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Travel guides to help you plan your trip to the United States. 1-4 day itineraries and things to do in popular states including New York, Boston, Chicago and Austin.

Best National Parks to Visit in November & Free Entry Day!

Lake running by mountain and Zion National Park

This guide details the best national parks to visit in November so if you are planning to take advantage of the free access on Veteran’s Day or want to experience nature over Thanksgiving, you will know which park to pick!

We share why each park is perfect for November, looking at the temperatures and best things to do there.

The guide also includes all of the vital information you will need for your adventure such as how to get there, where to stay, and what to be cautious of.

Remember, days will be shorter in some parts of the country so consider this when planning driving routes.

Some parks will be starting to wind down for winter; you may find that campsites and some routes are limited.

Download the NPS app and the app to your phone, so you are always up-to-date with closures and changes.

Each park has individual pricing and passes requirements.

You may also enjoy our guide to the best parks to visit in October for fall colors and our guide to places to visit in the US in November.

Best National Parks to Visit in November in the US

West Coast National Parks

The following section include parks in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Hawaii.

Some of the parks might still be showing off their fall colors at the start of November too!

You may also like our California bucket list.

Grand Canyon West Rim overlook

Best National Parks in California

Yosemite National Park in November (California/Pacific)

Yosemite National Park in November is a wonderful time of the year to witness the arrival of winter, foggy-sunny days with the start of snow, colorful fall views, celestial extravaganza, and peaceful surroundings. 

Yosemite National Park can be reached by Highways 41, 140, and 120 (from the west) all year round with tire chain access in November. 

The closest airport is the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT), about 65 miles south of the park (1½-hour drive). Other closer airports are San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and San Jose International Airport (SJC) from where you need to drive to this park. 

Yosemite National park is one of the most visited national parks in the USA and is famous for granite monoliths like Half Dome and Capitan.  

It is also a UNESCO heritage site and the US’s third national park which covers a huge area of 1200 square miles on beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges.  

To cover Yosemite in one day is impossible but you can drive through and locate main spots by car and if you want to hike and trek, then you need to stay there.   

There are two gas stations in Yosemite National Park, – Wawona and at Crane Flat. 

There is another service station at Sierra village but as there is five entrance to Yosemite, so check the road closures on their official website too.  Tioga Pass entrance closes after September till May-end.  

Yosemite Curry Village at Yosemite central point is the spot where you can find many food options. They offer Vegetarian and vegan burgers, wraps too. Or else you can carry food from gas stations or your home. 

Yosemite Park Lodgings and Hotels 

The most popular lodgings and hotels at Yosemite National Park are The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite, and Yosemite View Lodge.  

During winter, four campgrounds remain open in Yosemite: Upper Pines (Yosemite Valley), Camp 4 (Yosemite Valley), Hodgdon Meadow (45 minutes northwest of Yosemite Valley), and Wawona (45 minutes south of Yosemite Valley). For camping, you need to be prepared to camp in the snow also and so bring all essentials with you. 

March 15 through November, you need a reservation for drive-in campgrounds in Yosemite Valley. The maximum stay you can camp in Yosemite is for 30 days.  

RV spots are also available. You can park your RV’s at Bridalveil Creek (RVs up to 35 feet & trailers up to 24 feet), White Wolf (RVs up to 27 feet & trailers up to 24 feet), and Tuolumne Meadows (RVs & trailers up to 35 feet. Half the campground is first-come, first-served.) 

Yosemite in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs, and Animals 

Be prepared for snowfall any time of the day with cooler evenings and so bring woolens and thermals with you.  

You can expect average highs of 55 to 47 deg F during the day and average lows of 33 to 31 deg F at night. As there are many rivers, mountain tops, and elevations in the National Park, the temperature can vary on which place you are staying at.  

The days are shorter in November, so plan your hikes and treks accordingly. Also, be prepared for snowfall too. 

Check out our guide the best national parks for backpacking for more.

Sunrise starts around 7:30am and the evening starts a little early from about 5:50 PM onwards. 

Yosemite region has around 300 to 500 bears.

If you encounter them, then park rangers suggest giving bears space as they are rarely confrontational.

But can be aggressive when they have little ones or guard their food.

Carry normal mosquito repellant for bugs if you are staying at night or hiking through bushes.

If bitten by a poisonous reptile then contact park rangers present there as they are always there to help you out.

Things to at Yosemite National Park 

  • Lower Yosemite Falls Loop 
  • Bridalveil Fall (Yosemite Valley) 
  • El Capitan 
  • Mirror Lake Loop (Yosemite Valley). 
  • Tunnel View and Artist’s Point  
  • Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias 
  • Four Mile Trail up to Glacier point (But check for snowfall forecast) 
  • Chilnualna Falls Trail (Wawona) – 9 Miles trail 
  • Upper Yosemite Falls trail 
  • If Glacier point is open(depends on snowfall) – then go for Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Loop 
  • With all this be prepared for snowfall and rainfall anytime, so carry proper hiking gear. 
  • There is a $35/car entrance fee upon arrival (credit card only) unless you have an annual or lifetime pass.  In summer you need to pre-book your dates but from September onwards there is no prior reservation required. RV parking is charged extra. 

By Yukti Agrawal, Travel with me 24 x 7 

Clear day at Yosemite

Death Valley National Park in November (Eastern California/Pacific)

Death Valley is one of the best national parks in California for a November trip thanks to mild temperatures that allow hiking and exploring the park’s spectacular landscapes.

While summers are known to bring triple-digit temperatures to Death Valley, winter has a mild weather sunny weather with no snow, which makes it an easy place to visit, unlike some national parks that get covered by snow and require a 4X4 vehicle.

You can get to Death Valley National Park by car at any time of the year, and the park has the entrance in the east, in the west and in the south. 

If you enter Death Valley from the western entrance in California, you can enter the park from the towns of Lone Pine or Shoshone. 

If you drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley, you will pass either through Pahrump, Beatty or Amargosa Valley. 

And, if you are driving from the south, you will enter Death Valley from Baker after exiting on Interstate – 5.

The closest airport to Death Valley is Las Vegas International Airport located about 117 miles or about 2 hours away.

Death Valley is one of the most popular places to visit near Las Vegas by car, and many travelers stop here for a day trip. 

Another option is to fly into Los Angeles International Airport located 271 miles away or about 4 hours and 20 minutes away. 

Death Valley has two gas stations: one near Death Valley Visitor Center and another one in Stovepipe Wells.

Since gas is very expensive in Death Valley, fill up your car in one of the towns outside the national park.

Both gas stations have convenience stores, but prices there are higher than in regular stores, so it’s a good idea to bring your water and snacks.

Death Valley became federally protected in 1994, after years of national monument status (1933).

However, the Timbisha Shoshone People lived in Death Valley long before it was declared a national monument.

Death Valley Lodgings and Hotels

There are multiple campgrounds throughout Death Valley. While some of them are open only during certain times of the year, others are open year-round. 

If you are visiting Death Valley in November, try Furnace Creek located near Death Valley Visitor Center ($22 fee); Mesquite Spring about 1 hour 15 minutes from Furnace Creek($14 fee); and Emigrant campground located about 40 minutes from Furnace Creek that doesn’t require reservations and is free. 

And, if you are looking for a hotel, you can stay either at The Inn at Death Valley, or The Ranch at Death Valley, located near Death Valley Visitor Center with stores and restaurants. 

Death Valley in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs and Animals

November is a perfect month for visiting Death Valley, because unlike in summer when you can only stay outside for a few minutes, you can spend time outside and enjoy hiking and outdoor adventures.

The highest temperature in Death Valley during November is high 70s, and the lowest temperature dips into high 40s. 

This is something to keep in mind, if you plan on camping, as the nights are significantly cooler. 

Death Valley has a dry, sunny climate, but if you plan on hiking bring at least one long-sleeve shirt and a jacket.

Since the park is located in the desert, there are no bugs here. 

Day time during November is from 7am. through about 6:30 pm., so plan all your activities accordingly.

Best things to do at Death Valley National Park

  • Enjoy the panoramic view of Zabriskie Point 
  • Make your way to the Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America 
  • Go hiking in Golden Canyon 
  • Drive up to the Dante’s Point 
  • Stop by the visitor center to take a photo with a huge thermometer 

By The Discovery Nut

Woman standing in Death Valley desert with water bottl

Joshua Tree National Park (California/Pacific)

Joshua Tree National Park in November is a popular time of year to visit as daytime temperatures drop and visitors can comfortably explore the unique desert ecosystems in this southern California park.

The area has been occupied for at least 5000 years, first by the Pinto culture, followed by American Indians.

It was declared a national monument in 1936 and elevated to National Park status in 1994.

Joshua Tree is a popular park to visit from October through May, with annual visitor numbers around 2.8 million.

The best way to explore the park is by car.

The closest major cities are Los Angeles (140 miles / 3 hours), San Diego (175 miles / 3 hours) and Las Vegas (215 miles / 3 hours 30 minutes).

The closest airport is Palm Springs, about 50 miles east of the park where car hire is available, with LA and Las Vegas alternative airport entry points.

There are no gas stations inside the park but there are plenty of options in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms in the north and Coachella in the south.

To top up food and snack supplies you will need to travel out of the park back to the towns of Joshua Tree or Twentynine Palms.

There are limited places to source water in the park, so be sure to bring plenty with you and check with the visitor centre on arrival for the latest updates on water availability at campgrounds in the park.

Joshua Tree Lodgings and Hotels

There are eight campgrounds in Joshua Tree and most are open year round.

All campgrounds can accommodate RVs, but RV owners should take note there are no RV hookups and limited generator hours.

Some sites require reservation in advance: Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, Jumbo Rocks and Ryan.

Others operate on a first come first served basis: Hidden Valley, White Tank and Belle.

Reservations are strongly recommended, particularly in the busy season from November through May when sites book out well in advance.

For those who cannot secure a site, it is possible to camp for free on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside of the park – both in the north and south.

There are no lodgings within the park, with most visitors choosing to stay at the nearby towns of Joshua Tree or Twentynine Palms.

Sacred Sands is the closest lodging to the Park’s west entrance in Joshua Tree.

For something totally unique, the Kosmic Tortoise in Twentynine Palms is a tented camp with stunning night sky views.

Joshua Tree In November Temperatures, Bugs and Animals

November at Joshua Tree affords the best of both worlds – warm daytime temperatures and cooler nights.

Temperatures do vary a little depending on your location in the park so it is recommended to check the forecast prior to entry as there is no cellular access in the park.

On average in November you can expect daytime highs of around 85 F and lows of 50 F.

You have plenty of daylight to explore the park with sunrise around 6am and sunset from 5-6pm.

The dry environment means mosquitos are not usually an issue but there are spiny cacti and venomous animals in the park.

You may encounter spiders, rattlesnakes, bees and scorpions – so always check your shoes before putting them and watch where you put your feet when hiking.

Things to do at Joshua Tree National Park

  • Explore the Cholla Cactus Garden Loop
  • Discover the rock enclosed Hidden Valley
  • Watch the sunset at Keys View
  • Go boulder scrambling at Skull Rock
  • Stargaze in some of the darkest skies in California
  • Join one of the many guided ranger walks offered to learn more about the Park’s plants and animals.
  • Hike the Barker Dam Trail

By Rachel, Adventure and Sunshine

Lone tree in desert at Joshua Tree National Park

Utah National Parks

Arches National Park in November (Utah/Rocky Mountains)

November is a great month to visit Arches National Park because there are a lot less crowds and the cooler temperatures are nice for hiking, in contrast with the usual intense summer heat.

This area used to be inhabited by many different Native American tribes over the years, including the Hopi tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Las Vegas Paiute, and the Navajo Nation.

Arches National Park is located by the town of Moab in southeast Utah, 110 miles from Grand Junction Colorado (1 hour 45 minutes) or 236 miles from Salt Lake City (4 hour drive).

For people flying, Salt Lake City is generally the most popular starting point for visiting Arches National Park, since there are a lot more flight options heading there from other airports.

The town of Moab is relatively small, but it has a wide selection of restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores and other places to resupply, and it’s very close to the Arches National Park boundary.

