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Reader Participation Day: Which National Park Is Your Favorite For Fall Colors?


Fall already is in full swing, color-wise, in Denali National Park and Preserve. Which park is your favorite for leaf-peeping? NPS photo.

Hard to believe, but already the Wasatch maples are starting to take on the hues of fall here in Utah. Which means the colorful kaleidoscope of fall cannot be far off. With that in mind, which national park is your favorite for fall leaf-peeping?

Already the landscapes in Denali National Park and Preserve are maxing out in color, while the forests that wrap Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks and their umbilical cord that is the Blue Ridge Parkway are weeks away from their fall glory. Though I grew up an East Coaster and so am well-familiar with the dazzling displays of red, orange, yellow, green and brown that are common in those forests, there's something special about the fluttering gold of aspen that make the forests of Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain national parks dance.

So, where do you plan to be when the leaves peak in your neck of the country?


We don't usually do much fall color traveling to parks, as that seems to be when everyone is headed to the parks. Getting around Acadia or Great Smoky Mountains a few weekends from now will be miserable , though I hear the colors are spectacular in both.

Personally, we'd head a couple hours up the road to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Maple-Beech forests give a nice spectrum from yellow to red on a background of the near-white dunes and the blue of Lake Michigan.

Ian Edlind
You can't go wrong with a trip to Shenandoah, although I agree with the previous commenter. Visit on a weekday if you can! The neat thing about Shenandoah is that because of its linear shape peak colors in the northern part of the park area happen a weekend or two before the southern part hits its stride. Needless to say, it gives you options.

Last year we were in Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes during peak color. We hiked in both parks and were surrounded by vibrant color. We took the boat tour along pictured rocks and loved seeing the beautiful rocks with the colorful trees. Definitely would love to return somday. We also went all through Keweenaw and although we were late for color, it looked as if it had been great as well.

I've visited each region (except Pacific Northwest) in the fall. Although for variety of tree species it is difficult to beat Shenandoah in the fall and Great Smoky Mountains in the fall, my favorite is still Acadia because of the vegetation found in more northern latitudes, such as berry plants. In general, the Western Parks lack red maples, which add an essential color to fall colors.


National Parks images

Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is absolutely beautiful in the Fall and we would highly recommend it. Voyageurs is a water-based park where you must leave your car and take to the water to fully experience the lakes, islands and shorelines of the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the place for colors in the fall. We try to estimate when in October every year for the last 20 years and three out of four times we have not been too far off. However, the temperatures have varied from 32 degrees to 80 degrees. But the colors cannot be beat!

My wife and I have travelled through all of the major areas of the US in the fall, and, as far as National Parks are concerned, it is a toss-up between Shenandoah NP and Great Smokey Mountains NP. In fact, almost any NPS site in the Appalachian Mountains would qualify. Yes, the Aspens in the Western Parks are gorgeous, but they just don't have the variety of color that the Eastern parks have. In fact, the most beautiful place we have visited for fall color is not even a national park; it is a homesite owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in the Allegheny Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark. Of course I mean Fallingwater, the home that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburg. It has been open to the public since 1964. We happened to hit Fallingwater one Octorber on the peak day of the season; the color was just magnificent. But actually, there are so many forests in the east, both NPS and not, that turn color in the fall, it is almost unfair just to pick one. Anyway, you have my vote.

PS: here is a picture

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