There’s no wonder why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one our most popular national parks for hiking. The rolling mountains along the North Carolina – Tennessee border are gorgeous in all seasons, but the transition to bright fall colors is a sight to behold. In golden sunset light, the beauty of this place is overwhelming. Photo by Jerome Ginsberg (www.sharetheexperience.org).
In a land of stark white sand, a little fall color really stands out. White Sands National Monument in New Mexico preserves part the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. Gypsum sand is considered rare because gypsum is water soluble – it dissolves in water like sugar in iced tea. The 275-square miles of dunes are comprised of over 4.5 billion tons of gypsum sand. It is one of the many things that make White Sands a unique and special place. Photo by Jim Langford (www.sharetheexperience.org).
A scenic drive along the Molalla River in Oregon offers easy river access and opportunities for picnicking, swimming, camping, whitewater boating and fishing. The river is one of the few undammed tributaries of the Willamette River and cuts a picturesque gorge on its way to the valley floor. Molalla River Recreation Area offers an extensive network of more than 20 miles of trails for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. Take your time on the trails to enjoy the changing colors. Photo by Greg Shine, Bureau of Land Management.
Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts is known for Revolutionary history and bold fall colors. Under the rustling leaves, you can hear whispers of the past at the Captain William Smith House. Captain Smith led a small militia against British soldiers at the Battle of Concord, fighting in the fields near his house. The house and fields have been restored to their 1775 appearance, making a visit feel like traveling back in time. Photo by Joseph Sirkovich (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Fall colors frame a stunning view at New River Gorge National River in West Virginia. From over 1,000 feet above the river, you can look down on the clouds nestled in the valley below and enjoy sweeping views of mountains and forests. The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, which is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers spectacular scenic and recreational opportunities. Photo by National Park Service.
From mountaintops to underground caves, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park encourages discovery. Located at the junction of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, Cumberland Gap was the first gateway to the West and helps tell the stories of Native Americans, pioneers, Civil War soldiers and mountain communities. With historic buildings scattered among the forested mountains, it’s easy to feel like you’re going back in time. Visit in the autumn for spectacular fall colors. Photo by National Park Service.
Take a look at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah. The monument is best known for its geologic amphitheater – a brilliantly colored limestone coliseum that plunges a half-mile deep. In addition to enjoying incredible views, visitors can wander among timeless bristlecone pines, stand in lush meadows of wildflower, ponder crystal-clear night skies and experience the gorgeous fall colors of the park’s subalpine forest. Photo courtesy of Gary Fua.
In the mid-1800s, artists and painters of the Hudson River School flocked to Mount Desert Island in Maine to capture its natural beauty with their brushstrokes – inspiring patrons and friends to explore the area. As more people came to savor the fresh salt air, beautiful scenery and relaxed pace, the fame and popularity of this gorgeous coastline grew. After years of preservation efforts, this lovely landscape became Acadia National Park in 1929. Photo by Ritesh Tandon (www.sharetheexperience.org).
While not as famous as its fellow Utah parks, Capitol Reef National Park delivers the dramatic cliffs, canyons, domes and natural bridges you’ve come to expect from the heart of red rock country. Perfect for day hikes or week-long backcountry adventures, visitors can discover 200 million years of geologic history and pick fresh fruit and nuts from the 3,000-tree historic orchard. It’s a really sweet experience, but please remember to follow the posted rules and drop your money in the self-pay station. Photo by Douglas Croft (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Bandelier National Monument’s human history extends back for over 10,000 years when nomadic hunter-gatherers followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons of New Mexico. Between 1150 and 1550 CE, Ancestral Pueblo erected permanent settlements whose remains give us clues about their lives and culture. Built along the base of a cliff, the homes at Long House stood three to four stories high. The cliff face and remaining structures are decorated with hundreds of petroglyphs showing a variety of subjects. A visit here is like traveling back in time. Photo by Sally King, National Park Service.