Moab Lodgings and Hotels

There is one campground inside of Arches National Park (the Devils Garden campground), but it’s only open between March 1 and October 31, so it’s not available during the month of November.

However, you can also check camping availability in the town of Moab, which has a lot of campgrounds as well as paid shower facilities for people who may want to do dispersed camping in the wild.

Arches National Park doesn’t have any lodging inside the park, but there are lots of hotel options in Moab, which is located very close to the park entrance (less than 5 miles).

Two nice comfy hotels to check out are Aarchway Inn and the Red Cliffs Lodge. Both of these recommendations are located in the town of Moab and near the national park.

Arches in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs and Animals

Moab’s average high temperature is 55 F and the average low is 29 F, and these figures also apply to the national park.

It can get quite chilly overnight and in the morning, although the climate here is always sunny, so that helps it to feel quite a bit warmer during the day when you’re doing activities.

Days are shorter than summer with sunrise around about 7am and sunset around 5pm.

Bugs aren’t an issue since it’s so dry here, and snakes are generally rare in any of the popular areas of the national park.

Things to do at Arches National Park

  • Enjoy the Arches Scenic Drive, with its 19 miles of desert panoramas
  • Experience the beautiful Devils Garden, the Tower Arch Moab trail, and other hikes in Arches National Park
  • Stroll the colossal rock formations at Park Avenue, or see them from the viewpoint without hiking
  • Witness the giant Balanced Rock near the main road

By David, The World Travel Guy

Red cave at Arches National Park

Zion National Park in November (Utah/Rocky Mountains)

November is the perfect time to visit Zion National Park in southern Utah. 

In fact, it’s a can’t miss destination on any Mighty 5 road trip

Nomadic tribes of native Americans passed through the deep canyons here as early as 6,000 BC. 

And Zion has been home to the Virgin Anasazi, Parowan Fremont, and Numic tribes in all the years since.

In November, the summer crowds have thinned out but the weather is still fabulous. 

Fall colors are still beautiful at lower elevations.

Zion National Park is located between Las Vegas, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Vegas is the best airport to fly into if only seeing Zion. 

Visitors who want to loop through the Mighty 5—Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks—often start in Salt Lake City.

If driving from Las Vegas, plan on a 2.5 hour drive—159 miles—to cute little Springdale, located literally at the park’s entrance. 

With restaurants, bicycle rentals, vacation rentals, and gas stations, it makes a convenient base for those who prefer to save on the expense of staying inside the park.

Zion Lodgings and Hotels

The Zion Lodge (in the park) is a cozy way to enjoy early access to the park by skipping the line of cars at the entrance during opening hours. 

Plus, the quality of food at the restaurant here is a cut above other Utah parks. 

Campgrounds are open through late November—they include RV spots—and are gloriously uncrowded this time of year.

However, reserve ahead to ensure availability at prime spots.

Zion in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs and Animals

Expect mild days in the high 50s and low 60s (farenheit) and cool clear nights, with lows in the 30s so pack accordingly. 

With the sun rising between 7:30 am and 8 am and setting between 6 and 6:30 pm, you’ll enjoy nearly 11 hours of daylight to explore the park. 

Just remember that pests in this region are sun lovers, too, so you’ll still find the usual insects, spiders, and scorpions that make their home here active this time of year.

Things to do in Zion

Hike The Narrows, an epic day long hike down the middle of the Virgin River through a slot canyon. (You’ll want to rent gear in Springdale to keep you warm.)

  • Hike Angel’s Landing, an extreme 5.4 mile hike that ascends nearly 1,500 feet along steep switchacks and sheer cliffs. (Not for those who with fear of heights.)
  • Take in sunset at Canyon Overlook Trail.
  • Rent a bike and cycle the scenic, flat Pa’rus Trail through the center of the park, taking in the majesty of the steep sandstone cliffs.
  • There are dozens of lovely trails here for both novice and experienced hikers.
  • The vivid colors and dramatic geologic formations keep adventurers returning to Zion again and again. It’s the perfect November destination.

By Chris, Explore Now or Never

Lake running by mountain and Zion National Park

Grand Canyon West Rim in November (Arizona/Southwest)

Grand Canyon National Park in November is arguably one of the best times of the year to visit.

The crowds have gone so visitors will feel they have the trails, scenic overlooks, visitor centers, shuttle buses, and parking lots all to themselves.

The Grand Canyon’s weather in November comes with mostly sunny, cool days and bright, blue skies.

Even though there is a small risk of snow, gone is the summer heat and unrelenting sun that make hiking and walking in and around the Grand Canyon tiring. 

The Grand Canyon is located in northern Arizona just 90 minutes from Flagstaff, 3 ½ hours from Phoenix, and 4 ½ hours from Las Vegas.

Although the town of Tusayan is just outside the park, services are limited.

The majority of the 6 million people who visit the Grand Canyon each year stay in Flagstaff for their Grand Canyon day trip.

The South Rim is the most popular side of the Grand Canyon to visit and park facilities remain open all year round on this side of the canyon.

In November, the West Rim viewing platform is open daily but with shorter hours.

The North Rim’s park facilities are closed but the area is still accessible until November 30th unless a snowstorm ends the North Rim season early.

Well before European settlers spread westward, Native Americans lived and used the Grand Canyon area for shelter and the cultivation of resources to meet their basic needs.

There’s evidence of the Ancient Puebloan people in the Grand Canyon 10,000 years ago, followed by the Anasazi, and eventually the Hualapai and Havasupai.

The Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is the closest airport (79 miles) to the Grand Canyon, but the small airport services only 2 airlines and flights can be expensive.

Most people fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor (225 miles) or Las Vegas McCarran (277 miles) for better prices and more flight options. All 3 airports have rental car options.

There is a gas station just before the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance on Route 64 in the town of Tusayan.

There’s another gas station at the junction of Routes 64 and 180 in between Flagstaff and the South Rim entrance. There are more than 10 gas stations in Flagstaff.

In Tusayan, the town just outside the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance, you’ll also find the Tusayan General Store where you can stock up on food and drinks before you head into the park.

Flagstaff is a full-service town with grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores.

Grand Canyon South Rim Lodgings and Hotels

There are 6 hotel lodges near the South Rim inside Grand Canyon National Park.

These properties book up well in advance, however, in November, there’s a better chance you’ll find a lodge with availability.

The Mather Campground is in the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village. 

It’s open year-round but be sure to make your reservation months in advance to ensure you can reserve a space.

Also in Grand Canyon Village, Trailer Village has full hook-ups for RVs. Reservations are required.

Just outside of the Grand Canyon South Rim, there are a few hotels in Tusayan, including a Holiday Inn Express & Suites and a Best Western Premier.

Keep in mind though, Tusayan may be just outside the Grand Canyon, but the location is remote with only a few services in the tiny town.

Flagstaff is 79 miles away with numerous hotels, both independently owned and those part of major hotel brands like Hilton, Marriott, and IHG. 

Flagstaff is a full-service town and a destination unto itself, with a walkable downtown, history, shops, and a fantastic food scene with no shortage of restaurants.

Grand Canyon in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs, and Animals

Visiting the Grand Canyon in November comes with average daytime highs in the 50s F and lows overnight just below freezing (27-30 F).

If you’re camping, you’ll want a winter sleeping bag.

Check out our hiking gear packing list for more item ideas.

The Grand Canyon is at an elevation and if you’re hiking, you’ll be descending and ascending in the canyon and passing through the Grand Canyon’s microclimates.

For example, down in the canyon temperatures can be into the 60s, nearly 10 degrees warmer than along the rim.

November days in the Grand Canyon are shorter, which means it’s easier to see the sunset but also leaves less time for completing hikes..

In November, sunrise is typically around 7:20 a.m. while the sunset is around 5:20 p.m.

If you stay to see the sunset over the Grand Canyon, be mindful that the drive back to your lodging can be quite dark.

Mosquitos and other insects are not an issue in November at Grand Canyon National Park, but many of the park’s 91 species of animals remain active and are terrific at hiding.

Even though it’s likely you’ll see nothing more than some mule deer or bighorn sheep, solo hikers should be aware of mountain lions.

Things to at Grand Canyon National Park

  • Get up early to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon from Mather or Yaki Points
  • Drive along the scenic Desert View Drive, stopping to take photos and/or hike from the many scenic points
  • Plan a day hike into the Canyon using either the Bright Angel or Kaibab Trailheads
  • Walk along the Rim Trail (also known as the Trail of Time), particularly between Mather Point and Trailview Overlook
  • Watch the early sunset over Hopi, Yaki, or Lipan Point
  • Stargaze, take advantage of no light pollution
  • Check the Ranger Programs Calendar for any tours or activities that might interest you
  • Take a bicycle tour with Bright Angel Bikes
  • Go with a guide on a hiking tour
  • Join a South Rim Mule Trip into the canyon
  • Take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon

By Jackie, The Globetrotting Teacher

Couple stands at Desert View Watchtower South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Rocky Mountain National Park in November (Colorado/Rocky Mountains)

November is a great time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Since the leaf peepers are gone, you can enjoy many of the park’s most popular trails without the crowds. 

However, due to snow on the ground, expect the famous Trail Ridge Road to be closed. 

As a result, the east and west side of the park will be cut off from each other and you’ll need to plan accordingly. 

Also, even though this is low season, the Bear Lake Parking Lot will fill up fast with people wanting to enjoy the best things to do in Rocky Mountain Park in winter.

So, arrive before 10am if you want to park here since parking along the road is prohibited. 

In terms of location, Rocky Mountain National Park is 66 miles away from Denver (or a 1.5 hour drive). 

To get here from Denver, take US-36-W to Estes Park and then continue to RMNP. 

Once here, fuel up at Shell, Loaf N Jug, or Conoco gas stations in town. 

The Shell gas station also has a convenience store but you can pick up other supplies at Sinclair or Estes Mini Mart. 

However, if you don’t feel like driving, you can access the Estes Park Shuttle from Union Station (in Denver), Denver International Airport, and the Denver Greyhound Bus Station.

Tickets cost roughly $95 round-trip  or $55 one-way to this historic park, which was first founded in 1915. 

It covers 415 square miles ((265,807 acres) and was originally occupied by the Ute and Arapaho, with the Cheyenne, and Comanche people traveling through the area.

Accordingly, this park sits in the mountainous regions of northern-central Colorado – near Estes Park and the Arapaho National Recreation Area.

The land around Rocky Mountain was inhabited by the Arapaho and Ute Native American tribes in the 1800s, as well as the Shoshoni and Comanche to a lesser extent.

Rocky Mountain National Park Hotels and Lodgings

Aspenglen Campground, Glacier Basin Campground, Moraine Park Campground, Timber Creek Campground, and Longs Peak Campground can all be found within RMNP. 

All have RV spots except for Longs Peak Campground which is tent only. 

All require permits and reservations well in advance and are open throughout the summer only. 

The only exception is the Moraine Park Campground, which operates on a first-come first served basis in the winter. 

However, you can always spend the night at the Stanley Hotel, which was made famous by the movie The Shining.

It’s in nearby Estes Park since no hotels are found within the park. . 

Rocky Mountain National Park Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs and Animals

In November, temperatures are cold since snow begins to fall in the region.

So, on the west side of RMNP near Grand Lake, expect highs of 41ºF, lows of 9ºF, and an average of 9.4 inches of snow. 

Then, in Estes Park, expect highs of  44ºF, lows of 25ºF, and around 3.7 inches of snow.

Therefore, it’s a bit too cold to camp outside unless you pack plenty of layers and warm gear. 

Days are also short with only 10 hours of daylight since the sun usually rises around 7am and sets around 5pm. 

Also watch out for black bears (active through early November) and mountain lions – the later of which can become very active in the winter.

Top Things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Cross country ski trail ridge road
  • Watch herds of elk at lower elevations
  • Enjoy Ptarmigans bathing in the snow in the early morning light
  • Hike the trails to Cascade Falls and Sky Pond
  • Hike to Lake Haiyaha and watch the sunrise with a warm cup of cocoa
  • Go sledding at an abandoned ski resort (known as Hidden Valley and closed in 1992) 

By Meg of Fox in the Forest travel blog

Rocky Mountain National Park with snow

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in November (New Mexico/Southwest)

In the south-east corner of New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is made up of a vast network of over 100 cave chambers, connected by a maze of underground passageways and tunnels.

