Adventures,  Travel

4 Eastern National Parks to Visit this Fall

It’s officially fall! Which means the leaves are going to begin to change as the weather cools off a bit. It is the perfect time to get out and adventure with your family and friends. I am tired of the summer tourist traps. And beyond ready for fall time fun in the great outdoors!

If you already live in eastern USA than these trips are even easier to travel. If you live elsewhere come on over and check these awesome National Parks out! Be sure to add these to your fall bucket list!

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Check out America’s most visited National Park. Take in the sights and mountain air as you explore the many waterfalls, wood side trails and scenic drives. You may even catch a glimpse of a black bear. Considering the park is home to roughly 1,500 black bears. However, don’t let that alarm you, just make noise and keep a safe distance.

This park is located boarding both Tennessee and North Carolina. The mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian mountains. The morning fog that rises everyday has given the mountains it’s smoky name.

Must See and Do

Hiking

There are plenty of spots to hike all throughout the park. The cool part is there is a trail for everyone. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced there is a trail for you. Read the distance on the trailhead sign before beginning. Make sure you have snacks and water packed to keep hydrated.

My 2 favorites

-Rainbow Falls

This hike leads you to Smoky Mountains tallest waterfall. It is a 5.4 mile round trip hike taking approximately 3-5 hours. According to it’s name, on a sunny day you an see a rainbow in the falls mist. This hike is more moderate in difficulty so plan accordingly. You will see beautiful fall foliage along the way as well as smaller waterfalls and big boulders.

Tip: Make sure to pack a sweater. When I hiked it I noticed a dramatic temperature change from the beginning of the trail to the falls. 

-Grotto falls

Enjoy an easier hike that crosses 4 streams and leads to a cascading waterfall. You can actually walk behind the waterfall! It is exhilarating to view it from behind and also makes for a great photo opportunity. This 2.8 mile round trip hike will take approximately 2-3 hours.

Click here to find other trails for your trip!

Picnic by Creek

Because why not?! There are many rushing roadside streams all throughout the park. Take a second to sit and relax after a long hike or busy day sightseeing. Some areas do have picnic tables or you can go old school and sit on a blanket with a basket full of goodies.

Make sure whatever you pack in gets thrown out in the garbage or carried back out with you. Keep the park beautiful and don’t attract unwanted critters.

Cades Cove

This must see spot offers an 11 mile loop of pure outdoorsy-ness! In the summer the traffic can be a bit much. Although it tends to slow down in the fall making it great time to visit.  Cade’s cove offers many activities such as; camping, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing and historic buildings. You can actually rent a bike at the visitor center to complete the loop.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Slow down as you drive this winding and narrow 5.5 mile loop. This could possibly be one of the best ways to view the fall foliage. You will also take in views of waterfalls, mountain streams and historic building. There are a few openings in the forest along the way that also give you an awesome view of the mountain range. Try to head out early to catch the fog rising out of the mountains.

The drive is absolutely gorgeous. I suggest you take your time and pull over in designated areas when they are available. You definitely want to sit and take in the views as you breath in the crisp fall mountain air.

For more to do in the area click here.

Shenandoah National Park

Take skyline drive into Shenandoah National Park which is located in Virginia. Filled with numerous trails to explore from the Appalachian trail and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Must See and Do

Stargaze

Grab a cozy blanket and a cup of hot tea or apple cider and watch the sky light up at night. This is perfect spot with decreased back light allowing the stars and constellations to really pop and shine bright. The crisp, fall air of the Blue Ridge Mountains causes a little extra sparkle of the night sky. Be sure to check the events page during your visit. Night hikes and astronomy presentations are offered throughout the year.

Hike

The park offers over 500 miles of trails including views of mountains, streams, waterfalls, gorges and cliffs. Follow the concrete posts with metal etching to stay on the correct path. Be sure to check out a trail map ahead of time. As well as check the rules. Not all trails are dog friendly.

For the more experienced hiker make sure to check out the park’s iconic Old Rag Mountain. This 9.1 mile treacherous hike will have you scrambling through huge rocks. The many panoramic views at the top will certainly be worth the challenge. Make sure to set aside 6-7 hours to complete. It is best to hike this trail early morning during the week as it is a popular spot. Be sure to pack snack and 2+ quarts of water.

For an easier 2 mile hike check out Hawksbill Summit. Take in the scenery of the 360 degree view atop Shenandoah’s highest point. This trail starts at a higher elevation allowing for an easy stroll to a beautiful overlook. Be in awe of the many colors seen below of the fall foliage.

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive offers a 105 mile scenic route winding through the National Park. Offering countless overlooks to view all of the park’s fall colors. This drive gives you access to numerous campgrounds, lodges, visitor centers and trailheads. The best time to view the crisp, fall foliage is towards the end of September through mid November.

Interactive Exhibits

Check out the exhibits located throughout the park. Learn about the history and what you will be expected to see during your stay. Ever wonder how the park was established and developed? Stopover at the visitor center at mile 51 to dive into the history.

Ranger Programs

Learn from a ranger as you explore the mountains and meadows of the park. Fall programs are offered September 4- October 27. All are free but do require a reservation. Be sure to check out the schedule and plan ahead of time.

