The Top 5 Best National Parks to Visit (and Camp at) This Fall

September 15, 2021

fall-landscape-of-aspen-colorado-above-bear-lake-with-view-of-longs-peak

Fantastic fall foliage is right around the corner, and there is no better way to celebrate it than marking off some time on your September or October calendar to visit and camp at some of the best national parks in the USA. But...how do you choose which ones to visit? How many national parks are there even? Like, 100? 1,000? 10,000?? How do you know which ones are the best national parks to visit for the list of activities you want to do? What if they don’t allow camping? Do they have hiking trails with waterfalls or lakes? Can you bring food? AAAH! 

Woah woah woah, Slow your roll there, partner. Take a breath, because all of these questions are about to be answered. From beginners to pros, this article is going to help you figure it all out - what to pack, what kind of camping supplies you’ll need (from camping hammocks to dry bags), basic national park rules to know, and finally, the top 5 list of national parks to visit and camp at this fall!

What Should I Pack for a National Park Trip?

From beginning backpackers to ace adventurers, everyone needs a solid list of general items and hiking essentials for a big trip! Making a checklist is essential for any soon-to-be camper - you don’t want to be stuck at one of the best national parks in the USA with nothing but your shoes and a water bottle, right? Let’s start with the essential supplies: 

What Supplies Should I Bring to a National Park?

  • A national parks map 
  • Hydration supplies (water bottles, hydration backpacks) 
  • Flashlights and/or headlamps
  • Sprays and skin protectors (bear spray, insect repellant, hand sanitizer, sunscreen)
  • Hygienic supplies (toilet paper, trash bags)
  • First aid kit
  • Healthy snacks (Granola, trail mix, nuts, etc)

How Should I Dress At National Parks?

Don’t get caught in the cold this fall! Assuming you’ll want to be doing a lot of walking around, follow this list of essential hiking clothes to stay warm from head to toe: 

What Essential Clothes Should I Bring to a National Park?

  • A beanie or hat. Bring one to make sure your ears stay warm when it gets windy. 
  • Gloves. When thinking about what to wear hiking in fall, gloves are often overlooked - but super important to keep your hands warm and functional. 
  • A buff. Buffs act as compact scarves that are convenient to carry and cover your ears, mouth, and nose. 
  • Warm, breathable base layers. Cotton absorbs moisture and may give you hypothermia - don’t wear it! Find breathable, flexible fabrics to wear. 
  • Light jackets & outer layers. Don’t get bogged down with down jackets that are way too heavy. If it gets too cold, you can always layer up! 
  • A rain jacket. Fall gets rainy, no matter which park you're in. Stay prepared! 
  • GOOD hiking boots. Spare no expense here, folks. Chances are most of your time will be spent walking or climbing, and you want to be comfortable. 

National Park Camping 101

What Are Some Essential Camping Supplies?

Camping is a great way to prolong your stay in some of North America’s most beautiful national parks. We’re about to get to the best national parks to visit and camp in, but let’s get through the supplies you’ll need first: 

  • A tent. Obvious, but essential. Depending on how many people you’re camping with, make sure to get a spacious and durable one, because they won’t have one for you at any national park.
  • A tent footprint. Many people don’t know how important this is, or even what it is. A tent footprint is a durable tarp to put in between your tent and the ground. It prolongs your tents life, adds an extra waterproof layer, and makes it easier to pitch your tent. You can find one of the best tent footprints here! 

Does a Tent Footprint Keep You Warmer?

Yes! By acting as an added layer, a tent footprint prevents a lot of heat from escaping your tent. This is essential if you’re camping in the fall! 

  • A camping hammock. These are great types of hammocks for sleeping or lounging in. Grab a camping hammock and accessories to sit back, relax, and enjoy nature the pro way! 
  • A dry bag. Keep your electronics dry and out of harm's way by using some dry bags for camping. You can find some great ones here

These are the basic things you’ll need. If you’re looking for more, check out our store for more camping and travel gear!

What Can You Do in a National Park Besides Camping?

Not big into camping? No sweat - here are some other activities you can do! 

Hiking: No trip to a national park is complete without a good bit of hiking. National parks have some of the best hiking spots in the world, and you won’t want to miss out. Whether you’re hiking with kids, looking for a dog-friendly hike, or just going solo, you’ll find a great trail. 

Photography: North America’s national parks are some of the most photogenic places on earth - don’t be afraid to grab your camera and get out there (even if you only have a smartphone camera)! 

Cooking: I know what you’re thinking - can you bring food into national parks? The answer is a resounding YES (most of the time). Most national parks allow grilling and cooking, so long as you clean up after yourself and are extra careful with fire. 

What are the Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall (That Can Be Camped At)?

zion-national-park-utah-landscape

1. Zion National Park - Utah (Lava Point Campground)

Utah’s national parks are all gorgeous, but the dramatic red rock and striking autumn colors make this park stand out. Try out the Lava Point campground for extra beautiful views. 

fall-landscape-of-the-green-mountain-national-forest

2. Green Mountain National Forest - Vermont (Chittenden Brook Campground)

While not technically a national park, this national forest makes the list for its famed New England fall foliage. Check this place out for crimson scenery, fall vibes, and unforgettable Vermont hiking

trail-through-redwoods-in-sequoia-national-park

3. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks - California (Buckeye Flat Campgrounds)

Giant dogwood trees and changing leaves make this one of the most beautiful national parks in California, and honestly, one of the best national parks in the USA. Stay at the Buckeye Flat campgrounds to get the real fall camping experience! 

fall-landscape-of-the-great-smoky-mountains-national-park

4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park - North Carolina/Tennessee (Elkmont Campground)

With countless species of trees, camping in this North Carolina national park in the fall brings a flood of fall color. Moreover, this park is famous for its fall activities: corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and apple-picking are just a few of the fall-related things you can do here. 

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5. Acadia National Park - Maine (Blackwoods Campgrounds)

Last (but not least) is one of Maine’s most beautiful natural gems. People from around the world flock to the Acadia National Park hiking trails not just for the challenge, but for the beautiful scenic reward. Fall is one of the most popular times to go, so make sure to book your spot at the Blackwoods campgrounds sooner rather than later! 


Fall 2021 is set to be a beautiful time of year - don’t miss out on it by staying inside! Grab your camping gear and get out there before winter rolls in (and don’t forget to check out our website for any essentials you might have missed!) 


Contributing Writer: Aurora Detor





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