Best national parks for fall foliage viewing

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 1-7, 1998
Best national parks for fall foliage viewing
Winter adventure trips
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Best national parks for fall foliage viewing

By Amy Marr

Question: How are the leaf colors at Big Bend National Park, now and in the near future? In general, which national parks are the best for viewing fall foliage? Thanks for your help.

G. Mccane
Mobile, Alabama

Wyoming's Grand Teton National park is a beautiful autumn destination
Adventure Adviser: If you have your heart set on seeing Big Bend awash in changing leaves, better sit back and relax for a couple of months. Current temperatures there are still in the upper 90s, and the leaves are greener than ever. According to a park ranger, fall doesn’t hit that corner of Texas until early to mid-December. And even when fall does arrive to Big Bend, there isn’t a whole lot of foliage-changing going on in the park’s vast desert and Rio Grande valley. Up in the Chisos Mountain basin, however, you’ll find a colorful display if you’re up for a good hike into the high. I’d suggest heading out on the South Rim Trail, a 13-mile loop from the basin. You’ll see plenty of yellow and orange oaks, big tooth maples and fluttering aspens. For a shorter foliage jaunt, try the five-mile Window Trail, also leaving from the basin. Before you make the trek to Big Bend, call the park for a foliage update at 915-477-2251.

As for national parks with prime fall foliage, quite a few come to mind. And at any of the following, leaves are changing as I write so no need to wait until the holidays are almost upon us. In the West, I’d suggest either Rocky Mountain National Park, which is literally gilded with Aspens this time of year, or Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Closer to home for you are Shenandoah National Park (the Blue Ridge mountains are aflame in fall) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with it’s vast forests. Your best bet on the east coast is Acadia National Park, though you better get there quick. Maine’s display of changing leaves is spectacular, but frosts usually kill the show by mid-October.

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