Utah

13 Best National Parks to See in the Fall

Posted October 29, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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U.S. national parks are beautiful to begin with. But when the deciduous trees that blanket so many national parks become aglow with radiant fall foliage, the spectacle is astounding. You might need to pack a sweater, but you can snap gorgeous photos, partake in special activities, and, of course, enjoy the colors of autumn when you plan a trip this season.

Although fall means fewer crowds (and perhaps the chance to more easily spot wildlife) in popular parks, the weather can be unpredictable, and some facilities even close up after the summer season. Be sure to contact your park for details on what's open and what's not before planning your trip.

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Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia might be the first place that comes to mind when you think of fall colors at national parks—the destination attracts thousands of leaf peepers in autumn, so be prepared for some crowds. But it's totally worth it—traverse the park's more than 125 miles of hiking trails to discover amazing views, take a ranger-led bird-watching walk among the changing leaves, or rent a kayak and take in the scenery from the water.

When to Go: Peak fall colors generally pop up around mid-October. Check the region's leaf status on MaineFoliage.com.

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Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Texas

You might be surprised to learn that the Texas Hill Country is a prime place for leaf peeping down south. Head to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, where you can get a side of American history with your foliage. The park is home to the LBJ Ranch (also known as the Texas White House), which is surrounded by wild brush country. Here, sumacs, oaks, and haw hollies become awash with intense fall hues during autumn.

When to Go: You'll likely find the best foliage from mid-October through November.

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Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

This park's famed cave system—more than 400 square miles of explored underground caverns that make up the world's longest—is the reason most visitors make the trip. But don't overlook the scenery aboveground. Forests of oaks, hickories, gum trees, and dogwoods on rolling Kentucky hills become a mosaic of fall colors this time of year.

When to Go: Check KentuckyTourism.com for updates.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

We love the sweeping views of water and the eyeful of beautiful fall colors that Sleeping Bear's sky-high dunes afford during this time of year. Visitors can get even better views from the air: Board a helicopter or hot-air balloon and view fall foliage on an aerial tour.

When to Go: You'll find peak colors in the region from mid-September through early October. Check Michigan.org's Fall Color Map to see the status of local foliage.

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Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania

Just a short drive from Philadelphia, Valley Forge is the site where General Washington and his Continental Army camped during the Revolutionary War. Here, visitors can learn about life in the 18th century as well as explore an expanse of lush parkland, including more than 3,000 acres of grassland, wetland, and deciduous forest, which become awash with rich colors in autumn.

When to Go: Weekly foliage reports are posted on Pennsylvania's official tourism website.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

There are about 100 native tree species in America's most-visited national park, most of which turn kaleidoscopic come fall. Changing leaves are complemented by autumn wildflowers: delicate asters and other varieties furnish pops of color.

When to Go: Get weekly reports on the state of local foliage on the National Park Service website.

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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Since Shenandoah's more than 300 square miles of parkland are so heavily forested, it's a gorgeous place to be when the seasons change. Look for oak and chestnut trees, which are abundant in the park, as well as splashes of autumn pigment from sassafras, sumac, and poison ivy. (Yes, poison ivy leaves change color in the fall. Just don't get too close.)

When to Go: Take a peek at the park's Mountain View Webcam for a real-time look at the changing leaves. Expect the best colors in mid-October in more elevated parts of the park and late October to early November in more low-lying areas.

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Glacier National Park, Montana

Fall foliage in this enormous, wild expanse of alpine forests and Rocky Mountains in Montana is quite the sight. But fall is a wonderful time to visit if you want to see wildlife, too. The National Park Service website says that there are fewer people in the park and more animals—including grizzlies, wolves, and eagles—out and about during autumn.

When to Go: Peak fall colors generally appear at the end of September and beginning of October.

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Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park's jaw-dropping sky-high cliffs provide the perfect points for seeing miles of mesas and forested land decked out in reds, oranges, and golds. Climb to the top of Zion's massive sandstone cliffs to get sweeping bird's-eye views of the autumn scenery.

