Best US Camping Vacations for Fall
By TAXA Adventure Specialists \
As balmy summer air gives way to cooler fall temperatures, some people take this seasonal transition as a sign to retire outdoor activities and migrate indoors. However, with a stunning natural landscape to explore, camping season doesn’t have to end when September rolls around. With some preparation and planning, you can enjoy an unforgettable camping experience in a cozy autumn setting. Here’s a guide to get you started.
Camping in the fall
What makes fall camping unique? It’s a magical window of opportunity where you can connect with nature and savor the beauty of the changing seasons. Before setting out for your fall camping trip, make sure to pack accordingly for the season. Let’s get into what makes camping in the fall special and how to best prepare.
There’s more to fall than jumping into leaf piles and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. There are several activities you can do while camping in the fall that can give you a completely different experience, even if you’ve already spent some time outdoors during the summer. These include:
- Hiking through fall foliage - Autumn is synonymous with vast landscapes painted in hues of red, orange, and gold as leaves change color. To make the most of this natural transformation, you can walk along hiking trails or just sit among the trees to immerse yourself in the warm tones of fall.
- Fishing in active lakes - many fish species become more active during this season, providing an ideal opportunity for fishing enthusiasts to catch lines and get more bites.
- Campfire cooking - nothing’s cozier than cooking a warm, hearty meal over a crackling campfire. With cool evenings and clear starry skies, you can enjoy long conversations underneath the stars and end your night on a sweet note with s’mores.
- Wildlife viewing - animals preparing for hibernation means a higher chance that you can spot them in the wild. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, squirrels, and various bird species that may make an appearance near your site.
- Photography - capture the magic of fall by bringing your camera along. With a colorful autumn backdrop, you can create beautiful photographs and preserve memories to last a lifetime.
What to pack
To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip, be sure to pack the following fall camping essentials:
- Warm clothing layers, including sweaters, jackets, and thermal underwear
- Sturdy hiking boots and extra socks to keep your feet dry
- Cold-weather sleeping bags and insulated sleeping pads
- Waterproof tent and tarp to protect against unpredictable weather
- Cooking equipment, including a stove, pots, and utensils
- Lanterns and flashlights for adequate lighting
- First aid kit, insect repellent, and sunscreen
- Extra blankets, hats, and gloves for chilly evenings
- Camping chairs and a table for outdoor relaxation
- A trailer or camper to store all your gear (or replace the tent)
Best fall camping spots
While there are many fantastic camping spots to explore during the fall season, we’ve broken them down by month to highlight locations that offer unique experiences during different times of the season. Whether you prefer mountains, forests, or coastal landscapes, here are just a few of the best fall camping spots sure to provide unforgettable autumn adventures.
Camping in September
In September, the weather begins to cool down, making it an ideal time to venture outdoors. Here are three exceptional camping spots to consider:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee (& North Carolina)
Home to 19,000 documented plant and animal species and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains is a bucket list destination for many nature lovers. Take a scenic drive down Blue Ridge Parkway and explore the expanse of this multi-state range during September. Because tourist season peaks during the summer, the beginning of fall is the best time to visit if you want less crowds and more privacy.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Explore the breathtaking landscapes of New England in Acadia National Park. From fishing to cycling, there are plenty of outdoor things to do. Witness majestic coastal views, hike through vibrant forests, or simply savor the tranquility of this iconic park as the foliage turns color from September into the early weeks of October. Most campgrounds in this park are only open until the first half of October, so be sure to book your reservations in advance to secure a spot.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
For the adventure of a lifetime, head over to Grand Teton National Park for horseback riding, rafting, hiking, fishing, and a variety of other activities amidst a backdrop of gorgeous multi-colored foliage, lakes, and dramatic snow-capped mountains. The weather tends to be warmer than usual during September, allowing you to participate in more recreational activities. Note that all campgrounds require a reservation, so be sure to plan ahead.
Camping in October
As the heart of fall, October brings a vibrant display of colors and festive spirits. Here are three camping spots that truly shine during this month:
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
October in Shenandoah National Park brings mild temperatures and the peak of breathtaking fall foliage. Before you set up camp, cruise for a bit along Skyline Drive — 105 miles of road that offer scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can also hike along the famous Appalachian Trail and discover picturesque waterfalls to take in all that this Southern gem has to offer. While many campgrounds throughout this park close during the last week of October, you can find fewer crowds and better site options for a more quaint atmosphere.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
Another New England hotspot for fall camping, White Mountain National Forest offers natural streams, clear lakes, rolling mountains, and secluded camping coves. There are many campgrounds to choose from that are open all year round, but October is when you can enjoy a break from the crowds. Reservations are highly recommended, and locals suggest viewing the weather forecast before going on your trip, as wind speeds can get dangerous.
Gunnison National Forest, Colorado
Six mountain peaks, 3,000 miles of trails, and untouched wildlife — Gunnison National Forest has it all. Just park your trailer to enjoy 360-degree views of the Gunnison Valley, or take in the sights in a more exciting way by hunting, fishing, backpacking, mountain biking, or hiking in wild terrain. From serene meadows to chilly aspen hilltops, nearly 60 campgrounds are scattered across the landscape. Reservations aren’t usually necessary, as most campgrounds function on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Camping in November
November marks the transition from fall to winter, and camping during this month offers a sense of tranquility and solitude. Here are three camping spots to consider as you stretch the final days of autumn:
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. In November, the park's majestic granite cliffs and iconic waterfalls are adorned with a stunning mix of fiery hues and low-level clouds. Because this park is extremely popular, camping sites may be busy, so it’s recommended that you make reservations several months in advance.
Mohican State Park, Ohio
Mohican State Park is a history-filled gem tucked away in the heart of Ohio that especially shines in November. It’s said that John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, frequented these forests in the 1800s and it’s easy to see why. Aside from blankets of colorful trees, Mohican State Park houses the Clear Fork Gorge, a 300 feet deep edifice formed by thousands of years of erosion. You can camp near the meandering Clear Fork River, hike through forested trails, and relish the serenity of this destination for a camping experience that will help keep your mind off the hustle and bustle of life.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Experience a unique twist on fall camping at Big Bend National Park, where November offers milder temperatures in a remote, desert-like environment. Here you can soak in the rugged beauty of the Chisos Mountains, traverse the park’s distinctive blend of desert and river ecosystems, and take a tour through exhilarating gorges. Since Big Bend is fairly isolated compared to other national parks, you may find it a lot easier to grab a great camping spot.
Make the most of your camping trips
Fall camping offers an enchanting experience that should not be overlooked. With the right gear and the best camping spots, you can extend your outdoor adventures well into November. TAXA’s trailers and habitats are designed to weather tough outdoor conditions and provide the warmth and comfort you need during chillier seasons — while keeping you immersed in your surroundings.Embrace the beauty of this fall season by exploring the wonders of nature with a cozy and comfortable basecamp. Take our quiz or speak with a TAXA guide to elevate your fall camping plans and start making unforgettable memories.