Fall Family Activities: Discovering our National Parks

September 13, 2023 by Kenmore

It’s been an amazing summer, hasn’t it? We truly hope you got outside, had lots of fun, gave the grill a real workout, biked and swam and took in a game at the ballpark. And now, with autumn just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to appreciate the best of times while they last.

But there’s no reason for you and your family to stop having a blast once summer is over! In fact, fall can offer some of the most interesting, enjoyable and family-bonding experiences of the year… if you know where to look. And without a doubt, one of the best places to find fall fun is within our U.S. National Park system.

Why fall?

The autumn months can be some of the best times to enjoy the great outdoors in our great parks, from coast to coast. The weather is cooler and more relaxing, the crowds are less intense, accommodations may be easier to book, and parking lots a little less congested. But it’s not so late in the season that the native wildlife make themselves scarce.

Just as importantly, the parks can look even more gorgeous than usual when they put their fall wardrobe of colors on. Multicolored leaves transform the landscape while golden sunlight sets the hillsides ablaze.

Why visit National Parks?

U.S. National Parks offer dramatic beauty and a wealth of experiences that can enrich your family’s life and bring them together with shared memories and stories that will be remembered for years to come. Whether you’re a nature-lover, an adventurer, a hiker, a biker, a shutterbug, or merely curious, these incredible preserves offer something for everyone.

They’re also an excellent value. For example, a weeklong pass to visit Yellowstone N.P. costs only $35 per vehicle. Other parks cost even less, and many have no entrance fee at all. Where else can you take your family for so little, with so much to discover? (great copy for social use)

National Parks can provide young minds with endless learning opportunities. A national park can teach your family about nature, science, conservation, and history—all while having a pretty good time.

They’re healthy, too! A number of studies have shown that time spent outdoors can boost your immune system. It can also enhance creative thinking, and simply make you feel healthier. And, if nothing else, they’re just plain relaxing!

They’re conveniently located, with 63 officially designated national parks scattered throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories.

And lastly, National Parks provide the perfect opportunity for your whole crew to unplug, disconnect from their devices, and reconnect with each other in real time. And that’s priceless.

The perfect parks for fall

Okay, we admit it. Any such list is going to leave out some incredible parks with sensational scenery and great autumnal experiences. But rest assured, the following parks do not disappoint in the fall.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee) – The red, gold and green of the fall leaves here are picture-perfect, as the flowering dogwoods begin to change their shade in October.

Acadia National Park (Maine) – Mid-October offers fall foliage enthusiasts (locally known as “leaf-peepers”) one of the best spots in the country to soak up the colors of the season.

Big Bend National Park (Texas) – With more than 200 miles of trails and impressive scenery around every bend, this is a hiker’s utopia. And temperatures are far more comfortable in fall than in summer.

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) – Skyline Drive offers the ideal option for visitors who want to see jaw-dropping fall colors, but would rather do so from the comfort of their car.

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) – The majestic beauty of the Grand Teton mountains is like having a cheat-code for scenic splendor, anytime of year. Fall is definitely no exception!

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) – The mountain terrain is breathtaking. The trail system is extensive and well-marked, the golden leaves are on full display… and so are all the elk.

Zion National Park (Utah) – Fall is absolutely the best time to visit. The weather becomes more comfortable, the crowds are less extreme, and the changing colors of the cottonwoods look lovely against the canyon walls.

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Top tips for visiting National Parks

We cannot stress this point enough: if you’re planning to visit a U.S. National Park, start your journey by exploring the official NPS.gov web site. It’s a valuable resource that gives you all the facts you need for every park in the system, nationwide.

If  there’s a  chance you’ll visit more than a couple National Parks during the year, you should look into buying an America The Beautiful pass. Anyone can buy one for $80, and it lasts all year. And if you’re 62 or over, it only costs $20. (Please note: prices referenced are for the current year, 2023.)

Are you a U.S. military veteran or a Gold Star family member? Then the pass is free, and it lasts a lifetime. And U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities may qualify for a free Lifetime Access pass.

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Other top tips for visiting national parks include…

🌲 The National Park Service’s Find A Park online tool helps you search for the best park options to suit your needs by state, activity, or topic.

🌲 They also offer online park maps and National Park System maps to help you plan your visit.

🌲 If you’re traveling with kids, learn about the Junior Rangers Program. It’s fun and engaging!

🌲 Driving there in your electric vehicle? No problem! Many national parks offer EV charging stations on site! Drive up, plug in, and go for a walk.

🌲 If you’re traveling with pets, be sure to check with the park ahead of time. Many parks allow pets on leashes and in campgrounds, but some do not.

🌲 Once you’re there, please be aware of the effects our actions may have on plants, animals, other people, and even entire ecosystems. If possible, leave no trace that you were ever there.

🌲 And finally, if you have any questions during your visit, be sure to ask a Park Ranger. They are impressively well-informed, and you can’t think of a question they haven’t answered before!


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