While this national park is open throughout the year, November is a great time to visit New Mexico in general as the temperature is pleasant and comfortable.

Carlsbad Caverns Big Room, the most famous cave chamber in the park, is also the largest (by volume) in North America – three quarters of a mile long, and over 250 feet high at its tallest point.

The total size, length and depth of the Carlsbad Caverns network is currently unknown, and explorers are still discovering new sections, some of which are more than 1,500 feet below the surface.

Paintings and symbols found near the entrance of the caverns suggest that Indigenous people knew about this incredible place 1,000 years ago.

It is believed that the Zuni Pueblo people called it “Bat Cave”, and the Mescalero Apache called it “Home of the Bat”.

The park entrance is 25 miles from Carlsbad, NM (30 minutes), 150 miles from El Paso, TX (2 hours 30 minutes), and 300 miles from Albuquerque, NM (5 hours).

El Paso International is the closest major airport to the national park, and has a range of car hire options.

There’s a gas station and a convenience store at White’s City, on US Highway 62, about 7 miles from the Carlsbad Caverns National Park visitor center.

Dark cave yellow light Carlsbad Cave

Carlsbad Caverns Lodgings and Hotels

The closest accommodation to the caverns is White’s City Cavern Inn – a decent budget motel.

A little further afield, the town of Carlsbad has a range of hotels catering to all budgets – La Quinta Inn & Suites is a good midrange option.

If you prefer to stay in a campsite (and don’t mind being further from the caverns), there is an excellent Kampgrounds of America (KOA) site just off US 285, north of Carlsbad.

Carlsbad KOA has spots for RVs, tent pitches and log cabins to rent, plus an excellent set of facilities.

Bookings are usually recommended to secure a spot, especially over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Backcountry tent camping is permitted within certain sections of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park itself, although you will need to pick up a (free) permit from the visitor center.

Carlsbad Caverns November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs and Animals

The temperature inside the caves stays at a constant 56ºF year-round.

On the surface, in November, daytime temperatures typically range from 65-75°F.

At night, the temperature can plummet to 35°F, and occasionally even below freezing – this is the desert!

If you plan on camping, pack some warm layers and a decent sleeping bag.

In mid-November, sunrise is around 6:25am and sunset around 5pm.

If camping, keep an eye out for scorpions, spiders and snakes, and be sure to pack enough water.

Things to do at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

  • Explore the Big Room, the largest cave chamber in North America by volume.
  • Hike from the surface down into the caverns via the steep Natural Entrance Trail. 
  • (Alternatively, there is an elevator that runs from the surface to the Big Room.)
  • Take a ranger-guided adventure tour to explore sections of the caverns not usually open to the public (must be booked in advance).
  • Enjoy fantastic sunrises, sunsets, and stargazing in the desert.
  • Hike in the nearby Guadalupe Mountains (only a short drive from the Carlsbad Caverns).

By Alex, Just Go Exploring

Dark cave with orange light at Carlsband Caverns

Big Bend National Park in November (Texas/Southwest)

Big Bend National Park in November sees the start of the busier season (November to April) when couples, families and groups of friends arrive to take advantage of the many hikes around this West Texas natural space.

BIBE is 412.6 miles from San Antonio (6 hours) 436.7 miles from Austin (6 hours 30 minutes).

The 15th largest national park in the US was federally protected in 1944 and is known as Texas’ gift to the nation.

Naturally, the land was here before a deed was presented to the Federal Government, with the Chisos Mountains in the park thought to have been named for the Chizo Indians. 

The closest airport is at Midland/Odessa (235 miles from park headquarters) or El Paso, Texas (330 miles from park headquarters), and both airports have car hire options.

There are two gas stations in Big Bend, Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village.

There is another service station at Terlingua, the town most people spend a night before entering the Big Bend security gates.

If you forget to pack something or need to buy snacks, convenience stores are located at Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin and Castolon. 

Big Bend Lodgings and Hotels

There are three very popular NPS campgrounds in Big Bend; Chisos Basin, Rio Grande and Cottonwood.

All three are open all year round, require reservations in advance and see full capacity in November. 

RV spots are also available. 

If you struggle to get into the official campsites, consider Stillwell Store RV Park, 20 minutes from the Persimmon Gap Visitors Center.

Chisos Mountain Lodge is the only hotel in the park, some visitors leave the park at night and stay in Terlingua at accommodations such as Lajitas Golf Resort.

Terlingua is also home to cute tepees, which you can rent. 

As with most national parks in the US, Thanksgiving is often a busy period so plan ahead and make reservations well in advance.

Dog Canyon Trail Big Bend National Park Texas-2

Big Bend in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs and Animals

Be prepared for wild swings in temperatures, waking up to frost on your tent in the Chisos mountains some nights!

Expect highs of 70s F during the day and lows of 30-50 F at night, depending on where you are in the park.

It’s no surprise that the mountains are cooler than the desert.

If you are camping, pack a good quality winter sleeping bag.

The days are shorter in November so factor this into your driving routes and hiking plans. 

Sunrise starts around 7-8am and darkness can be expected around 7-7:30pm. 

Mosquitos are not an issue in November at BIBE, but you need to be aware of ants, snakes and spiders before setting up camp.

Things to at Big Bend National Park

  • Get up early to hike the Santa Elena Canyon – be prepared for wading!
  • Drive along the scenic Old Maverick Road
  • Relax in the (small) Boquillas Hot Spring (free)
  • Do the short boat ride over to Boquillas in Mexico for lunch; pack your passport!
  • Watch the early sunset, take a torch if hiking
  • Stargaze, take advantage of no light pollution
  • Day trip to Terlingua Ghost Town 

Read more in our Austin to Big Bend road trip itinerary.

By Gemma, Two Scots Abroad Travel Guides

Boat Boquillas Big Bend Texas_

Hawaii National Parks

Haleakala National Park in November

Located on the tropical island of Maui, Haleakalā is incredible to visit year round.

November can be a lovely time to visit- there’s a low chance of precipitation and pleasant daytime temperatures.

Plus, November is traditionally Hawaii’s low season, so you may be able to snag deals on hotels and airfare before the busy winter holiday prices kick in.

If you’re visiting the island, exploring Haleakalā is a must- and an important part of understanding Maui’s Native culture.

In fact, Haleakalā, the world’s largest dormant volcano, is a sacred place for Native Hawaiians.

The name means “House of Sun” in Hawaiian, after a legend that the trickster demigod, Maui, held the sun captive here to make daylight last longer on the island.

To get to Maui, you’ll fly into the Kahului Airport on the northern side of the island, with plenty of rental car agencies to choose from.

The park is located on the fairly remote southeastern area of Maui- and given that the most popular attractions of the park are located over 10,000 feet above sea level at the summit, you should plan on it taking at least an hour (likely more) to get here from your accommodation.

In fact, you’ll need to drive the famously windy Haleakalā Highway, with 32 switchbacks zig-zagging across the massive volcano over the course of 22 miles.

From the popular lodging choice of Lahaina on the west side of Maui, the 59-mile drive will take you an hour and 45 minutes, whereas if you’re staying in the hippie surfer village of Paia on the north side, the 34-mile drive will take about an hour and 15 minutes.

While most visitors focus on the summit area, it’s worth noting there’s also the Kīpahulu Area, along the island’s eastern coastline.

This area of the park is usually explored in tandem with Maui’s famed Road to Hana, which snakes through some of the world’s lushest jungles along some narrow and nail-biting curves.

From the start of the Road to Hana in Paia, it’ll take two and a half hours (55 miles) to reach the Kīpahulu Area.

Regardless of which area of the park you go to, be sure to fuel up or grab any snacks or anything else you might need in one of the small towns on the way to the park, like in Makawao or Hana- there’s no gas stations or convenience stores within the park’s boundaries.

Haleakalā Lodging and Hotels

There are three historic wilderness cabins along the volcano’s crater floor, which can only be reserved by snagging a competitive permit. 

Alternatively, there’s two wilderness campsites, Hōlua and Palikū, that can only be accessed by trail and must be reserved in advance as well.

If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale than wilderness camping, you can find charming, family-run inns in the neighboring towns, like Banyan Tree Bed and Breakfast in Makawao. 

Low clouds at Haleakala National Park

Haleakalā Temperature, Daylight, Bugs, and Animals

Haleakalā has lovely weather in November, ranging from the low 70s to high 80s in the daytime, with little rain.

While the temperature still feels pleasant due to the humidity and wind at the summit, you should definitely pack light and airy clothes to hike in, especially given the extreme elevation of some of the trails. 

It’s also important to remember that the summit can get quite cold- occasionally freezing- when the sun has set, so if you’re visiting for sunrise or sunset, it’s worth throwing a puffer jacket and a cozy hat in your backpack!

If you do plan on visiting for sunrise, the first rays of the sun will touch the summit around 6:30 in the morning or if you decide to visit during sunset (which is quite underrated!), you can expect to stay in the park until about 5:50 pm.

There are no notable pesky bugs or animals in the park, but you should keep an eye out for nene, an endangered Hawaiian goose that has a proclivity to hang out around the park’s busy roads. 

Things to do in Haleakalā 

  • Snag a coveted permit (for just $1) to see sunrise light up the incredible colors of the crater below.
  • Cruise on a bike down the Haleakalā Highway (especially after sunrise), zipping down the many switchbacks towards the island floor.
  • Hike into the crater along the challenging Sliding Sands Trail, which takes you past cinder cones, colorful sand dunes, and towering lava rock structures.
  • Explore the less popular Kīpahulu Area, like the incredible waterfalls along the Pools of ‘Ohe’o Trail.
  • Stargaze- due to its high elevation and limited light pollution, the stars in Haleakalā are incredible!

By Jessica, Uprooted Traveler

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in November

November is a great time to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park because there is less rainfall, fewer visitors, and less humidity.

There are no concerns about winter driving in this park in November because of the warm weather on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The closest major city and international airport is in Kona.

The park is about two hours which is about 91 miles from the Kona airport.

The Hilo airport is only 45 minutes away (30 miles), but it is a much smaller airport.

It is best to rent a car and drive yourself to Volcanoes National Park.

There are two gas stations within five miles of the park – Volcano Store and Kilauea General Store.

The park was first settled 1700 to 800 years ago by voyagers from the Marquesas Islands.

Kilauea, one of two active volcanoes in the park, was considered the home of the volcano goddess Pele.

Hawaiians would visit the park and the crater to offer gifts to the goddess.

The area became a popular tourist destination in the 1840s when hotels were built on the rim of the crater.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Lodgings and Hotels

There are two campgrounds in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Nāmakanipaio andKulanaokuaiki.

Both of these campgrounds are open in November.

The sites are first-come, first-served.

The Volcano Inn and Volcano Rainforest Retreat are both great lodging options near the park.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Temperatures, Bugs, and Animals

During the month of November, the average high is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The overnight low averages around 53 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are 17 days of rain on average in the month of November but the rain does not last long throughout the day.

There are no bug or animal concerns in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Daylight hours in the month of November are from 6:25 am to 5:45 pm.

You will not need to bring any winter clothes to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

It is a good idea to bring a light jacket for the early morning and evening.

There is a decent amount of rainfall in Hawaii in November so you may want to bring a water-resistant jacket.

Things to do at Volcano National Park

  • Take in the views of the Kilauea Crater from the Kilauea Visitor Center
  • Hike through the Thurston lava tubes
  • Explore the Kilauea Iki Crater vi the Kilauea Iki and Crater Trails
  • Drive the scenic 19-mile Chain of Craters Road
  • See the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs dating back hundreds of years

By Candice, CS Ginger

Grey day at Volcano National Park Hawaii

East Coast National Parks

Everglades National Park in November (Florida/Southeast)

Visiting Everglades National Park in November is ideal as the scorching temperatures of Florida summer months are over, and it’s before the touristic season (December to April).

The name Everglades came from the early European explorers who saw endless (“forever”) grassy lands (“glades” in old English), a similar recognition of the wetlands feature than the name Pa-hay-Okee (“grassy waters”) given by the Native Americans who lived there.

