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5 ways to celebrate fall in the national parks

Get outdoors and enjoy our national parks this fall with these fun ideas from the National Park Service

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A car drives through Rocky Mountain National Park alongside colorful fall leaves.

A car drives through Rocky Mountain National Park alongside colorful fall leaves.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Fall is the perfect time to get outdoors. As the seasons change, temperatures are milder and foliage starts to turn, creating excellent opportunities for hiking, camping or just sightseeing.

It’s an especially great time to visit a national park. The best months to visit national parks are September through November because they’re not as busy as in summer, according to KOA.

The National Parks Service has announced a list of ways people can enjoy this fall at a national park or monument. Here are some of the top suggestions:

Visit events at your local national parks

Most national parks host events to celebrate things like National Fossil Day or Hispanic Heritage Month. Some even have Halloween activities, according to Outdoors Wire.

Keep an eye on your local park’s calendar or make a special trip to a different park to participate in their activities.

Hike through fall colors

The best way to admire autumn foliage is by getting up close, and hiking through a national park is a great way to do so. Parks like Yosemite, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains are known for their thriving forests, so they’ll have especially lovely vistas.

You can find information about hiking trails on each park’s official website. Each park has hikes of varying levels of difficulty, so there’s something for everyone.

If hiking isn’t your thing, take a scenic drive to view the foliage. Some road closures begin in national parks during the fall, so make sure to plan out your route ahead of time.

Observe wildlife

It’s not just the leaves that change in autumn. Many species of animal migrate or otherwise change their behavior during this time, making it an exciting opportunity to witness them, per the National Park Service.

To see animals in their natural habitats, visit your park’s visitor center or ranger station to find a guide of native fauna and keep an eye out for them and their tracks.

The park service emphasizes the importance of safety while in proximity to wildlife. Keep your distance and don’t interact with any animals — this includes feeding them.

Go camping

Camping in the fall is another way to enjoy the autumnal foliage and pleasant weather. You can also go stargazing, since the relative lack of light pollution at national parks makes them ideal places to see the night sky, per the National Park Service.

Many campgrounds begin to close for the season in late fall, so now is a good time to get your camping in before it’s no longer an option. Reserve a spot at your campground on the park’s official website and check for any seasonal closures before you go. While camping, make sure to practice fire safety and leave the area undisturbed.

Participate in learning activities

Whether you’re back in school or have completed your formal schooling, you can continue your education in one of our national parks’ outdoor classrooms. Park rangers are available at each national park to answer questions and provide guidance, and many parks have scheduled presentations from rangers as well.

The park service also has a great list of resources for teachers, but you don’t have to be an educator to use them. You don’t even need to visit a national park in person for some of these, such as virtual field trips and downloadable activities.