Autumn, with its crisp air and vibrant foliage, beckons camping enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the magic of the season. As the leaves change from green to fiery shades of red, orange, and gold, nature puts on a breathtaking display that transforms ordinary landscapes into mesmerizing works of art. For those who yearn to witness this spectacle, autumn camping is the perfect way to do so. In this guide, we’ll embark on a journey to explore the top 10 autumn camping destinations, each offering a unique blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Our journey begins in Shenandoah National Park, nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. This enchanting park is a paradise for leaf-peepers, as it boasts some of the East Coast’s most stunning fall foliage. The park’s iconic Skyline Drive, a 105-mile scenic byway, offers panoramic views of rolling hills drenched in autumn hues.
Camping in Shenandoah:
To experience the magic of Shenandoah in the fall, consider camping at one of its campgrounds, such as Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, or Loft Mountain. Be sure to make reservations well in advance, as autumn is a popular time to visit.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Heading northeast, we find ourselves in the picturesque Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine. While Acadia is renowned for its coastal beauty, it takes on an extra layer of charm in the fall when its rugged coastline mingles with fiery foliage.
Camping in Acadia:
Explore the charming town of Bar Harbor, embark on a scenic drive along the Park Loop Road, and conquer the trails leading to Cadillac Mountain’s summit for unforgettable autumn vistas.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is a place of wonder year-round. However, in autumn, it takes on a mesmerizing quality as its lush forests transform into a sea of red, yellow, and orange.
Camping in the Smokies:
Adirondack Park, New York
Venturing to the northeast, we arrive in the Adirondack Park of upstate New York. Spanning over six million acres, this wilderness area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking solitude and natural beauty.
Camping in the Adirondacks:
The Adirondacks offer a range of camping options, from established campgrounds to backcountry sites. Be sure to secure permits for backcountry camping and check campsite availability in advance.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
In the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire, the autumn foliage becomes a masterpiece painted across the rugged landscape. This region is home to some of New England’s most iconic fall scenery.
Camping in the White Mountains:
Drive along the stunning Kancamagus Highway, take the cog railway to the summit of Mount Washington, and explore the picturesque town of North Conway.
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Now, we venture to the northernmost destination on our list, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. While Alaska may not be the first place that comes to mind for autumn camping, Denali surprises with its unique beauty.
Camping in Denali:
Embark on a wildlife safari to spot grizzly bears, caribou, and moose. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a bus tour deep into the heart of the park for stunning vistas.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Returning to the mainland, we find ourselves in the majestic Glacier National Park of Montana. Known for its pristine lakes, rugged peaks, and stunning vistas, Glacier’s autumn scenery is nothing short of spectacular.
Camping in Glacier:
Drive along the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, embark on a boat tour of Lake McDonald, and hike the scenic trails around Many Glacier.
Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
Venturing south to the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas, we discover a hidden gem for autumn camping. While not as famous as some other destinations, the Ozarks offer a serene retreat amidst colorful woodlands.
Camping in the Ozarks:
One of the joys of camping in the Ozarks is the abundance of dispersed camping sites. Make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and check local regulations.
Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont
Our journey takes us to the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, where quaint villages and rolling hills are adorned in the brilliant hues of autumn. Vermont is famous for its fall foliage, and the Green Mountains do not disappoint.
Camping in the Green Mountains:
Visit covered bridges, tour maple syrup farms, and enjoy the charm of Vermont’s towns like Woodstock and Manchester.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Our final destination, the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, offers a grand finale to our autumn camping adventure. Here, the towering peaks and alpine lakes are complemented by the golden aspens of autumn.
Camping in Rocky Mountain:
As we wrap up our journey through these top 10 autumn camping destinations, we’ve discovered nature’s remarkable ability to transform ordinary landscapes into extraordinary ones during the fall season. From the East Coast to the rugged terrains of Alaska, each location offers a unique blend of vibrant foliage, outdoor adventures, and opportunities for relaxation.
When planning your autumn camping trip, remember to make reservations early, as these destinations are popular among leaf-peepers and outdoor enthusiasts. Additionally, explore the local attractions to fully immerse yourself in the culture and beauty of each region.
Whether you choose to witness the fiery hues of the Smokies or the rugged grandeur of Denali, autumn camping is an opportunity to connect with nature, savor the season’s beauty, and create unforgettable memories under a canopy of fall colors.
Tom is a seasoned camper and outdoor adventurer, with decades of experience exploring the wilderness. He's a retired park warden and has spent his life studying the flora and fauna of the natural world. Tom is a skilled outdoorsman, with a particular interest in backcountry camping, mountaineering, and wilderness survival. He's also an accomplished writer and has published several books on outdoor recreation.