When to Go: Zion shows its best colors in late October.

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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia

Peep the leaves in well-tread Harpers Ferry, where 70 percent of the land is covered with forest. Fun fall activities sweeten the deal: Visitors can explore living-history museums on Shenandoah Street or make traditional 19th-century tin housewares using period tools.

When to Go: Follow Harpers Ferry on Facebook for the latest foliage updates. According to the page, the leaves are already beginning to change.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Close to Cleveland and hugging the winding Cuyahoga River, this national park is a Midwestern sanctuary for fall foliage seekers. There's so much to do: Hike along more than 125 miles of trails, take part in an EarthCaching adventure, or go bird-watching (look out for the bald eagles). One of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the fall colors is to hop onboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which rolls through the park past lush woods, meadows, the Cuyahoga River, and historical small towns.

When to Go: The best colors flourish in mid-October. Check the Fall Color Report for real-time updates.

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming

These parks are so close that they almost touch, and they offer amazing autumn colors against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, waterfalls, forests, and lakes that reflect the changing leaves. Hikes, horseback rides, and ranger-led treks are fabulous ways to see the foliage. Or get a bird's-eye view with a hot-air balloon ride or a trip on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram.

When to Go: Head to Wyoming in September and early October to see the foliage. Read more on the Wyoming Office of Tourism website.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 13 Best National Parks to See in the Fall. 

 Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.

 

Hit the Slopes, Olympic-Style, in Park City, Utah

Posted June 21, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Park City Park City seems worlds away from the everyday ordinary, even though this mountain ski town is only a half-hour drive from Salt Lake City. People come year-round for its outdoor activities, comfortable lodging, and great eats. However, Park City is in full glory when ski junkies hit the slopes.

Play
Utah Olympic Park: If you've ever dreamed of competing in the Olympics or just want to taste what it might be like, then you must pay a visit to the 389-acre Olympic Park facilities, which was home to 14 events during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Self-guided tours are free, and you might catch the next gold-medal winner in training as you tour the six Nordic jumps or the 1,335-meter sliding track. Rides such as zip-lining and bobsledding cost extra.

Stay
Washington School Inn: Originally built in 1889 as a schoolhouse, the Washington School Inn can't be beat when you need to rest your aching muscles after a long day on the slopes. And since it's only a few blocks from the Town Ski Lift and downtown Main Street, you're certain to be the first in line to ski the mountain or grab an "early bird" cup of coffee. Your hosts go to great lengths to make you feel right at home, offering breakfast, evening cookies or hors d'oeuvres, and plush bedding. Rooms start at $140, and include the aforementioned perks.

Eat
Morning Ray Cafe: Nothing says "good morning" like a breakfast overflowing with fresh pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and the Morning Ray Cafe is an old pro at welcoming the new day. For more than 18 years, the restaurant has served winter-sports enthusiasts their morning fuel in the form of coffee or breakfast foods, and even late risers can get their pancake or omelet fix until 4:00 p.m. Breakfasts start at $6.25.

To search for flights and compare prices to Salt Lake City, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo:Olympic Parks of Utah)

Explore Southwestern Traditions in Monument Valley, Utah

Posted April 9, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti

Monument Valley Located near the Navajo Indian Nation in Utah, Monument Valley offers breathtaking vistas of sandstone formations and canyons. Its unique desert backdrop made it a popular location for filming Western movies, including Stagecoach. The scenery isn't the only reason to visit: The colorful traditions of the Navajo people make Monument Valley a destination that shouldn’t be missed.

