When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, some of the most incredible times of year are during the autumn. The air is crisp and everything seems to be getting ready for winter. But the beauty during this time of year is especially amplified because of the fall color change in the trees and throughout the rest of the wilderness.
Maple, Hickory, Dogwood, Cherry, and Sumac trees are just a few of the many different varieties that turn from green to bright yellow, burnt orange, and deep auburn. This change can happen anywhere from early September to the middle of November depending on where the trees are located. Below, in no particular order, is a list of the best places to travel in order to catch the fall foliage change.
Our top 10 best fall foliage camping destinations:
1. Aspen, Colorado
It does not matter where you go throughout the Rocky Mountains during the fall color change as you’re sure to see incredible beauty in both the landscape and wildlife. But Aspen, Colorado has always been the premier destination within the Rockies as the perfect place to go and see the seasons changing.
The dense foliage here takes on deep yellow, auburn, and orange hues that seemingly set the mountainside on fire and there is endless wilderness to enjoy while you are visiting. Located just four hours west from Denver International Airport, Aspen is very accessible when it is not dumping snow throughout the winter.
The best time to visit Aspen to experience the seasons changing is from late September through early October. Make sure you don’t book your trip for too early in September or you will not fully see the changing colors in the wilderness.
Although there are plenty of places to camp here, one of the best campgrounds to visit near Aspen is called Difficult Campground. It is located about 5 miles southeast from the actual town of Aspen and sits rights on the Roaring Fork River. Camping here will put you exactly where you need to be in order to see some of the most incredible color changes around the world.
2. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
White Mountain National Forest is one of the best areas around the country and especially within the Atlantic Northeast Region to go see the fall colors and the seasons change. People travel from all over to come here and see the wilderness during this special time of year.
White Mountain National Forest is located in the middle of the state and just east of the border with Maine putting it in a very remote area where wildlife is abundant.
Since New Hampshire is so far north, the best time of year to visit White Mountain National Forest to see the color change is around the middle of September to early October. There will still be plenty of beauty after the middle of October but if you make it here too late, all of the trees will already have turned colors and will be starting to lose their leaves in anticipation of the first freeze or snowfall of the winter.
There are 22 different campgrounds in and around White Mountain National Forest so check them all out at that link. From there you can decide where it will be best for you to stay. But, I would definitely recommend the Osceola Vista Campground which is in the near middle of White Mountain National Forest and perfectly tucks you into the nature you want along with views and outdoor activities everywhere.
3. The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California
The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is one of the best places on the west coast to go see the fall colors. The mountain range itself stretches for over 250 miles from the Mojave Desert all the way up to the Cascade Range in northern California and Oregon. This vast expanse of wilderness to explore that changes with the season is one of the many reasons why people travel here to see the fall change.
The best time of year to see the color change in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is from the middle of September in the northern areas through the end of October when all the leaves in this area will be changed.
If you are looking for somewhere to camp, check out Emerald Bay State Park. There is plenty of camping and gorgeous wilderness areas located there. Plus, Emerald Bay sits right on the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe and is centrally located just west of South Lake Tahoe.
4. Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you want to see the fall color change in the southwest region on the United States, there is no better place to go than Taos or Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nature is such a huge part of the culture in this area and the fall color change here is inspiring aside the already deeply colored landscape.
There is a reason why so many painters and artist make this area their home and the color changes of the desert throughout the year here are a huge part of that. If you spend time in this part of the country for the color change, make sure you spend time in Carson National Forest as well as in Taos, Santa Fe, or wherever you decide to stay.
The color change here is best seen from the start of October through the end of the month. In this part of the country, the fall color change will be slightly more subtle and certainly different because of the desert climate. But, it is still strikingly beautiful and worth traveling to see.
One of the best places to camp in the area is at the Agua Piedra Campground. It is centrally located near Taos and Santa Fe, and is out in the wilderness where you will see plenty of color change throughout your visit to this area.
5. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Isle Royale National Park is a small island cluster located in the eastern part of Lake Superior nearly at the border of Ontario. It is a gorgeous protected wilderness area that is nearly completely remote making it the perfect place to travel to in order to enjoy the fall color change.
The best time of year to visit Isle Royale and see the fall foliage is from the middle of September until the middle of October. Since this area is so far north, the fall change might be a little bit sooner here than in the rest of the country.
There is camping all over Isle Royale National Park so plan your trip and take off. You might need a boat of some kind depending on where you want to go in the park. If you are looking for camping that is not on the islands of the national park, check out Devilfish Lake Campground. It is located just west of where Isle Royale is in Lake Superior.
6. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is a true outdoor treasure that can be enjoyed nearly all year. Yet, when the leaves change in the fall, this incredible sanctuary for the outdoors becomes much more than just a great place to visit. It is a wonderland throughout the autumn showing off some of the most incredible color changes and wildlife in the entire United States.
Just north of Grand Teton is Yellowstone National Park which can be very busy during the fall making Grand Teton that much more of an undiscovered treasure that is never overrun with tourist. You can even check out Jackson Hole located to the south.
The best time of year to see the color change in Grand Teton National Park is during the month of October. Depending on the year, the leaves might start to change right at the end of September but October is the best time to see the most color change during your visit to Grand Teton.
If you are looking for camping, check out all the camp areas within Grand Teton National Park. They certainly fill up early during the peak seasons so call or check ahead to see if there is a spot for you. There are even RV hookup sites at certain campgrounds like at Gros Ventre Campground.
7. Big Bend National Park, Texas
The leaves and fall foliage that change at Big Bend National Park are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Moreover, the color change in this part of the country will be significantly different than any other fall color change you’re ever seen. If you’ve never been in this part of the country during the autumn, this year could be the time to go.
Conveniently, Big Bend National Park is only a few hours southeast from El Paso, Texas. The best time to visit Big Bend to see this color change is from about a week into November until the end of November. Because Big Bend National Park is located so far south, the season does not change as quickly or as soon as in other parts of the country.
It is a common mistake to arrive too early to see any of the color changes here but the color change will be different every year so keep an eye on the weather to help you determine when the best time to go will be.
There are three great campgrounds, Chisos Basin, Cottonwood, and Rio Grande Basin Campgrounds, all right within the park that offer tent camping only but still have all of the typical campground amenities you could need. There is a fourth campground that offers RV camping spots and hookups but space is limited so make sure to call ahead to reserve your spot for the dates you want to visit.
8. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Tucked away just across the boarder of Illinois and a few miles due west of Lake Michigan, Lake Geneva Wisconsin is one of the premier places in the Midwest to see the fall color change. There is plenty of camping and hiking all around this area where you will see plenty of fall colors and wildlife. There is even as a quaint downtown area right next to the lake where you can get great food or do a little bit of shopping.
The best time of year to visit Lake Geneva for the color change is from late September until late October.
The best place to camp in Lake Geneva is at Big Foot Beach State Park located right on the shore of the lake itself. There is plenty of tent and hook-up spots available but make sure to make a reservation online before you go to ensure a great camping experience while in Lake Geneva.
9. Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi
Roosevelt State Park is located just east of Jackson, Mississippi and is easily one of the best places in the south to see the fall color change. There are plenty of views to be seen at Roosevelt State Park which is surrounded by the Bienville National Forest. While here, there is so many different outdoor activities to take part in while viewing the beauty of the foliage change.
If you visit here anytime from the middle of October until the middle of November, you will perfectly catch the fall color change. Anytime too early in October and much of the flora in this area will be unchanged because of how far south it is located.
If you wanted to camp at Roosevelt State Park, check out the campgrounds here. You are sure to find a spot that suits your needs plus you can book online.
10. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is easily the best place on the east coast to view the fall foliage change. Plus, Shenandoah national Park is conveniently only an hour and a half from Washington DC. If you want to see unbelievably pristine wilderness, this could be just the place for you to visit during the fall.
The best time to see the color change here is during the entire month of October. At the beginning of the month only the colors at the highest elevations will be changing but throughout the month the entire forests here will turn bright yellow to deep orange; a sight to behold.
There is amazing camping all throughout Shenandoah National Park with plenty of backcountry, tent, and RV camping areas. Depending on how you want to enjoy your time here, do some research online to decide which camping experience will be best for you.
Although any one of these pristine wilderness areas will show you the true beauty of nature during the fall color change, I’d recommend traveling to Aspen, Colorado if you have the chance. The incredible beauty in the nature throughout the Rocky Mountains is unmatched.
Not only is there plenty of outdoor areas to hike at and enjoy while you’re viewing this color change. But, from downtown Aspen during this time of year, you look up and around at the mountainsides that surround the town and are encompassed in the beauty that is the fall foliage change. There is nothing like seeing the color change from Aspen and nowhere on earth I’ve been where it is even remotely similar.
Regardless of where you go, have fun traveling and hunting for the best place to enjoy the fall color change. If you find somewhere amazing not on this list, leave a comment below so us and other viewers of this article can check it out given the chance.
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Cameron is a freelance writer with a focus on hiking, fishing and photography. He studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder and now calls Chicago, Illinois home.