I love visiting our U.S. National Parks, even if it’s just a day-trip, and no matter how long I stay, it’s always hard to leave. Fall days are particularly lovely to visit parks as temperatures are nearly perfect. Sometimes, temperatures can be surprising warm during the day, but then at nightfall it drops significantly, signaling the coming of winter.

Soaking in the vibrant colors, woody smells and spices of the season is best experience in the coldest wilderness regions of the United States, but I have also found that fall is an ideal time to explore desert parks while the heat is less intense. Rain may occur during this time of the year, though it usually doesn’t last long, so come prepared with a proper jacket and treaded tires. Personally, I enjoy hiking in the rain or right after it and don’t mind getting a little dirty—that’s what outdoor gloves and warm showers are for! The forest always smells and looks a little fresher after some rain.

Being an avid, life-long hiker, it’s impossible to recommend only a few parks worth visiting in the fall out of a dozen that come to mind located across the country, let alone suggesting three specific hiking trails. There are just too many, which is certainly something special to be grateful for. Start with the most northern U.S. National Parks, or look at parks in or near mountain ranges. Fall colors in these areas are spectacular. Equally as beautiful are the colors of the American Southwest and is home to a plethora of parks, monuments and other outdoor points of interest that include not just accessible overlooks but accessible trails too.

Getting Started

Before visiting any park, do a little research on accessibility so you generally know what to expect and how much time you wish to spend. What do you need to plan for? Is there one trail or multiple? A bunch of overlooks? Where are the wheelchair friendly bathrooms?

In addition, park lovers who have disabled parking plates (or placard), qualify for a Golden Access Passport—a U.S. National Park card that gets your vehicle and all inside access into the park. Over any card in my wallet, I value it the most. So, if you don’t have one, get one! Then you are ready to experience the freedom and beauty of our national parks in the fall.    

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