Flying in is easy, with over a dozen airports within a 5-hour range, including major international airports such as Miami for the closest, Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and several other smaller airports.

The Everglades are located in South Florida, about 28 miles from Miami (40 minutes) and 257 miles from Orlando (4 hours) by car.

The park has three different entrances in three separate cities: the main park entrance being the Homestead Entrance and Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, the Miami Entrance at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, and the Everglades City Entrance to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in the north. 

While there are plenty of gas stations between the park and the main cities around, there are none in the park itself, and the last gas stations before entering the Everglades are in Homestead south of Miami and Everglades City for the North entrance coming from Naples, FL.

Similarly, convenient stores are absent from within the park boundaries, but several options are available around Homestead, and Everglades City, where you can stock up on snacks and drinks.

Everglades Lodgings and Hotels

There are two main campsites inside the park, Flamingo Campground and Lone Pine Key Campground.
While the first is open all year round, the second opens from November to April.

Outside the park, Everglades City and Homestead offer different types of accommodations for all budgets, from simple motels to luxury hotels, rustic cabins to spa resorts, and even historical lodging like the Rod and Gun Club Cabins; where US presidents and personalities such as Ernest Hemingway stayed!

Make sure to reserve your spot early during the dry winter season, especially around Thanksgiving.

Everglades in November Temperatures, Daylight, Bugs, and Animals

November falls in the dry season when temperatures are lower than in the hot summer months.

Expect highs in upper 70°F and lows at 50°F, making for primarily pleasant subtropical weather.

Sunrise starts around 6:30 am – 7 am, and the sun sets around 4:30 pm – 5 pm, providing roughly 10 hours of daylight, getting shorter as you get into the month.

While there are fewer mosquitoes in the Everglades during the dry months, the wetlands are still prime mosquitoes territory, so come prepared to protect yourself against them.

As you explore the Everglades, wildlife sightings are plentiful, but watch for the Florida alligators, as some of the 200,000 that supposedly live within the park can be seen from the roads and trails. 

Things to at the Everglades National Park

  • Board an airboat tour to explore the swamps and grasslands
  • Kayak Hell’s Bay
  • Join a ranger-led canoe tour
  • Go birdwatching along the popular Anhinga trail
  • Drive the road to Flamingo
  • Hike one of the numerous trails like the Gumbo Limbo Trail
  • Bike along Shark Valley Slough

By Patricia, Ze Wandering Frogs

American Alligator in Florida Wetland. Everglades National Park

U.S Map

Here is a US map to help you with your bearings.

The guide is also split into regions.

National Parks USA Map
By Jem Design Store at Etsy

Bookmark for later!

Text National parks in November image 1 road with mountains Joshua Tree image 2 snow mountain and lake at Rocky National Park

You may also like our guide to the best of the US in December.

Best National Parks to Visit in October & Fall Colors

Orange fall colors at North Cascades Washingtn

This guide details the best national parks to visit in October and includes cooler temperature options for hikes, Northern Lights sightings and which national parks have the best fall colors!

We explain why each park is ideal for October, looking at the temperatures and best things to do there.

Plus, all of the essential information you will need for an epic road trip, such as how to get there, where to stay, and what to be cautious of.

Some parks will be starting to wind down for winter; you may find that campsites and some routes are limited.

Download the NPS app and the app to your phone, so you are always up-to-date with closures and changes.

Each park has individual pricing and passes requirements.

There are no national free entry days for the national parks in October; however, Indigenous Peoples’ Day falls during this month, be mindful of the land you visit.

Days will be shorter in some parts of the country so consider this when planning driving routes.

Have you missed your favorite national park in the visit in October? Then, do tell us in the comments. We love to hear from you.

You may also enjoy our guide to the best places to visit in the US in October for autumn events and our guide fun things to do in October.

Best National Parks to Visit in October in the US

Here is a US map to help you with your bearings.

The guide is also split into regions.

National Parks USA Map
By Jem Design Store at Etsy

Best East Coast National Parks

The end of September, October and into early November are very popular months to visit the East Coast of the USA.

Leaf peepers, photographers and families head east to immerse themselves in the autumnal seasonal change where lush green trees turn to reds, yellows and orange.

While the foliage is one of the main reasons to visit the national parks on the East Coast in October, it is not the only reason!

Acadia National Park in October (Maine, Northeast)

Acadia National Park on Mt Desert Island in northeastern Maine is lovely all year round but really hits its peak in fall

Join other New England road trippers as you ride through the 47,000-acres of the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.

Originally named Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916 then Lafayette National Park in 1919, in 1929 it was changed to Acadia National Park.

Some of the land was ‘donated’ by wealthy women such as Bar Harbor resident, Eliza Homans.

Naturally, the land where Acadia sits today was connected to people before these titles were given.

The Wabanaki People; Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet and Micmac, called Mount Desert Island, Pemetic or ‘the sloping land’ and records show they’ve lived on the East Coast for 12,000 years!

The most convenient airport for international arrivals is Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and for internal flights, aim to arrive at Bangor and Portland.

You can drive to Acadia from Boston (4.5 hours covering 275 miles) or elsewhere in New England.

Most visitors base themselves in the pretty Bar Harbor for restaurants and access to gas stations to fill up before setting off.

This is one of the top ten most visited parks in the US so get up early to escape the leaf peeping chasing crowds.

You have to purchase a pass to enter to the park which you can do online before you arrive or at the park.

If you plan to drive the three miles up Cadillac Mountain before October 22, you must organize a vehicle pass before you get to Acadia.

Hulls Cover Visitor Center is open until Oct 31, hours of operation 8:30-4:30 pm daily. 

You may also like our guide, free things to do bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park. House on cliff.

Acadia National Park Lodgings & Hotels

Blackwoods Campground is found on the popular east side of Mount Desert Island, about 5 miles (8 km) south of Bar Harbor on Route 3.

It is open until mid-October and requires reservation well in advance.

Schoodic Woods Campground is found 3 miles (5 km) southeast of Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula. It is the only campground on the mainland part of the park.

It is open through to Columbus Day which is around 10th October and requires reservation well in advance.

Seawall Campground is found on the west side of Mount Desert Island, about 4 miles (6 km) south of Southwest Harbor on Maine Route 102A.

It is open through to Columbus Day which is around 10th October and requires reservation well in advance.

Many visitors base themselves around Bar Harbor on the east, The Acadia Hotel – Downtown is very central.

If you’d prefer to visit Acadia with fewer crowds, consider low season instead.

It features in our guide to National Parks in March if you would like to read more about Acadia in early spring.

Acadia National Park October Temperatures and Bugs

Temperatures in Acadia National Park in October are variable 30-70 F and the first frost is often around mid-October. 

The best time to see fall colors in Acadia is around the end of September into the first week of October but this can change so keep an eye on foliage reports.

Ticks have an all year round presence in Maine and are particularly quiet around September and October so be prepared if you are planning to hike.

Things to do at Acadia National Park

  • Enjoy the waves lapping at the Acadia Beaches such as Seal Harbor Beach.
  • Road trip along the Park Loop Road including Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road.
  • Hike the Jordan Pond Path which is 3.2 miles.
  • Drive up Cadillac Mountain, highest point on the United States’ East Coast for sunrise or sunset
  • Always check local conditions on the NPS website or from rangers at the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce

By Amanda, Hey! East Coast USA

Rocky coast and view of boats in the harbor at Bar Harbor, Maine

Shenandoah National Park in October (Virginia, Southeast)

Shenandoah National Park sees 25% of its annual visitors in October. 

The national park is beautiful throughout the year, but in October, the entire park turns ablaze with fall color, especially in the middle two weeks. 

Shenandoah is draped over the northern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Virginia.  

Several Native American tribes visited the mountains seasonally, including the Iroquois and Shawnee nations.  

The national park was created in 1926 with the specific idea in mind of creating a scenic drive for Americans to enjoy. 

The famous Skyline Drive, which runs along the top of the ridge and forms the central artery to the park, was built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a government jobs program created during the Great Depression. 

There are four entrances to the Skyline Drive.  

The nearest major city to the northernmost Front Royal entrance is Washington DC, just 57 miles (one hour) away.

The closest town to the Rockfish Gap (South Entrance) is Charlottesville which is 30 miles (35 minutes) away. 

Washington’s Dulles Airport and Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport both have car rentals. 

There is a convenience store and gas station inside the park at Big Meadows (mile 51). 

Shenandoah Lodgings & Hotels 

There are five campgrounds in Shenandoah, Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, Loft Mountain, and Dundo Group Campground. 

Lewis Mountain is first-come, first-served, while the other four require reservations. 

Dundo Campground is for groups only. 

All are open until the end of October. 

There are two main lodges inside the national park, Big Meadows and Skyland. 

Both have cabins, a restaurant and are surrounded by stunning fall color in October. 

Shenandoah in October Temperatures and Bugs 

Average high temperatures are 58°F and the average lows are 39°F in October. 

Be sure to wear layers and pack warm clothing for those chilly nights and early mornings.  

If you’re camping, be sure to have a good three-season sleeping bag. 

Check out our hiking gear packing list for more item ideas.

Shenandoah is old growth forest, which attracts mosquitoes and gnats, even in October. 

The national park also has the largest concentration of black bears on the east coast, so keep your eyes peeled at dusk, and carry bear spray with you when hiking. 

Things to at Shenandoah National Park 

  • Drive the 105-mile scenic Skyline Drive and enjoy the views from the 75 scenic overlooks 
  • Hike the main trails, including Dark Hollow Falls and Stony Man (both great for fall color) 
  • Day trip to nearby Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the eastern United States 

By James Ian, Parks Collecting

Bright fall colors at Hogback Overlook Shenandoah National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October (Tennessee and North Carolina, Southeast)

October is the best time to visit Smoky Mountains National Park when the fall foliage is at its peak.

Although the exact “peak” of fall foliage in the Smokies varies by year, October typically offers the best viewing opportunities, and by November the colors have lost much of their vibrance.

Prior to colonization, the area now known as the Smoky Mountains was inhabited by the Cherokee tribe.

In the 1830’s, most of the Cherokee were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma as part of the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

Spanning over half a million acres on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is consistently the most visited national park in the United States!

The park is located 48 miles from Knoxville, TN (1 hour 15 minutes), 227 miles from Nashville, TN (4 hours) and 196 miles from Charlotte, NC (4 hours).

These three cities each have an airport that offers vehicle rentals. 

There are no gas stations inside the park, so you will need to fill up in one of the small towns near the entrances: Cherokee, NC, Townsend, TN or Gatlinburg TN.

There are two camp stores located inside the park and convenience stores available in the nearby towns. 

Smoky Mountains National Park Lodgings & Hotels

There are 10 campgrounds with tent and RV sites in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, most of which are open through the end of October, with the exception of Balsam Mountain Campground which closes October 12th. 

Advanced reservations are recommended but not required.

Gatlinburg, Cherokee, and Townsend offer numerous lodging options close to the park.

There are plenty of cozy cabins tucked away in the woods, many offering mountain views, like this charming cabin located just 15 minutes from the park.

Smoky Mountains National Park in October Temperatures, Bugs and Animals

During October, temperatures in the Smoky Mountains are quite pleasant during the day, with average highs in the low 60’s.

It gets chilly at night, with temperatures dropping into the 30’s, so pack warm layers.

You can also expect cooler temperatures at higher elevations in the park.

Due to the cooler temperatures overnight, bugs are not a problem in October. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its abundant population of black bears, and they are typically still active in October. 

Things to do at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Hike to Alum Caves and Mount LeConte for sweeping views from the third highest peak in the park.
  • Drive the Cades Cove Scenic Loop.
  • Stroll through an old-growth forest to the park’s tallest waterfall, Ramsey Cascades.
  • Visit the tallest point in the park, Clingman’s Dome for 360-degree views.
  • Wind down with a glass of sweet wine from one of several wineries in Gatlinburg, such as Sugarland Cellars.
  • Check out three waterfalls along the Deep Creek Loop Trail.
  • Fall colors can be seen anywhere in the park. A few great viewpoints include: Cades Cove Loop, Clingman’s Dome, Newfound Gap, and Luftee Overlook

By Sarah + Matt, Two Outliers

Fall tones over Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cumberland Island National Seashore in October (Georgia, Southeast)

While not quite a national park, Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia is another recommended East Coast location, especially for photography fans.