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The Trading Post at the View Hotel: If you’re searching for a memento of your trip to Monument Valley, look no further than The Trading Post, which offers everything from John Wayne memorabilia to guaranteed authentic Native American jewelry, pottery, and art. Be sure to take a look at the hand-woven Navajo rugs, which are purchased directly from the creators. The Navajo learned the art of weaving from the Spider Woman, and each of the rugs bears a spirit line in the corner to pay tribute to her. Whether you prefer traditional patterns or more modern color palettes, they’ll be a perfect addition to your Southwestern décor.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Salt Lake City, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: PhotoDisc)

You Don't Have to Rob a Bank to Visit Ogden, Utah

Posted May 29, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Ut-Ogden-ShootingStarSaloon-DEF Located 35 miles north of Salt Lake City, Ogden was once a major stop for people traveling out west. And though you won't find nearly as many cowboys or gunslingers, you can still hear the tall tales of the Wild West, and find proof of its existence in an old train station, an historic street, and an eclectic saloon, where prices are reminiscent of days gone by.

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Union station: When it became the official train station of the transcontinental railway in 1869, Union Station served as a major hub for travelers, bringing diversity and economic power to this small Utah town for years. And though trains no longer stop here, Union station still encourages people to pay a visit to this historic railroad monument. You can tour any of the four museums, including the Utah State Railroad museum, the Firearms Museum, and the Classic Car Museum for the one-time family price (two adults and up to four kids ages 2-12) of $12.

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Historic 25th Street: 25th Street has accommodated all walks of life, once housing retail shops, ice cream parlors, and Chinese laundries in close proximity to opium dens, underground bootlegging tunnels, and gambling parlors. Since that time, Ogden has been revitalized, and 25th Street now attracts visitors to its unique boutique shops, antique stores, galleries, and cafes. Wander along the historic storefronts, and spend small bills for a trinket at Artists and Heirlooms or big bills for art at Gallery 25.

Eat
Shooting Star Saloon: In nearby Huntsville, you'll find a tavern straight out of a John Wayne flick. The Shooting Star Saloon has been serving beer to thirsty patrons since 1879, making it the oldest continuously run bar in Utah. As you step inside the rustic-looking shanty, you're greeted by decorations covering every square inch of the interior, including a stuffed St. Bernard dog's head. The saloon serves burgers and nothing else to eat. However, people come from all over to order the famous and possibly deadly Star Burger, which includes two patties, polish knockwurst, and cheese in a bun.

To search for flights and compare prices to Salt Lake City, which is home to Ogden’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Ogden / Weber CVB)

Hit the Slopes, Olympic-Style, in Park City, Utah

Posted March 6, 2009 by Kate Hamman

UT-ParkCity-OlympicParksEntrance-DEF Park City seems worlds away from the everyday ordinary, even though this mountain ski town is only a half-hour drive from Salt Lake City. People come year-round for its outdoor activities, comfortable lodging, and great eats. However, Park City is in full glory when ski junkies hit the slopes.

Play
Utah Olympic Park: If you've ever dreamed of competing in the Olympics or just want to taste what it might be like, then you must pay a visit to the 389-acre Olympic Park facilities, which was home to 14 events during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Self-guided tours are free, and you might catch the next gold-medal winner in training as you tour the six Nordic jumps or the 1,335-meter sliding track. Rides such as zip-lining and bobsledding cost extra.

Stay
Washington School Inn: Originally built in 1889 as a schoolhouse, the Washington School Inn can't be beat when you need to rest your aching muscles after a long day on the slopes. And since it's only a few blocks from the Town Ski Lift and downtown Main Street, you're certain to be the first in line to ski the mountain or grab an "early bird" cup of coffee. Your hosts go to great lengths to make you feel right at home, offering breakfast, evening cookies or hors d'oeuvres, and plush bedding. Rooms start at $140, and include the aforementioned perks.

Eat
Morning Ray Cafe: Nothing says "good morning" like a breakfast overflowing with fresh pancakes, bacon, and eggs, and the Morning Ray Cafe is an old pro at welcoming the new day. For more than 18 years, the restaurant has served winter-sports enthusiasts their morning fuel in the form of coffee or breakfast foods, and even late risers can get their pancake or omelet fix until 4:00 p.m. Breakfasts start at $6.25.

To search for flights and compare prices to Salt Lake City, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo:Olympic Parks of Utah)


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