Just because summer is drawing to a close doesn’t mean all your outdoor activities have to also…
Lace up your hiking boots, ladies! Just because summer is drawing to a close doesn’t mean all your outdoor activities have to, too. In fact, fall may just be the best time of year to get outside and explore the country’s national parks: they’re not as crowded since summer visitors have unlaced their hiking boots, it’s not as hot and sweaty, and you’ll get a chance to see some killer foliage if you time it right.
So if you’re in the market for an adventurous next trip, consider checking out one of the gorgeous national parks below:
If you like the idea of sleeping under the stars…visit Bryce Canyon National Park.
Mostly known for the Hoodoos — pillars of red rock carved out by millennia of erosion — Utah’s Bryce Canyon actually has some of the best stargazing conditions in the country. Far from light pollution, Bryce is a sanctuary of natural darkness with a night sky that’s so dark, 7,500 stars are visible on a moonless night, including the Milky Way and even Venus and Jupiter.
If you’re looking for miles and miles of gorgeous hiking trails…visit Rocky Mountains National Park.
While the Rocky Mountains run for 3,000 miles from Canada down to New Mexico, Rocky Mountains National Park is a 415-square-mile section in Colorado that contains more than 350 hiking trails and over 60 climbable peaks.
If you’re looking for a rejuvenating experience…visit Hot Springs National Park.
Located in Arkansas (which just so happens to be nicknamed The Natural State), Hot Springs National park is true to its name: the park is full of natural hot springs that have been used for centuries as places of healing and rejuvenation. Though it’s a bit less “back to the land” than other parks on this list, due to the fact that many of the hot springs you can visit are housed in manmade bathhouses, it’s still worth a trip if you’ve been coveting your friends’ Insta posts of their time at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.
If you want to stand under a waterfall…visit Smoky Mountains National Park.
True, the Great Smoky Mountains boasts more than just falling water — it’s the most visited park in the country, is certifiably huge and has over 1,660 different kinds of flowering plants to stop and sniff — but its real highlight is the dozen-plus waterfalls scattered throughout the park. If you only have time for a few, check out Laurel Falls, an 80-foot stunner, Mouse Creek Falls, which is smaller and less-visited but equally impressive, and Rainbow Falls where, you guessed it, a rainbow can be seen in the fall’s mist on sunny afternoons.
If you want to channel your inner archaeologist…visit Badlands National Park.
Mount Rushmore isn’t the only attraction in this South Dakota Park: the Badlands are also home to 37-million-year-old fossil deposits, making it one of the country’s most prominent archaeological sites. And if living animals are more your speed, the park is also full of wildlife like bison, prairie dogs and bighorn sheep that roam freely. The amazing rock formations don’t hurt either.
If you want to climb an active volcano…visit Haleakalã National Park.
Located in a somewhat remote part of Maui, a visit to Haleakalã will literally have you climbing an active, potentially-lava-spewing volcano. At 10,023 feet, it’s full of hiking trails that offer up to 115 miles of visibility from the summit. What’s more, the park is comprised of both barren volcanic landscape and sub-tropical rainforests, making for a gorgeous transition. It’s also home to more endangered species than any other park in the country, so it’s also an animal lover’s dream.
If you want an ant’s eye view of the world…visit Sequoia National Park.
This California park has several claims to fame, all of which are equally impressive and awe-inspiring. Not only is Sequoia the second-oldest national park in the country, it’s also home to the largest tree in the world. Named General Sherman, the 2,700-year-old sequoia is 275 feet tall and 25 feet in diameter. Not to overshadow General Sherman (as if anything could), but the park also has five of the 10 largest trees in the world, so there’s that!
If you’re ready to try real-life rock climbing…visit Joshua Tree National Park.
No carefully placed footholds on a straight vertical wall here: this California park is a rock climber’s paradise. With almost 800,000 acres to its name, Joshua Tree has 8,000 climbing routes, and 2,000 boulder formations through the park.
If you want to wake up with the sun…visit Acadia National Park.
Nestled in Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park offers 50,000 acres of shoreline, coves, mountains, pine forests and meadows. And if you can stop hitting snooze for a day, you may just be the first person in the country to see the sun’s rays. The park’s Cadillac Mountain is far enough east that anyone up before the dawn gets to witness the first hints of a new day breaking over the Atlantic seaboard.
+Read more about National Park adventures here!