October is an ideal month to visit Cumberland Island National Seashore since it’s when the temperatures finally begin to cool down and the blazing heat and humidity of summer fade to distant memory.

Since the island is so far south and is primarily covered by maritime forest, you won’t find much in the way of fall color during the month of October – just greenery and Spanish moss as far as the eye can see.

The national seashore is located on a barrier island along the stunningly beautiful Georgia Coast.

The only way to get to the island is by passenger ferry or private boat, and you’ll need to make your reservation in advance with the National Park Service via the Cumberland Island Ferry website.

Make note that you can bring your own bicycle to use while exploring the island, but you’ll need to reserve a spot in advance for it on the ferry.

The ferry departs out of Historic Downtown St. Marys, and guests can park at the visitor center located at 113 St. Marys St W, St. Marys, GA 31558.

Jacksonville, Florida is the closest major city, located 36.9 miles away — a 30 to 45-minute drive, depending on how heavy traffic is on I-95.

Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is the closest airport, and Uber or Lyft are readily available to transport passengers.

There are gas stations along the route in Jacksonville and St. Marys.

Make sure you pack all the snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and water you’ll need, since there are no convenience stores on Cumberland Island!

The Timucua Tribe was indigenous to the island until Spanish settlers arrived in the mid-16th century and established a Catholic missionary.

The island was also home to wealthy industrialists and enslaved African Americans during the mid-1700s and early 1800s.

Cumberland Island Lodgings & Hotels

There are multiple campgrounds available on the island, but please note the sites often book months in advance.

Sea Camp is an ideal campsite for beginners and families, since the area contains camping necessities such as bear coolers for storing food and trash.

The hike-in sites on the island don’t include electricity or running water, and there are no heated showers.

Make note that the Cumberland Island Wilderness Area is typically closed to all visitation — including camping — for one weekend during the month of October due to a managed hunt held by the Department of Natural Resources to help control hog and deer populations.

As an alternative to camping, the luxurious Greyfield Inn, built by the Carnegie family in the 1890s, offers stylish accommodations, cozy fireplaces, fresh cut flowers, and daily farm-to-table meals.

Cumberland Island in October Temperatures, Bugs and Animals

The average high during October is 79 degrees, while lows hover around 60 degrees.

October is the tail end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, so always keep an eye on the weather forecast and pay close attention to alerts.

Seasonal dips in temperature combined with rare humidity during October can cause an eerily beautiful mist to settle in amongst the massive Southern live oaks dotting the island, creating an ethereal setting that’s perfect for photography buffs.

One downside to October is that warmer days with no wind bring out the sand gnats or “no see-ums” (annoying little buggers that do their best to make visitors miserable).

The old-fashioned Avon brand “Skin So Soft” product helps to repel sand gnats, as do long sleeves and mesh coverings.

Other critters to be aware of as you’re exploring the island include chiggers, wild hogs, snakes, and alligators.

Make note that raccoons and ants will get into any food you leave out while camping, so if your campsite doesn’t provide bear coolers, you’ll need to string your food and hang it from tree limbs.

Pay close attention to the instructions the ferry boat guides provide on the off chance that you run into a wild hog or encounter the untamed horses that roam the island!

Things to do at Cumberland Island National Seashore

  • The best way to explore 17-mile-long Cumberland Island is by bike. 
  • Hiking is also fun for the adventurous (try the Terrapin Trail or the Rollercoaster Trail). 
  • Photographers will love photographing the wild horses of Cumberland Island and exploring the Dungeness Ruins. 
  • Visitors can take a tour of the Carnegie family’s former winter residence, the Plum Orchard Mansion.
  • Anyone who signs up for the Lands & Legacies tour will be able to visit the small church where John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette were married.

By Erin Clarkson, Savannah First-Timer’s Guide

Spanish moss trees at Cumberland Island Georgia

Everglades National Park in October (Florida, Southeast)

Visiting Everglades National Park in October is a great idea, as the summer rains have passed and the humid weather has turned toward fall. 

The added rain however, means an abundance of wildlife to see.

While the Everglades are green year round, October is especially lush and vibrant from the summer rainy season, and blooming foliage and orchids are more readily seen.

The Florida Everglades occupy most of the entire southern Florida peninsula and Everglades National Park makes up the majority of this territory. 

However, there are several preserves adjacent to the park which make the entire tip of south Florida feel like wilderness. 

Located between Miami and Naples to the west, it will take you 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to the National Park from both Miami (65 miles) and Naples/Marco Island (25-40 miles).

You can drive to the Park’s four Visitors Centers and explore much of the park from there. 

The Gulf Coast Visitor Centeris closest to southwest Florida in Everglades City, while the Shark Valley, Ernest F. Coe, and Flamingo Visitor Centers are accessible from Miami.

Visitors can fly into Miami International Airport (37 miles) to access the Park via southeast Florida and Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers (74 miles) for southwest Florida.

Don’t forget to fill up on gas before you visit.

Gas stations and convenience stores are plentiful in Homestead, Miami, Flamingo, Marco Island, Everglades City, and Carneystown.

The Everglades are rich in native history which you can still experience today. 

The Calusa people occupied the southwest region, while the Tequesta, Jega, and Ais tribes were located along the east coast of south Florida. 

The region was called Pa-hay-Okee by indigenous peoples which translates into “grassy waters.”

Everglades Lodgings & Hotels

Camping in the Everglades is a wild adventure.

There are two drive-in campgrounds accessible from the Homestead entrance of the park: Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground, although Lone Pine Key is only open from November to May. 

Reservations are available for RV’s and tents along with first come first serve campsites. 

For something more unique, Flamingo campground also has several houseboats and eco-tents for rent.

You can also go glamping and rent a chickee cabin at Trail Lakes Campground in southwest Florida.

Everglades National Park

Everglades in October Temperatures, Bugs, and Animals

In October in the Florida Everglades, expect average temps between 70-85 degrees F (21-31 C). 

Early October may see more humidity than later in the month, and this is still hurricane season, though most activity will have passed for the season. 

Hiking will be wet and dry so be sure and pack for wet conditions (water hiking shoes and rain jackets) and lots of sun (SPF long sleeve shirts). 

Silk camp sacks are perfect for sleeping in the balmy nights. 

As for wildlife viewing, you’ll see lots of water birds and alligators around though not typically in the campsites. 

Bring plenty of insect repellent for the bugs at night and during the day.

You may also like our Florida bucket list.

Things to do in Everglades National Park 

  • Take the 2-hour tram eco-tour in Shark Valley Visitors Center
  • Go bicycling along the Snake Bight Trail near Flamingo
  • Visit the Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee
  • Take a boat tour from the Flamingo or Gulf Coast Visitor Centers
  • Go kayaking through the mangroves with this tour
  • Go camping in elevated Chickee huts
  • Hunt for the elusive Ghost Orchid, in blooms for less than a day

By Lori, Naples Florida Travel Guide

American Alligator in Florida Wetland. Everglades National Park

Midwest National Parks

This section includes parks in Michigan and Ohio and one of the parks is the least visited but most returned to!

Isle Royale National Park in October (Michigan/Midwest)

Those willing to brave the rugged journey and chilly weather to visit Isle Royale in October are rewarded with spectacular landscapes of crimson and golden foliage.

Known as the “crown jewel” of the NPS, Isle Royale has the distinction of being both the least visited and also the most re-visited of all the national parks.

Prior to becoming a national park in 1940, it was a boomtown for logging and copper mining, as well as a popular hunting lodge destination for the French colonial elite.

Before the French arrived, the island was known by its native name Minong, which can be translated as “a good place to get copper”, and evidence of  indigenous copper mining dates back 4500 years.

The Isle Royale National Park is actually an archipelago of islands located off the northern coast of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with the park’s northern boundary sharing the border with Canada.

Isle Royale is about 15 miles from the shores of both Ontario and Minnesota and 56 miles from Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

The nearest major airports are Minneapolis-Saint Paul MSP (373mi), Duluth DLH (263), Green Bay GRB (257 mi), Marquette MQT (141 mi), and Houghton CMX (41 mi) – but the park itself can only be reached by seaplane or ferry from one of four gateway cities.

Ferries depart in Minnesota from Grand Portage or in Michigan from Houghton and Copper Harbor, and take about 6 hours depending on the weather.

Seaplanes depart from either Houghton, Michigan or Grand Marais, Minnesota and are much quicker but also much more expensive.

If you have your own boat to travel in, you can also dock yourself at Isle Royale on a first-come-first-serve basis.

There are two convenience stores located on the main island, Rock Harbor Store and Windigo Marina, both of which carry a standard selection of groceries and outdoors supplies.

The park closes for the season on the last day of October each year – so supplies may run low near the end of the month and you will want to be sure you are prepared with everything you may need.

Isle Royale Lodgings & Hotels

There are 36 campsites located throughout Isle Royale, most of which are very rugged with only a compost toilet and are accessible only by foot or watercraft.

The required overnight permits are free for groups of six or fewer, and are obtained upon arrival.

For groups of seven or more people, overnight permits are $25 and require advance reservations.

All campsites on Isle Royale are obtained on a first-come-first-serve basis and have no occupancy limits during the month of October.

Daisy Farm Campground is the most popular campsite, as it has flushing toilets and seasonal amphitheater facilities.

Rock Harbor Lodge is the only hotel open throughout Isle Royale, and reservations must be made by phone or email to ensure coordination with your transportation schedule.

Isle Royale October Temperature & Bugs

Expect the weather to be chilly at best in October – with highs averaging 51 degrees fahrenheit and average lows around 35.

Average rainfall is 11 days in October, so expect to have at least some wet weather and be sure to pack warm and waterproof layers.

The summers in Isle Royale can be quite buggy, but by late September almost all have died off for the season.

There aren’t any venomous creatures or ticks throughout the entire national park – meaning that whatever you do encounter will not be any cause for alarm!

However, during autumn the male moose (known as bulls) are in rut and will be more agitated and potentially aggressive than usual, so be sure to give any that you do encounter extra space.

Things to do in Isle Royale

  • Enjoy a three hour cruise down the Portage Canal on the Ranger III
  • Catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights if you’re lucky!
  • Hike the 165 miles of rugged trails throughout the island
  • Learn about Isle Royale’s history through the Daisy Farm speaker series
  • Rent a kayak or canoe and explore the archipelago
  • Take a ranger guided tour to Passage Island Lighthouse, known by the locals as “Lookout Louise”
  • Try your hand at fishing at one of the inland waterways
  • Go scuba diving in one of the nine shipwrecks below Lake Superior

By Rose Campau

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio/Midwest)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an excellent place to visit during October because fall foliage colors typically peak around mid-October, making this month the best time to see them.

Much of the history of the park, also known as CVNP, is centered around the Ohio & Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River to facilitate trade and transportation.

Many indigenous tribes have passed through and called the Cuyahoga River Valley home.

The Cuyahoga River served as a line between indigenous land and European settlements in 1795.

Located in northeast Ohio, Cuyahoga sits 19.7 miles from Cleveland and the southern border of the park only is 7.9 miles from Akron.

The drive from Cleveland takes about 27 minutes, but driving from Akron can be as short as 14 minutes.

Both of these cities have airports with cars available, but Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is the larger of the two with more flight options.

Once in the park, you will need a car to get to and from most of the Cuyahoga spots you’ll want to explore.

You’ll need to fill up with gas prior to visiting the park because there aren’t any gas stations within park borders.

You’ll find a gas station and convenience store just outside the Brecksville Reservation area and another near the I-77 and I-80 interchange, both of which are on the west side of the park.

Head towards Macedonia to the northeast of Cuyahoga for more convenience store options.

Stop at the Trail Mix Peninsula store to find local snacks and other park merchandise.

Cuyahoga Lodging & Hotels

This national park is a little different than many others because there are no campsites within the park’s borders.

This means no RV camping, and no frontcountry or backcountry tent camping, either.

The closest campground is the Silver Spring Campground, 20 minutes from the Boston Mill Visitor Center.

Silver Spring can accommodate both tents and RVs up to 35 feet in sites with 20 amp electric hookups.

