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Reader Participation Day: Where Do You Go To See Fall Colors In The National Parks...And To Flee the Crowds?


Fall is the time for forests to relax after casting off their leaves. Bob Mishak photo.

It's easy to name colorful parks come fall. Acadia National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park are just three. But where do you go to see spectacular fall colors...without the crowds?

That's a tough question. Perhaps too difficult to answer these days as more and more folks head into the parks to enjoy the leaves and cooler temperatures.

But we know there are secret places out there, or certain times of the week, when you can enjoy the fall foliage without several hundred of your friends.  Care to share your secret spots or strategies?


If the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park isn't quiet enough for you to see the golden glow of the fall aspen then stay out of the park and visit the adjacent Kaibab National Forest.

Well I would have said Sleeping Bear Dunes, with all the beech-maple forests there it can be stunning. BUT....I was there yesterday morning, on a Tuesday, and the crowds were intense. Looked like a summer weekend. So I guess that cat's out of the bag.

In SoCal, you don't get much foliage. The aspen grove in the San Bernardino NF, and Cooper Canyon in the Angeles NF are nice, but I don't think any of our national parks offer much in the way of autumn color.

We went to Grand
Canyon North Rim and Cedar Breaks National Monument this past
weekend. The colors were phenomenal and the crowds were scant.

Kolob Terrace at Zion. I generally prefer the high country to the canyon anyway, but the autumn colors really set it apart.

Mt. Rainier has some beautiful fall color in amongst the evergreens.  Vine maples in particular turn a wonderful flame red-orange.  And above the evergreens as well.  The alpine tundra at Sunrise and Paradise looks like a tapestry in early October.

Get on the trails.
Then you'll be in the colors with few people.

Great Basin.  I was there two weekends ago.  It was quiet, almost empty, and absolutely wonderful.  Plenty of open campsites, perfectly clean everywhere, with a staff of enthusiastic rangers and an obviously hard-working maintenance crew.  Absolutely delightful.

But the fall colors were just beginning to show up.  I guess they must be peaking right about now.  Bristlecone pines, some of the oldest living things on earth, don't have much color, but their age and beauty is awe inspiring. 

Yesterday and today rain, snow and wind have clobbered this part of the country.  Yet at Great Basin, Lehman Cave -- which is one of the most spectacular of all the NPS caves -- is reasonably dry and not very windy.  It's a Dark Sky park with a fine astronomy offering.  Just bundle up.

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