 

Acadia National Park

Fall is the perfect time to visit with less crowds and beautiful views of the fall foliage nearing their peak in early October. Mount Desert Island is home to this breathtaking National Park. Filled with picturesque harbors and granite mountains carved by glaciers. Enjoy the mix of mountains, ocean, fjord and abundant forest scenery.

Must See and Do

Ride a Bike

This spot is popular for cyclists with over 45 miles of ride-able terrain. Bikes are available to rent or you can bring your own. Bike at your own pace as you view the orange and red hues of the fall foliage.

Must Bike in Acadia

-Park Loop Road

This ride gives you access to a 27 mile ride hugging the eastern coast of Acadia National Park. Connecting to many nearby villages as well as Bar Harbor, you will have countless options of things to do along the way.

-Carriage Road System

Designed specifically for cyclists, pedestrians and horseback riding, these crushed rock trails provides many access points throughout the park. Be sure to enjoy the beautiful work of the 16 stone built bridges. These car-free roads are designed to view natures best such as waterfalls and streams.

Hiking

The parks offers 120 miles of hiking trails. A must do is Cadillac Mountain, Acadia’s highest peak. Be the first to catch the sunrise on the US eastern coast beginning in Autumn. This should be #1 on the list as you get a panoramic view at the top of bar harbor, schoodic peninsula and various islands scattered throughout the ocean. What is cool about this popular peak is there are many routes to access the top. Which makes it accessible to many. Trek up the north or south ridge trail or take a drive up cadillac mountain road.

Take a coastal hike along Gorham Mountain Trail. Wind through forest paths and take in the gorgeous ocean views as you see most of Mount Desert. If you are looking to hike a longer distance you can easily connect to Beehive Loop trail and continue on.

Schoodic

This peninsula is still part of the National Park but it is located on the mainland of Maine. This section of the park is less commercial and contains several small fishing villages. Schoodic Loop Road is a 6 mile loop that can be driven, walked or biked. Along the path you will see wildlife, beautiful plants and trees, lighthouses. It is also the perfect spot to view Mount Desert Island and all it’s beauty.

Horseback Riding

Enjoy nature a little more while riding horseback. The carriage road system offers 45 miles of trails that are horse friendly. No motor vehicles are allowed on this road system making it even better to ride. Bring your own horse, rent one or take a horse drawn carriage ride. Check it out here!

Trolley Tour

Explore Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park by trolley. In the 2018 season trolley tours run thru November 4th. Not only do you get see breathtaking views of the park during the fall season, but you also get to learn about the history and hidden gems. Take a ride with knowledgeable storytellers as wind through the forest. Stop are scheduled in so you are able to walk around and snap an unforgettable picture. Tickets are required and go fast so purchase ahead of time.

 

Congaree National Park

Nestled centrally in South Carolina. This National Park is home to the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States. This park is smaller, but is rich in history and wooded beauty. Fall marks the best time to visit with less humidity and lush scenery.

Must See and Do

Wilderness Canoe Tour

Paddle through the old growth forest with a ranger. This canoe tour is FREE and available Fridays and Saturdays thru the end of October. Enjoy the adventure of paddling your canoe winding in and out of the bottomland hardwood forest. Learn from a ranger about the ecosystem and how flooding of the forest feeds the trees. Do make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time. You definitely don’t want to miss out on this free canoe tour.

Boardwalk Loop Trail

This easy 2.4 mile boardwalk begins at the visitor center and extends into the old growth bottomland forest. Along the walk you will see many tree and animal species. Perfect way to capture the color changes of the leaves during the fall season.

Congaree River Blue Trail

Kayak 50 miles from states capital of Columbia downstream to Congaree National Park. Make a day out of it as you stop along the river to view wildlife, enjoy a picnic lunch or hike one of the parks many trails.

 

Visit a National Park this Fall

Weather you fancy the coastal views of Acadia or what to trek through the mountains and plains of Shenandoah. Be sure to check out the eastern coasts array of National Parks. Celebrate fall with an outdoor canoe adventure through Congaree and take in the crisp mountain air of the Smokies. Visit one or visit them all!

Please share with me

  • Have you been to one of these park? I want to hear all about your favorite adventures!
  • What is your favorite outdoor fall activity?

 

Please share!

10 Comments

  • Vox

    Wow! Your photos and descriptions make me want to pack a backpack and head out right now for a hike! There is so much to do and see right in our own backyards. Thanks for sharing what looks like some really awesome outdoor experiences! 🌏

    • Cortney

      Thanks! The fall season has me ready to hike through red and organge leaves!! There really is alot near our homes that somehow tend to be overlooked

      • Cortney

        It really is fun to walk behind a waterfall!! The western side gets alot of media…the eastern side has alot to offer though!

  • Kristen

    Thanks for focusing on the Eastern US parks! I see a lot of focus on Wesern National Parks, but these look incredible! Anytime I find out about a waterfall I can walk behind, I will be hooked!

  • Jiselle

    My first time hiking was last month and now I can’t wait to plan another hiking trip! I think you’ve done the hard part! I want to go to all of these places now!!