There are two inns within the park borders that you can reserve for overnight stays.

The Inn at Brandywine Falls is located beside the largest waterfall in the park, and the Stanford House is tucked away close to the Towpath Trail between Boston Mills and Brandywine.

Cuyahoga Temperatures, Bugs, and Animals

October temperatures in Cuyahoga can be quite variable, so you’ll need to pack and wear layers.

In the extremes, highs can reach the low 70s, but lows can dip below freezing at night.

Expect average temperatures to reach a high of around 60 during the day and a low of around 40 at night.

Due to cooler temperatures during the month of October, insects like mosquitos are not typically a concern.

You may see woodland animals during one of your hikes, like deer, squirrels, or chipmunks.

Seven species of bats also make their home in Cuyahoga.

Things to do at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in October

  • Take a fall foliage tour on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
  • Hike among the foliage and rock formations on the Ledges Trail
  • View Brandywine Falls
  • Take a bicycle ride on the Towpath Trail
  • Discover the hidden Blue Hen Falls
  • Hike around the historic Everett Covered Bridge
  • Learn the history at the Canal Exploration Center

By Samantha, PAonPause

Blue Hen waterfall at Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio

West Coast National Parks

Mountains, beaches and national parks close to cities – the following West Coast national parks come recommended in October too.

Does arid desert come to mind when you first thinks of parks in the west? Well, some also offer fall colors to beat their East Coast counterparts!

We’ve also included Arizona in this section.

Best National Parks in Washington

Olympic National Park in October (Washington, West/Pacific)

Olympic National Park is a great place to visit in October if you want to avoid crowds and get pretty mild weather.

This is a fantastic time to check out all the stunning beaches and rainforests before the moody, cold, wet winter sets in. 

The park is located in Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula.

You have to rent a car and drive up to Port Angeles or take a ferry from Seattle.

The Ferry can save you time depending on where you are starting. 

The closest airport is SeaTac, around 3 1/2 hours away from Port Angeles (170 miles).

Port Angeles is the main town most visitors stay at when visiting Olympic National Park because it has many restaurants, hotels, and bars.

It is also near the most popular destination in the park, Hurricane Ridge.

The other town you can stay in is Forks, and both towns have many gas stations and convenience stores. 

Eight Olympic Peninsula tribes lived on the Olympic Peninsula: Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Skokomish, Quinault Hoh, Quileute, and Makah.

They have since seceded but still live on the peninsula’s shores, and you can visit their land, but you must purchase a permit to visit. 

Olympic National Park Lodgings & Hotels

There are many options for camping at Olympic National Park as there are 15 campgrounds, but only three accept reservations (Kalaloch, Mora, and the Hoh Rain Forest). 

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a great place to stay because you can dip into the hot springs after a full day of hiking.

There is also Olympic Lodge which is comfortable and is located in Port Angeles. 

Treehouse-Eagles Perch is also a cute, cozy treehouse with a lovely view of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and is only 20 minutes away from Port Angeles. 

Olympic in October Temperatures and Animals

You have to watch out for bears in Olympic National Park throughout the year which is why you should always store your food in a food canister.

Washington has some of the worst mosquitos in the summer but luckily there are no mosquitos by the time October hits. 

In October, the Olympic National Park’s average low temperature is 41.2°F, and the high is 56.8°F.

The temperature is pretty mild but bring layers as it can still get pretty chilly. Especially if you visit Hurricane Ridge.

Also, the Hoh Rainforest is known to be rainy all year long (it is a rainforest, after all), so make sure to pack a good rain jacket and sweater. 

Things To Do At Olympic National Park

  • Explore Ruby Beach
  • Take a dip at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort ($15.00)
  • Hike to Sol Duc Falls
  • Check out Hurricane Ridge
  • Hike Marymere Falls and Mount Storm King
  • Drive around Crescent Lake
  • Hike around the Hoh Rainforest
  • Backpack to Rialto Beach Hole in the wall 

By Michelle Stelly, The Wandering Queen

Olympic National Park reflections of island in water

Mount Rainier National Park in October (Washington, West/Pacific)

Mount Rainier National Park is a great place to visit in October.

The summer crowds thin out, there are still sunny days with no snow, and you’ll find stunning red, orange, and gold foliage.

The park is located in Washington state just 2.5 hours (107 miles) from Seattle and 3 hours (156 miles) from Portland, Oregon.

The closest airport is Sea-Tac International Airport just south of Seattle where you can rent a car.

There aren’t any gas stations in the park, so make sure to fuel up before you arrive.

The closest gas stations and convenience stores are Elbe Mall and Chevron Packwood, both of which are about an hour away from the Henry M. Jackson Visitors Center in the park.

If you’re curious about the park’s history, Mt. Rainier was designated the 5th national park in the US in 1899.

It was inhabited by the Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Muckleshoot, Yakama, and Cowlitz tribes before colonization.

They call it “Takhoma” which translates to “she who gives us water” or “the mountain that was god”.

This is fitting considering there is a 14,411-foot, snow-peaked volcano looming at the park’s center.

You can see it in the distance hundreds of miles in all directions because it’s the 5th tallest peak in the lower 48 states.

Mt. Rainier Lodgings & Hotels

There are 5 sections of Mt. Rainier National Park: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon River/Mowich.

Sunrise and Longmire/Paradise are the most popular sections to visit, but there aren’t any accomodations in Sunrise.

There are three hotels run by the park, but The National Park Inn in Longmire is your best bet for lodging because it’s open year round.

You can also rent a lot of adorable cabins just outside the park.

Ashford and Packwood are the most popular towns to search for rentals, or you can choose to stay at a place like Stormking Cabins that offers a few more resort-like amenities.

If camping is more your scene, there are three campgrounds that offer 480 campsites.

While there are a few campsites at Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh campgrounds that are first-come, first-serve, most campsites require reservations.

Note that many campsites close for the season by October 10th and none of them offer RV hookups or showers.

Mt. Rainier in October Temperatures, Bugs and Animals

Depending on which area you visit in Mt. Rainier National Park, expect October highs between 48-57°F and lows between 33-38°F.

In general, while it can still be sunny in fall, expect cool and rainy climate.

Pack layers, including a hooded rain coat, winter hat, and gloves.

You’ll also want to make sure to wear waterproof hiking boots and bring an extra change of shoes for the ride home in case they get exceptionally muddy.

Don’t forget to also pack for cooler weather if you’re camping.

That means a warm sleeping bag, strong tent, and plastic bags or tarps for keeping your muddy shoes from messing up your sleeping quarters.

Because there’s a 13,000-foot elevation change in the park, you may come across a ton of different animals.

In fact, there are 65 mammal, 14 amphibian, 5 reptile, 182 bird, and 14 native fish species that call Mt. Rainier National Park home.

Some of the most common you may see are marmots, foxes, deer, and a variety of birds.

There are also black bears in the park, so be cautious if you’re camping and keep your food separate from your tent.

While the cooler weather in October means less insects, there are still mosquitoes in the park so pack bug spray.

Things to do in Mt. Rainier National Park

  • Explore the best hikes at Mount Rainier National Park for fall colors, such as Skyline Trail, Bench & Snow Lakes, and Naches Peak Loop.
  • Visit Mt. Fremont Lookout at sunrise or sunset for epic photos.
  • Stop at Reflection Lake on a clear day to see the mountain symmetrically reflected in the water.
  • Seek out breathtaking waterfalls, such as Narada Falls, Myrtle Falls, or Comet Falls.
  • Take a guided wildlife tour with Northwest Trek or horseback tour with EZ Times Horse Rides.
  • Hunt for mushrooms (permits required) or huckleberries.
  • Revel in even more fall festivities at a pumpkin patch and farm like Maris Farms or Sidhu Farms about two hours north of Mt. Rainier National Park.
  • Stop in Tacoma for dinner.

By Adria, The Emerald Palate

Mt Rainer snow capped mountain against fall colors

North Cascades National Park in October (Washington, West/Pacific)

North Cascades National Park, located in northern Washington state, has some of the United States’ most stunning fall foliage, given the fact that not only does its deciduous trees turn brilliant autumnal colors, but also some of its evergreens (called larches) and the shrubs and wildflowers blanketing its valleys. 

With the red leaves of deciduous trees, like maple and cedar; the golden needles of the larches; and the scarlet and burnt orange colors of its wildflowers and shrubs, hiking through the North Cascades in October feels like walking through some sort of autumnal Candyland. 

Most travelers drive north from Seattle to get to the North Cascades; given the park’s enormous footprint (over one thousand square miles!), it can take anywhere from about two and a half to five hours to drive to the national park (ranging from around 100 to 300 miles away). 

Seattle offers two international airports – Seattle Tacoma International Airport and King County International Airport-Boeing Field- both of which offer car rental services (which you’ll certainly need to get to and around North Cascades). 

Given how expansive the park is, you’ll almost certainly have to gas up along the way.

While the park is largely untouched wilderness, there’s a handful of towns located along the North Cascades Highway that runs through the southern section of the park, which offers gas, including Marblemount and Winthrop. 

Similarly, if you forgot anything you need for your trip or are just hankering for a snack, you can find convenience stores in the small towns dotting the North Cascades Highway, like the Skagit General Store in Newhalem or Pardner’s Mini Market in Winthrop. 

While the North Cascades are sparsely populated now, many Indigenous people lived on this beautiful land for thousands of years, including the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Samish Indian Nation, Nooksack Tribe, Lummi Nation, Stó:lō Nation, Nlaka’pamux Nation, Colville Confederated Tribes, and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation.

North Cascades Lodgings & Hotels

North Cascades has three official campgrounds: Goodell Creek Campground,Gorge Lake Campground, and Colonial Creek Campground.

Each of these campgrounds are closed for reservations past September but are usually open the first few weeks of October on a first-come, first-serve basis.

While Colonial Creek Campground is for tent campers only, Goddell Creek and Gorge Lake have sites for smaller RVs.

If you’re instead looking for a cozy hotel, the charming town of Winthrop, on the eastern side of the park, is an awesome homebase.

Winthrop, the perfect mix of rustic and kitschy, is a gold rush town from the 1800s that retains its original wooden boardwalks and Wild Western facades.

There’s many homey hotels here with distinct Wild West vibes, like the Mount Gardner Inn. 

North Cascades in October Temperature, Fall Colors & Wildfire Smoke

The North Cascades in October offers perfectly cool weather for hiking, with average highs around 52° F, but dropping to an average of 32° F at night.

Between the high elevation and the intensity of many of the hikes in the park, bringing layers is important- it’s not unusual to need both shorts and a puffer jacket all in one day!

It’s best to visit the park in the first half of October- not only will the park’s fall colors be at their peak, but any later than that, you may be risking possible snowfall, especially on high elevation hikes.

There may be a few mosquitoes left in early October, but the North Cascades are thankfully pretty non-buggy in the fall.

One thing to look out for, though, is wildfire smoke.

Wildfire season in Washington spans from July through October – depending on whether there’s any active fires and the direction of the wind, the park’s impressive mountain ranges can be occluded in smoke. 

You may also like our guide on backpacking in national parks.

Things to do in North Cascades

  • Hike the Heather Maple Loop Pass, the quintessential trail to see the North Cascades’ most stunning fall colors
  • Drive along the scenic North Cascades Highway to see tiny charming towns and towering mountains
  • Visit the Diablo Lake Overlook to take in its beautiful turquoise waters
  • Take a ferry to the adorable town of Stehekin
  • Stargaze at night

By Jessica Schmit, Uprooted Traveler

Orange fall colors at North Cascades Washingtn

Best National Parks in California

Yosemite National Park in October (California/Pacific)

One of the best times to go to Yosemite National Park is in the month of October.

The busy summer season has started dying down but the weather is still warm enough to enjoy all of the hiking trails and scenic drives at the higher elevations.

Most of the hiking trails will still be open in October as well.

Yosemite is located in eastern central California.

Fresno is the closest major city to Yosemite.

It is about 60 miles from the park and it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there.

The drive is easy via CA-41N for the majority of the drive.

There are a few Chevon gas stations inside the park including one at Yosemite Village.

The fall colors will be in full display in the month of October.

The Bigleaf maples and California black oaks turn a bright yellow and bronze color.

