Fall for Fall: Best National Parks for Leaf Peeping

Awe-Inspiring Autumn Colors in the National Parks

There’s nothing quite like the first cool morning and the scent of fresh Autumn air on the breeze. This fall, take some time to enjoy all that nature has to offer by loading up the car and hitting the road to enjoy some leaf peeping. Whether you want to travel near or far, we’ve created a list of some of our favorite spots for catching the beautiful colors of fall.

Drive Through Leaf Peeping in Yosemite

If you’re looking for cool weather, sun, and fall colors, your best bet is Yosemite National Park in California. Grab your warm clothes and hit the road to enjoy all of the fresh fall shades that nature has to offer. While many of the trees in Yosemite are evergreens, you will get to see big-leaf maples, black oaks, Pacific dogwoods, and others show-off their fall foliage.

Fall in Yosemite happens in October and November, with some snow and road closures starting in mid-November. While Yosemite is home to big mountains and plenty of hiking, it’s also a great place to see nature from your car. You can drive through the park and take short walks to different park highlights. Be sure not to miss the Giant Sequoias, which you can see at the Mariposa, Merced, or Tuolumne Groves throughout the park.

Where to Stay: Wawona Hotel

For the perfect fall-inspired trip, you need a cute, cozy place to settle in for the night. The Wawona Hotel is one of the original mountain resorts. Built in 1856, it’s Victorian-era architecture and design are the perfect backdrop for your stay.

After your days of exploring Yosemite, you can return to the Wawona to enjoy a hot meal in the dining room and then tune in for a piano performance and singing in the lounge. You can also bring your book and curl up in front of the fireplace or in the sun room to simply enjoy some quiet down time.

Old Growth Forests and Fall Colors at Union Creek

Union Creek, located in Oregon and a short 30 minute drive away from Crater Lake National Park, is a wonderful place to settle into a historic lodge and enjoy the colors of fall in the forest.

The first blush of fall color begins in mid-September in Oregon, with the peak happening part way through October. If your visit brings you to the area in November, you’ll catch the last glimpses of red leaves by the end of the first week or so. The area is well-known for its rivers and waterfalls, which you can enjoy on foot.

Where to Stay: Union Creek

During your stay at Union Creek, you can choose from a renovated room in the historic lodge or a private cabin on the grounds. Each cabin has unique furnishings and layout, and you can choose between a cabin with a kitchen and one without.

During your stay, you’ll want to get out and see the Autumn colors on offer from mother nature. If you’re up for a slightly longer hike, you can enjoy the 12-mile Union Creek Trail. Along the trail, you’ll find 700-year-old Douglas Firs, skittering alligator lizards, waterfalls, and a calm swimming hole. Bring your swimsuit if you’re hearty enough to brave the cold water! For a shorter hike, check out the 3.5 mile Rogue Gorge Trail, where you’ll see water travel through a 250-foot lava tube.

Autumn Dreams in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has it all: glacier-capped mountains, forest valleys, hot springs, rugged coastline, and in the fall, trees sporting their variety of fall colors. Even just a short trip to Olympic National Park might be all you need to refresh yourself and get ready for the fall season.

Where to Stay: Lake Crescent Lodge

Located in northwest Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll find Lake Crescent Lodge tucked away among the old-growth forest. Built in 1915, the lodge maintains much of its turn-of-the-century charm and ambiance. Open from April until January, fall is the perfect time to visit this historic resort.

Onsite, visitors can enjoy spacious guest rooms, dining, a gift shop, and lake access. For the best kind of leaf peeping, you can take in the glorious colors on foot. There are tons of hiking trails throughout the park, and you can choose the one that’s just right for your time and skill level. You can also take a guided hike, where your guide will share information about the local flora and fauna and stories from the past.

While many people take their vacations in the summer during school breaks, there’s something special about an autumn trip. Traveling in the fall is all about cozy sweaters, fresh air, and nature’s bounty as it prepares for winter with a show of magnificent colors. If you’re ready for some leaf peeping this fall, be sure to consider one of our favorite national parks as a stop on your list.

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