C. With numerous museums, multiple historic memorials and monuments, and even cruises along the Potomac River, you will never run out of things to do in this area.  

Weather And Directions

October is the best time of year to visit Great Falls Park because of the beautiful fall colors. In addition, the weather is cooler for exploring the great outdoors. In October, the average high is 69 degrees Fahrenheit, and the evening lows are 46 degrees Fahrenheit. There is an average of 6 days of rain but overall, it is mostly sunny.  

The closest airport is Dulles International Airport. It’s less than 20 miles away. 

Hotel Recommendation

Rachel says, “For city accommodations, you can stay at a hotel amongst the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. Or you can choose a more serene stay at the nearby Northern Virginia cities, like Vienna, Falls Church, Reston, and/or McLean.” 

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Grand Canyon, Arizona (Photo courtesy of Alan Carrillo from Unsplash)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

By Candice from CS Ginger

One of the best national parks to visit in the United States in October is Grand Canyon National Park. There are smaller crowds and cooler weather compared to the busy summer months. The South Rim is open year-round. However, if you want to visit the North Rim, keep in mind that it is only open until October 15.

There are lots of fun things to do at Grand Canyon National Park. It is a good idea to start at one of the Visitor Centers to learn about the area and get updated hiking conditions.

Another fun thing to do is to visit the Desert View Watchtower. It was built in 1932 and resembles an ancestral Puebloan watchtower. There is a viewpoint that is 85 steps high with beautiful views of the canyon.

Weather And Directions

During the month of October, the weather is beautiful at the Grand Canyon National Park. The average high during the day is in the mid-70s. It does start to cool down at night with overnight lows hovering around 43 degrees Fahrenheit. There can be some cold days as well, so make sure you arrive prepared with warm clothes and packable rain gear.

If you are visiting the South Rim, the most common airport to fly into is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It is a 4-hour drive (230 miles) from the South Rim. The second option is Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. It is about a 5-hour drive to the South Rim from Las Vegas. If you are looking for a smaller airport, the Flagstaff/Pulliam airport is the closest.

Hotel Recommendation

Candace says, “The Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel is a great place to stay in Grand Canyon Village. It is close to the South Rim and pet-friendly. There are lots of onsite amenities like a pool and hot tub.”

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Capitol Reef National Park, Utah (Photo courtesy of PIxaby)

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

By Daria from The Discovery Nut

Capitol Reef National Park is one of the best places to visit in October in America thanks to a combination of fall colors, pleasant temperatures and thinner crowds. The most remote of all Utah national parks, Capitol Reef is best suited for those travelers who want to get off the beaten path and explore Utah’s red rock back country.

Since the majority of visitors come here in summer, fall is a great time time to visit if you want to have some of the most spectacular hiking trails all to yourself. Unlike other national parks in Utah that have little fall foliage, Capitol Reef National Park is a great place to see the gorgeous fall colors against the bright red rock formations.

One of the best hiking trails in Capitol Reef is Hickman Bridge. The trailhead begins just two miles from the Visitor Center. It is a relatively flat hike in the middle of Utah red canyon country. If you are looking for a challenge, hike to Rim Overlook. This 1.9 mile path is still relatively undiscovered and while you will find very few hikers here, it leads to one of the best overlooks.

And, if you have a 4X4 vehicle, spend a day hiking and camping in Cathedral Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of Capitol Reef National Park. It is a remote area and can only be reached by dirt road.

There are a few stores and restaurants in the Park, but many of them close when the summer months are over. Still, a few restaurants are still open in October. You can also grab some water and snacks in several convenience stores in the nearby town of Torrey.

Weather And Directions

October brings slightly cooler weather to Capitol Reef National Park with plenty of sunshine which is perfect for hiking and spending time outside. Day time temperatures hover around mid 60s’ and can drop to low 40s during the night.

Since Capitol Reef National Park is remote, there’s no easy way to get here. You can either fly into Salt Lake City (3 1/2 hours) or Las Vegas (5 1/2 hours) before driving here. However, it’s better to take a road trip and combine it with a stop at the other Utah national parks.

Hotel Recommendation

Daria says, “After exploring Capitol Reef National Park, head to Torrey, a small town at the west entrance where you can find restaurants, accommodations and campgrounds. Since Capitol Reef demands time, you should spend at least a few days exploring the Park. Consider staying at Red Sands Hotel or Capitol Reef Resort, some of the best accommodations nearby. 

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october is best time to visit this national park in usa
North Cascades National Park, Washington (Photo courtesy of Jessica from Uprooted Traveler)

North Cascades National Park, Washington

By Jessica from Uprooted Traveler

North Cascades National Park in Washington state is one of the best places to visit in the United States to experience the Pacific Northwest’s dazzling display of fall foliage, especially in late September and early October. While most of the United States looks beautiful in autumn, the mountain scapes of Washington take it to a whole other level. Not only do the deciduous trees turn vibrant colors, but also wildflowers, shrubs, and even some coniferous trees get in on the autumn fun. For example, the needles on a Larch tree turn golden-hued before ultimately falling to the ground each year.

There’s plenty of the North Cascades to be explored. In fact, the Park has a massive footprint with over one thousand square miles. You’ll be greeted with some of the most dramatic mountains in the entire country, untouched wilderness, and of course, some absolutely stunning fall colors.