There are some red and scarlet colors added by the Pacific dogwoods, poison oaks, and sugar maples.

You can see the beautiful yellow aspens along Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road.

The Yosemite Chapel area has beautiful red maples.

Indigenous people lived in Yosemite Valley for about 5,500 years, calling the park Awooni or Owwoni for (gaping) “large mouth.” 

This secluded land provided them with protection from the advancement of colonists for Spain, Mexico, and the United States. 
This all came to an end with the start of the California Gold Rush.

Yosemite Lodging & Hotels

When looking for a place to stay in Yosemite it takes some preparation and flexibility.

There are no nearby towns to stay in which can make it challenging to find a place to stay.

It is important to book your lodging as early as you can.

When looking at places, you also need to consider how far away it is from the things you want to see in the park.

Some of the available options might be over an hour away from the park.

The Ahwahnee is the nicest place to stay in Yosemite but can cost upwards of $500 per night.

The Yosemite Valley Lodge is a great option in the park and costs about $200-$300 per night but it is very close to Yosemite Falls.

Curry Village offers heated and unheated canvas tents costing $100-$150 per night.

Yosemite does not have any first-come, first-served campgrounds open.

There are about 13 campgrounds inside Yosemite but you will need to make reservations very early to get a spot.

Yosemite in October Temperature and Bugs

The average high in October is 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the overnight low hovers around 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are usually about three days with rain throughout the month.

You will want to bring a light jacket for early morning hikes or evening activities after the sun has gone down.

Yosemite also features in our guide to National Parks in February which includes a Yosemite wedding!

Things to do at Yosemite National Park

  • Enjoy the fall foliage along Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road
  • Have a picnic at the Yosemite Creek Picnic Area for more fall foliage and photo opportunities
  • Enjoy the views from Glacier Point
  • Hike to Vernal Falls
  • Stroll through Cook’s Meadow to enjoy beautiful views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome

By Candice, CS Ginger

Blue skies at Yosemite National Park

Pinnacles National Park in October (California/Pacific)

Full of amazing colors, Pinnacles National Park is a must-visit national park in October.

It’s a great time to see fall foliage with fewer crowds.

Trees including the Fremont Cottonwood and the Western Sycamore turn green to yellow.

Plus one of the park’s main attractions, Bear Gulch Cave is entirely open the last week of October.

The park is located in central California.

Even though Pinnacles National Park is a relatively small park, the park has two sections – the East side and the Westside – that don’t connect each other.

The east side is located in Paicines and the west side is located in Soledad.

Indigenous people have lived around the park for over 10000 years.

The park has built relationships with the Chalon Indian Nation and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to foster eco-cultural projects.

To get to Pinnacles by car, you arrive at the east entrance via Hwy 101 North from King City and the west entrance via Hwy 101 North from Soledad.

It is located 76.3 miles away from San Jose (1 hour and 25 minutes) and 123 miles away from San Francisco (2 hours and 10 minutes).

The closest gas station can be found at Soledad, 12 miles away from the West entrance.

The closest airport is Monterey Regional Airport with 6 different car rental providers.

This airport is located 48.5 miles away (1 hour and 4 minutes).

While there are no grocery stores or restaurants inside the park, there is a food section in the Pinnacles Campground Store.

The park has a campground, Pinnacles Campground, that is open year-round and can be reserved at

Pinnacles Lodgings & Hotels

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, book your stay at the Inn at the Pinnacles. It’s located less than 2 miles away from the Western entrance of the park. 

Pinnacles Temperatures, Bugs, and Animals

Since it’s located inland, Pinnacles National Park has a climate similar to the Mediterranean region – summers are dry and hot while winters are mild and wet.

October is the perfect time to visit since the weather is comfortable.

The average highs are in the 80s F and the average lows are in the 40s F.

Make sure you’re wearing sunscreen and sun hats for when you’re hiking under the scorching sun.

You’ll also find a lot of different wildlife due to the diversity of habitats at Pinnacles.

The park is known to have around 16 species of bats and 400 species of bees – the highest per unit area on the planet.

Be aware of dangerous and endangered species including snakes and mountain lions. 

Things to do at Pinnacles National Park 

  • Explore Talus Caves
  • Hike the Moses Spring Trail to admire the fall colors 
  • Picnic at the Bear Gulch Reservoir 
  • Spot one of the 160+ species of birds 
  • Stargaze the clean and clear sky
  • Rock climb along Machete Ridge

By Rasika, Bae Area and Beyond

Fall colors and rock at Pinnacles National Park

Death Valley National Park in October (Eastern California/Pacific)

Located on the eastern side of the Panamint mountains in California and the western side of the Amargosa mountains in Nevada, Death Valley National Park is one of the best US National Parks to visit in October.

In October, the milder temperatures allow you to take full advantage of the best things to do in Death Valley and it’s also warm enough for camping overnight.

The best way to get to Death Valley National Park is via car. You can access the park through the western entrance in California by taking highway 178 from Ridgecrest to Furnace Creek.

The eastern side of the park can be accessed via highway 95 out of Las Vegas. 

Las Vegas is the most convenient airport with plenty of car hire options. Before the 2 hour drive (126 miles) it’s good to stock up on water and supplies in Las Vegas or along the way in Pahrump.

There are also a few areas to get gas and food in the park at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek, each with a small gas station and convenience store.

The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe would migrate to Death Valley in winter to escape the cold for hundreds of years before western expansion.

Death Valley Lodgings & Hotels

There are 9 campgrounds that are first come first served. Sunset and Stovepipe Wells are most likely to have a spot. Furnace Creek has sites and RV spots that can be reserved ahead.

Hotel accommodations include The Inn at Death Valley or the Panamint Springs Resort, which has cabin rentals and additional RV spots.

Death Valley in October Temperatures, Bugs and Animals

October temperatures hover around 85°F highs and around 60°F lows with no rain. 

Wear long sleeve, lightweight, polyester or wool clothing to keep your body cool throughout the day and protect your skin from the sun. A light summer sleeping bag will keep you comfortable at night. 

Death Valley is virtually bug free but spiders and rattlesnakes can be an issue.

Look first before you put your hands or feet inside of something.

Things to do in Death Valley 

  • Climb the highest dune at Mesquite Flat Dunes to see great views.
  • View the incredible star filled sky at Furnace Creek Campground.
  • Walk out on the salt flat at Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point in the USA.
  • Enjoy sunrise or sunset at Zabriskie Point and walk abound through the otherworldly landscape.
  • Drive up to the Artist’s Palette to view some of the most spectacular colored rock formations in the world.
  • Hike up to the Natural Bridge for an easy 1 mile out and back hike in a shaded canyon.

By Jenifer, The Evolista

White sand at Death Valley

Joshua Tree National Park in October (California/Pacific)

Joshua Tree National Park is great all year, but October and fall is one of the best times to visit Joshua Tree thanks to the perfect fall weather.

Located in Southern California, Joshua Tree is easy to access from several California cities as well as Las Vegas and Phoenix.

You can easily take a day trip to Joshua Tree from Los Angeles (150 miles, 2 hours), San Diego (165 miles, 3 hours), Las Vegas (200 miles, 3 hours) or even Phoenix (225 miles, 3 hours).

Palm Springs is one of the closest cities, located just 40 miles away, which makes it a popular base to explore the area.

All four of the major cities have airports that are easily accessed from the rest of the country to start your trip or rent a car.

There are no gas stations in the park though, so plan ahead.

The closest gas stations are in Twentynine Palms, Indio, Yucca Valley, and Palm Springs.

There are also no stores within the park, but you can find convenience stores in all of the surrounding cities and towns.

In the past, the area was inhabited by the Serrano, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi and Mojave tribes who either used the area as a transitional area or lived here long term.

Joshua Tree National Park Lodgings & Hotels

There are 5 campgrounds in Joshua Tree that require reservations ahead of time and 3 first-come, first-serve campgrounds.

Keep in mind that the campgrounds that do not require reservations often fill up fast during weekends in October thanks to the beautiful weather.

The campsites requiring reservations are Blackrock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, Jumbo Rocks, and Ryan.

The campsites not requiring reservations are White Tank, Belle and Hidden Valley.

Airbnbs and rentals are extremely popular in the area with tons of Instagrammable options including everything from glamping to cabins to luxurious homes.

There are also a number of hotels in the area with lots of options in Palm Springs and Yucca Valley.

The Best Western Joshua Tree Hotel & Suites located in Yucca Springs is one of the several options there that are just 20 minutes from the park entrance.

Joshua Tree in October Temperatures, Bugs and Animals

With temperatures cooler than the burning heat of summer but not so cold as the freezing mornings and evenings of winter, the weather in October is perfect.

Highs reach 81F and lows get into the 50s, so wear layers that are easy to shed and add back throughout the day.

There is plenty of wildlife in Joshua Tree, but you do not need to worry about bugs or dangerous animals as much as many other places.

You may want to take some bug spray but it is often not needed.

You are unlikely to come across dangerous animals throughout Joshua Tree, but you should be aware especially if hiking in low traffic areas.

Things to Do at Joshua Tree National Park

  • Hike to Arch Rock for an easy hike
  • Check out Skull Rock but you can see it from the road if you do not want to hike
  • Enjoy the Cholla Cactus Garden for a unique landscape
  • Stop to see the famous Joshua Trees the park is known for (best seen along Park Boulevard near the West Entrance)
  • Hike to Barker Dam which may be dry
  • Take advantage of the dark sky for some stargazing at night

By Christine Wheeler, Live Love Run Travel

A lone tree in desert at Joshua Tree National Park

Denali National Park in October (Alaska)

Visiting Denali National Park in October is a great time to experience the Alaska’s park’s beauty without the summer crowds, and especially for photographers to capture the fleeting but vibrant fall colors of the tundra.  

It’s also possible to spot the Northern Lights at this time of year.  

A visit in October can also be rewarded, as the mountains are often snow-capped and dramatic, accentuating Denali’s beautiful and stark wilderness 

Most visitors add a Denali to their Alaska road trip itinerary, as it is easier to visit the park if you have your own car.  

Denali is located about 6 hours from Anchorage by car and 8 hours by the Alaska Railroad. If you are visiting Denali from Fairbanks, it’s just 3 hours by car and 4 hours by train.  

The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917 and it is the homeland of five Northern Athabascan Indian groups; Dena’ina, Koyukon, Lower Tanana, Upper Kuskokwim, and Western Ahtna.

The original park was designated a wilderness area, the first national park created specifically to protect wildlife, and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980.  

Today the park accommodates a wide variety of visitor use including wildlife viewing, mountaineering, cycling, and even dog sledding during wintertime.  

There is a gas station located in Cantwell (30 miles south) and Healy (11 miles north) that are open all year round. 

You can also find backpacking and camping stores outside of the park, or you may wish to stock up on food and water in Anchorage or Fairbanks. 

Denali National Park Lodging & Hotels

Riley Creek Campground is located just inside the park entrance. It is the largest campground in Denali, with sites that can accommodate tents or RVs, up to 40′ in length.  

This campground is open year-round, and nightly fees are not charged except in summer (so, it is free from mid-September—mid-May each year). This is the only campground open outside of the summer season. 

Most hotels in the area close in mid-September. Some year-round accommodations remain open in Healy, a small town 11 miles north of the park entrance. A good option is the Aurora Denali Lodge with a great location close to the park.  

Denali National Park sign

Denali in October Temperatures and Bugs 

Expect to see average high-temperature from a frosty 42.8°F (6°C) in October, to a subzero cold 24.8°F (-4°C).  

Another great reason to visit Denali in October is that the mosquitoes are more prevalent during summertime.  

Wildlife viewing in October is much less common than in summer months, though caribou, moose, bears, and wolves still roam the park, as well as smaller animals like foxes, coyotes, and resident birds. 

It is recommended to hike in Denali with a bear spray, even during fall time.  

Things to do at Denali National Park  

  • Hiking: Many hiking trail options close to the entrance of the park such as the Savage River and the Horseshoe hiking 
  • Sightsee: You can drive up to 30 miles into the park, to the Teklanika River and the views are stunning 
  • Wildlife View: Bears, moose, caribou, foxes, and even the occasional wolf can be spotted from the park road, making the experience even more special. 

