Summer may be coming to a close, but that only means that we’re entering what is arguably the most spectacular camping season—fall. What makes fall camping so special? Where are the best fall camping destinations? Let’s find out.
Why Camp in the Fall?
Fall is a wonderful season for camping. Here are just a few of the reasons why it’s appealing.
Fewer People: With kids back in school, many part-time traveling families have wrapped up their big camping trips for the year. Fewer people traveling means a quieter experience at the campground, on the trails, and at the visitor center.
Perfect Weather: While not every fall day is perfect, the mix of warm days and cool nights can make for ideal camping conditions. Shorts during the day and a cozy sleeping bag at night? Yes, please.
Bug-Free Bliss: Those cool nights have another purpose beyond comfortable sleeping—they help keep the bugs away, too. Cold-blooded bugs, like mosquitoes, hibernate or die off when the temperatures start to dip below 60 degrees.
Fall Foliage: As the natural world gets itself ready for winter, deciduous trees like oaks, maples, beeches, and aspens drop their leaves—but not before producing a vibrant show of color that paints the landscape.
With so many reasons to experience fall camping, where should you go? Below are eight gorgeous fall camping destinations.
1. Napa Valley, California
Fall is harvest season at Napa Valley’s famous vineyards, and it’s the perfect time to tap into the celebration of winemaking. From August to October, you’ll find something to do around every corner in Napa Valley, including events, tours, parties, classes, and even the opportunity to take part in the harvest.
2. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
In the mid-Atlantic, fall ushers in cooler weather, less crowded beaches, and beautiful autumn colors in coastal marshes. Assateague Island National Seashore offers up a spectacular fall camping experience, with quieter campgrounds and tree-crowned dunes.
3. Park City, Utah
There’s nothing like a Western mountain town in the fall. Fall comes early at high elevations, but the experience of warm days, cool nights, and an explosion of orange leaves in the aspen trees make these towns worth seeking out.
4. Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Getting to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula isn’t an easy task, but those who undertake the journey will find gorgeous foliage, quiet beaches, and endless miles of trails to explore. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, the trek to the Keweenaw Peninsula, which stretches into Lake Superior, is worth every mile.
5. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Soak up the unique landscape of Great Sand Dunes National Park with a trip this fall. September and October have some of the nicest weather days in the park, with peak foliage hitting between late September and early October.
The park’s campgrounds, which are typically booked solid during the summer months, often have more open sites in the quieter fall months. Pinon Flats and San Luis Lakes Campground are both loved by the Campendium community.
6. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina
Escape the hustle of the city with a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. Fall color begins at the higher elevations in mid-September and continues to turn in stages down at lower elevations until early November.
RV campers inside the park will want to check out Elkmont Campground, which can accommodate up to 35-foot rigs. The free camping at Santeetlah Lake in Nantahala National Forest is a favored spot to get a bit more off the beaten path.
7. Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire
If there is one place that people equate with dreamy foliage, it’s New England. New Hampshire’s 34.5-mile Kancamagus Scenic Byway is the epicenter of leaf-peeping. If you can brave the crowds, it’s an unforgettable experience to drive through the canopy of color while waterfalls crash down the roadside rock faces.
8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The fall season in Grand Teton National Park starts in early September and ends in mid-October. While short, those 6 weeks are glorious, often with warm daytime temperatures, sights (and sounds) of rutting elk, uncrowded trails, and even a dusting of snow in the higher elevations.
There are seven campgrounds within the park itself. Jenny Lake (tents only) and Gros Ventre Campground are two favorites. There are plenty of campgrounds and boondocking spots in the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Note that all of Grand Teton National Park’s campgrounds have moved to a reservation system, and their campsites can be booked up to 6 months in advance. Reservations are strongly recommended.