During your time in North Cascades National Park, make sure you visit the quaint town of Winthrop. A short drive from Winthrop will take you to the Heather Maple Pass Loop, one of the most famous hikes in the Park. You will be awarded with panoramic views of the Cascades from along a mountain ridge and display of candy-colored fall foliage.

There’s also two other hikes within a ten minute drive of this trail that are also excellent places to take in the larches and other fall foliage, especially if Heather Maple Pass Loop is too crowded with leaf peepers. The Blue Lake Trail, a moderate 4.4 mile hike, or the much more challenging Cutthroat Pass, a 10.0 mile trek, will take you through seemingly endless groves of larches.

When planning your trip, note that early October is usually peak season to see larches and the beautiful fall foliage. In addition, you will enjoy clear and pleasantly warm hiking weather. Given the North Cascades’ higher elevations, you run the risk of encountering snow, especially along the mountain trails, if you visit in late October early November.

Weather And Directions

The average high temperature in Cascades National Park in October is 51 degree Fahrenheit with 13 days of rain. Make sure you pack warm layers and a rain jacket.

The closest international airport is in Seattle. It can take anywhere from two – five hours to get to Cascades National Park depending on which part you’re visiting.

Hotel Recommendation

Jessica says, “Consider making the charming town of Winthrop your homebase, like at the Mount Gardner Inn. Winthrop is an 1800s gold rush town that retains its original antique boardwalks and Wild Western facades. It perfectly mixes kitschiness and rustic charm, with excellent proximity to some of the park’s best hikes.”

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Great Basin National Park, Nevada (Photo courtesy of Allison from She Dreams Of Alpine)

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

By Allison from She Dreams Of Alpine

If you’re looking for one of the best national parks to visit in October in the United States with thousands of acres of rugged, diverse landscape and fewer crowds, then look no further. Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada near the Utah border offers bristlecone pine groves, limestone caves, and the second highest peak in Nevada in 77,180 acres of terrain.

October is the best time to visit Great Basin National Park, as long as you’re prepared for weather conditions ranging from mild temps to possible snow! The fall colors are beautiful, and if it does snow, the landscape is extra stunning. Plus, the most popular attraction is underground, so you’ll be sheltered from any inclement weather.

The Lehman Caves are incredible limestone formations of stalactites and stalagmites that were formed by water flowing through the rock. Reservations are required for a ranger-guided tour to explore them. Fewer people in October will make it easier to snag a space on one of these tours.

The moderate fall temperatures also make it a perfect time to hit the hiking trails in Great Basin National Park. You can find a great hike for all experience levels, from a short, easy walk to see ancient bristlecone pine trees to a strenuous slog to the higher elevations of Wheeler Peak, Nevada’s second highest mountain.

Weather And Directions

Temperatures can range from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 38 Degrees Fahrenheit so come prepared for everything!

Great Basin National Park is tucked away in a corner of Nevada. The closest major airports are either Salt Lake CIty or Las Vegas, but either will require a 4 or 5 hours drive.

Hotel Recommendation

Allison says, “The nearest town to Great Basin is Baker in Nevada, with several quaint accommodations, including the Stargazer Inn. But if the temps don’t drop too low at night, the best place to stay is Lower Lehman Creek Campground. It is open year-round and located right in the Park.”

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best national parks to visit in October in usa
Death Valley National Park, California (Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

Dead Valley National Park, California

By Urvi from Urvi’s Travel Journal

Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the United States. Located in Eastern California, it is below sea level and a brutally hot place in summer. It is known as the land of extremes.

Death Valley National Park offers variation in nature and many things to do. While Dante’s View is the highest point in the Park, about 5000 feet above sea level, the Bad Water Basin is below sea level. At Dante’s View, you can enjoy the 360-degree view of the Park. If you love off-roading, you can drive Twenty Mule Team Canyon and enjoy canyon views.

Zabriskie Point and Devil’s golf course are popular among tourists and pretty crowded. Make sure you take Artist’s Drive, a 10-mile loop filled with naturally painted canyons. It literally feels like some artist has painted these canyons with various colors and is mesmerizing.

Don’t forget to stop at Mesquite Flat Dunes to watch the sunset. It looks incredible when the sun goes down and the sky turns orange.

From the west side, Lone Pine in California is the nearest town, a 1 hour 45 mins drive from the visitor center. From the east side, Beatty in Nevada is the nearest town 45 mins away. Pahrump, Nevada, is famous for its casino, and many tourists choose to stay there and drive to Death Valley, a 1.5 hr drive from Pahrump.

Directions and Weather

You can fly to Los Angeles (220 miles) or Las Vegas airport (110 miles) and pick up a rental car. 

After the blistering heat of the summer months, temperatures settle down into the 90s in the daytime and 60s at night. That’s why October is the best month to visit Death Valley National Park because it gets crowded in winter. Death Valley also experiences winter storms, so it’s better to visit before that. 

Hotel Recommendation

Death Valley National Park has nine campgrounds, four are open all year, and others are available late spring through fall. There are four lodging options inside the park. Stovepipe Wells Village and The Oasis At Death Valley are popular. You can also try Beatty, Nevada, or Lone Pine, California, for outside the park. 

Last Word

October is a fantastic time to visit many beautiful national parks in the United States. October offers mild temperatures that are perfect for outdoor activities. In addition, in many national parks, you get to experience the wonders of autumn. In most places that means seeing stunning fall foliage and wildlife at its most active.

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