Five Must-visit US National Parks For Fall Colors

As the air turns crisp and leaves transform into a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows, autumn is a magical time for photographers. The US national parks have no end of autumn scenes to explore. Here we share some of the best US national parks that come alive with vibrant fall colors. Keep reading for five must-visit US National Parks for fall colors. We’ve also included some reminders on how to photograph these areas of pristine natural beauty responsibly.

1. Yosemite National Park, CA

View of Half Dome from Cooks Meadow by Lewis Kemper

Renowned for its iconic granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and ancient sequoia trees, Yosemite National Park is also known for the stunning display of fall colors that transform its landscapes. As the season progresses, the park’s deciduous trees, including black oaks and bigleaf maples, turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. Don’t miss the opportunity to photograph the fiery hues with views of Half Dome from Cooks Meadow. See our Guide to Yosemite for more inspirational locations in this park.

Responsible Photography Reminder: When visiting national parks for photography, respect others and protect the quality of their experience, even if that means waiting your turn or returning at a less popular time.

2. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

September Snow at Storm Pass Trailhead view by Erik Stensland

Rocky Mountains NP is spectacular year-round, but as summer’s vibrant greens give way to shimmering yellows and rich oranges, it becomes a photographer’s dream. The aspen groves that blanket the mountainsides burst into a riot of color, creating a striking contrast against the rugged alpine terrain. September is elk rutting season, which can add an element of drama to the landscape. If you’re lucky enough, you might capture a bugling bull against the backdrop of autumnal splendor.  

Responsible Photography Reminder: When shooting elk or other wildlife keep your distance,. During rutting season, males can be particularly aggressive. It is illegal to approach or disturb wildlife in the park so enjoy from a distance. Use a long lens, such as a 300 to 600mm.

3. Mount Rainier National Park, WA

Naches Peak Loop, Mount Rainier National Park by Vicky Spring & Tom Kirkendall

As the autumn chill touches the dense forests and meadows surrounding Mount Rainier, the foliage transforms into a brilliant display of golds, reds, and oranges. The iconic snow-capped volcanic peak stands in striking juxtaposition to the warm autumn palette of huckleberry bushes and autumnal foliage. To explore this and other views in Mount Rainier National Park, see our guide expertly curated by PhotoHounders, Vicky & Tom.

Responsible Photography Reminder : To protect fragile alpine vegetation in national parks, hike only on existing trails and always respect barriers.

4. Glacier National Park, MT

Going To The Sun Road by Chuck Haney

Fall colors are spectacular along The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier NP. Its winding curves and sweeping vistas become a scenic wonderland. Meanwhile, hikes (like the Grinnell Glacier Trail and Avalanche Lake Trail) provide opportunities to capture the brilliance of fall foliage up close. Autumn can be a wonderful time to explore Glacier National Park as the crowds of summer are gone. The lower elevation sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road remain open all year providing access to many great locations for fall color. It is usually fully open until the third Monday of October, but weather conditions can vary. Use the links in the Glacier National Park guide to check current conditions before setting off.

Responsible Photography Reminder: When hiking in national parks, pack adequate food, water, clothing, first aid kit and bear spray. Always let someone know where you are going and consider using an app such as What 3 Words to share your precise location.

5. North Cascades National Park, WA

Morning autumnal light on larches, Cutthroat Pass by Vicky Spring & Tom Kirkendall

The rugged wilderness of North Cascades National Park undergoes a remarkable transformation as autumn sweeps in. The sun has moved south and the light is softer. The needles of the larch trees turn a brilliant yellow then mellow into a vibrant orange. In the high meadows the leaves of the huckleberries turn a brilliant red, and the berries are ripe. Find more locations with advice on how best to photographer there in our guide to North Cascades NP.

Responsible Photography Reminder: No matter the size of our audience, as a travel or landscape photographer we have the power to lead by example and teach and encourage others to follow Nature First principles when out shooting. Be an advocate on your platform. Discourage actions that harm the environment and instead let’s influence others to steward our planet’s areas of pristine natural beauty.

Autumn is a magical season for photographers, and these five must-visit US National Parks for fall colors offer some of the most enchanting opportunities to capture them. So, pack your camera gear, head to the PhotoHound app and website to plan your trip, and get photographing. We can’t wait to see the results when you share them with the PhotoHound community!

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