By Paula, from Paula Pins the Planet

Denali National Park lake with mountain

Haleakala National Park in October (Hawaii)

One of the best national parks in Hawaii to visit is Haleakala National Park located in Maui. October is a fantastic time to visit the park with pleasant weather and less crowds visiting at this time of the year. 

Where to Stay Close to Haleakala National Park

If you want to stay in the area, go up country with smaller inns and apartment units available in the immediate areas outside of the park area.

Haleakala National Park in October Temperatures

The weather in fall is very comfortable in the mid 80s with night-time lows in the mid 70s and visiting the park is not as crowded compared to summer and winter time which are the peak seasons to visiting the island.

If you do plan on exploring some of the top peaks and trails around the park, weather is cooler and variable with winds and cooler temperatures where you should dress in layers for changing weather patterns. 

Things to do at Haleakala National Park

There are so many outdoor and adventure experiences to do in the national park and these are the top things to do around the park grounds.

  • Visiting during sunrise or sunset above the clouds and seeing the spectacular colors and visual landscape is a highlight to visiting the park area.
  • Hiking down into Haleakala Crater is popular and doing the Halemau’u trail or Sliding Sands trail the most spectacular and scenic trails to do in the crater area
  • Go star gazing – with night time skies clear and dark, you’ll be high up and feel like you can almost touch the stars with so many brilliant stars lighting up the night sky
  • Go to the highest point at Red Hill with spectacular views of the Northwest and the crater below
  • Hike the Pipiwai trail – the lush side of the national park has stunning waterfalls, an amazing bamboo grove and huge old banyan trees to explore. This part of the park called the Kipahulu district is reached from the east side entrance of the park.

Check out Noel’s post on the top things to do in Maui now.

By Noel, This Hawaii Life

Low hanging cloud at Haleakala National Park in Hawaii

Grand Canyon West Rim in October (Arizona/Southwest)

Grand Canyon in October is a good option due to lesser heat, cool climate, and lesser crowds.  

Grand Canyon is located in the northwest corner of Arizona, adjoining the borders of Utah and Nevada.

Therefore this national park can be accessed through Las Vegas, Nevada which is at 2 hr 10 min (125.5 m) 

It is said Grand Canyon was inhabited by Eleven Native American tribes 13,00 years ago in 200 B.C approximately.

At present, you can also see their handicrafts and art exhibits and many craftspeople selling those kinds of articles. 

The nearest major airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas is 2½-hour away from the park by road.

You can reach this by Phoenix or Flagstaff which takes you to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Many travelers do Grand Canyon and Las Vegas trips with California road trip

There is a Gas Station in Dolan Springs on Pearce Ferry Road and a Chevron Station on Pearce Ferry Road.

You can also purchase gas at Grand Canyon West if urgent. Better to fill your gas tank when you leave the airport or your hotel in Las Vegas. 

There is only one restaurant in Grand Canyon West Rim access that serves you cold drinks, dry snacks, ice-creams, and souvenirs.

Better to pack your food and take lots of fluids as this area is brazen, dry, and a desert.  

Grand Canyon Lodgings & Hotels

Grand Canyon West Rim is mostly done as a day trip from Las Vegas by tourists and therefore hotels and lodgings are very few here.

The only place to stay overnight in the park is Hualapai Ranch, run by the Hualapai, as well as Hualapai Lodge, which is located in Peach Springs, about 90 minutes from the West Rim.

Another option is Grand Canyon Western Ranch Resort.  

You can park your minutes away from the world-famous Skywalk for $22 a night.  

Grand Canyon in October Temperatures and Bugs 

The highest daily average temperature is 58°F and the average low temperature is 28°F.  

At night it becomes cooler, so carry warm jackets if you are camping.

Many times skies are cloudy but there is negligible rainfall. Days start to become shorter after 1st October onwards. 

Coyotes, foxes, bats, and mountain lions are all dangerous animals that Grand Canyon tourists may encounter.

Rock Squirrel is the most dangerous creature found in Grand Canyon. 

Things to do at Grand Canyon West Rim 

  • Grand Canyon Skywalk – Extra entrance cost  
  • Eagle Point.  
  • Grand Canyon Jeep Tours. 
  • Guano Point.  
  • The Zip Line at Grand Canyon West. At present, it is closed due to repairing work. 
  • Hualapai Village & Hualapai River Runners.  
  • Helicopter and Aerial View Tours. 
  • Trip to Hoover Dam 

Admission Ticket to Grand Canyon West including access to the viewpoints of Eagle Point & Guano Point and transportation on our hop-on/hop-off shuttle service. With 26$ extra you can add SkyWalk tickets too. 

Free parking is provided for your vehicle, and a hop-on, hop-off shuttle service will take you from point to point. 

Grand Canyon West is an enterprise of the Hualapai Nation and is not affiliated with Grand Canyon National Park. Therefore National Park annual pass would not work here and you need to buy separate entrance tickets. 

By Yukti, Travel With Me 24 x 7  

Grand Canyon West Rim overlook

Big Bend National Park in October (Texas/Southwest)

Big Bend National Park in October is a great option if you want to hike among greenery and butterflies, which you won’t experience during dryer seasons. 

The park is located in West Texas, 412.6 miles from San Antonio (6 hours) 436.7 miles from Austin (6 hours 30 minutes).

Known as Texas’ gift to the nation, Big Bend was federally protected in 1944. 

Obviously, the land was present before the deed was presented to the Federal Government, with the Chisos Mountains in the park thought to have been named for the Chizo Indians. 

The closest airport to the 15th largest national park in the US is Midland/Odessa (235 miles from park headquarters) or El Paso, Texas (330 miles from park headquarters), and both airports have car hire options.

There are two gas stations in Big Bend, Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village.

There is another service station at Terlingua, the town most people visit before entering the Big Bend security gates.

If you forget to pack something or need to stock up on snacks, several convenience stores are located in the following areas: Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin and Castolon. 

Big Bend Lodgings & Hotels

There are three NPS campgrounds in Big Bend; Chisos Basin, Rio Grande and Cottonwood.

All three are open all year round and require reservations in advance. 

RV spots are also available. 

If you struggle to get into the official campsites, consider Stillwell Store RV Park, 20 minutes from the Persimmon Gap Visitors Center.

Chisos Mountain Lodge is the only hotel in the park, but most non-camping visitors drive out of the park at night and stay in Terlingua at accommodations such as Lajitas Golf Resort.

Terlingua is also home to cute tepees, which you can hire. 

Mountains Big Bend National Park Cactus

Big Bend in October Temperatures and Bugs

Expect highs of 81 F and lows of 57 F at Big Bend in October.

While you will just miss the rainy season (May – September), some areas of the park will have more water than the dryer seasons, which could impact hikes, so pack for some wading, mud, and a possible change of hiking plans!

Temperatures are cooler in the morning, so pack layers. 

If you are camping, pack a good quality sleeping bag.

Since Big Bend is mostly arid, mosquitos are not an issue in October, but you need to be aware of snakes and spiders!

Bear and bear poop discovery is not unheard of in October.

Texas also features in our guide to National Parks in March for its bluebonnets.

Things to at Big Bend National Park

Here is a selection of activities which you can read in full in our Big Bend road trip itinerary.

  • Drive along the scenic Old Maverick Road
  • Take a dip at Boquillas Hot Spring (free)
  • Hop aboard the 2-minute boat ride over to Boquillas in Mexico for lunch; remember your passport, no joke!
  • Canoe through Santa Elena Canyon – if hiking, be prepared for mud!
  • Watch the sunset through the mountains
  • Stargaze at night, taking advantage of no light pollution
  • Day trip to Terlingua Ghost Town

By Gemma, Two Scots Abroad Travel Guides

Mountains Big Bend National Park_

National Parks in Western US

Fall activities, springs for swimming and rocky mountains, let’s see what the Western State National Parks have on offer for outdoors fans this October.

The following parks are located in Montana Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Utah in this section.

Rocky Mountain National Park in October (Colorado/Rocky Mountains)

October is one of the best months to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (aka RMNP) in Colorado because there are less crowds, you can see fall foliage, and the autumn temperatures are nice for hiking.

For fall colors, early October is best, and at this time you can normally expect to see stunning yellow Aspen trees on the scenic drives and hiking trails.

This area was inhabited by the Arapaho and Ute Native American tribes in the 1800s, as well as the Shoshoni and Comanche to a lesser extent.

RMNP is located by the town of Estes Park in northern Colorado, 70 miles from Denver International Airport (1 hour 30 minutes) or 110 miles from Laramie, Wyoming (2 hours 10 minutes).

Generally, Denver is the most popular starting point for visiting Estes Park and RMNP, since it’s located relatively close and there are lots of flight options to Denver from other airports.

The town of Estes Park is small, but it has plenty of gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores and other places to resupply, and it’s right outside of the Rocky Mountain National Park boundary.

Estes Park Lodgings & Hotels

There are a number of NPS campgrounds at Rocky Mountain National Park (Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park), although only the Moraine Park campground is available in October, and even then it’s only open through Oct 11th.

Aside from the Moraine Park campground, you can also check availability in the town of Estes Park, where there’s a KOA Holiday and a bunch of other camping options in town.

Rocky Mountain NP doesn’t have any lodging inside the park, but there are lots of hotel options in Estes Park, which sits right on the edge of the national park entrance.

Two cozy hotels to check out are Wildwood Inn and the Rams Horn Resort. Both of these recommendations are located near the town and the national park.

Rocky Mountain in October Temperatures and Animals

Rocky Mountain’s average high temperature is 56 F and the average low is 33 F.

It can get pretty chilly overnight and in the morning, so you’ll want to wear warm layers that you can shed later in the day when you’re doing hikes and other activities in the park.

Campers will also want warm sleeping bags.

Bugs aren’t an issue at RMNP during the month of October, but there are black bears and mountain lions in and around the park, so you’ll want to practice safe food storage and don’t keep any food in tents or open vehicles.

Also remember to stay a safe distance away while enjoying the elk and other wildlife!

Things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Drive the scenic Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the United States
  • Experience the beautiful Sky Pond, the Gem Lake Colorado hike, and other trails in RMNP
  • See wildlife including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and occasional black bears
  • Enjoy fall colors at Old Fall River Road, Trail Ridge Road, and on the hiking trails

By David, The World Travel Guy

Crystal clear lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellowstone National Park in October (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho/Rocky Mountains)

October is a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park if you want to experience the rut (mating season), fewer crowds, and fall colors.

The Yellowstone Rut is a unique experience that generally has many planning their Yellowstone itinerary.

Fall colors generally peak around the last week in September to the first week in October. 

27 Native American Tribes have ties to Yellowstone including The Crow, Umatilla, Shoshone, Bannock, and Blackfeet.

Yellowstone became the USA’s first federally protected National Park on March 1, 1872.

The park is located mainly in Wyoming with some of the park crossing into Montana and Idaho and is about 90 miles from Bozeman (1.5 – 2 hours depending on the entrance).

Because of how massive the park is, there are 5 entrances you can enter the park from.

The most popular airports to fly into include Bozeman, Montana (BZN), Cody, Wyoming (COD) 54.9 Miles (1 hour), and Jackson, Wyoming(JAC) 49 miles (1 hour).

There are 6 gas stations/service stations located at  Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful (Lower and Upper), and Tower. 

You will also find general stores at each of the above stations. 

Blue and yellow Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Lodgings & Hotels

Yellowstone offers 9 lodges and 12 campgrounds, however, many start to close in September and October. Lodging can be found here. 

Old Faithful Snow Lodge closes October 30th and  Mammoth Campground is open all year allowing RVs and trailers. 

While lodging is more difficult inside the park, the Gardiner North Entrance is open all year round and offers lodging outside the park.

Yellowstone in October Temperatures and Bugs

Since Yellowstone is in higher elevation temperatures in October tend to be 47 degrees high and 19 degrees being a low, so you will definitely want to pack warm layers.

It is not unheard of for it to snow in Yellowstone during October.

By October mosquitoes are gone, but you should still check for ticks.

Additionally, Yellowstone is known for its wildlife so you will always want to keep a lookout for bears, bison, wolves, elk, and coyotes. 

Things to do at Yellowstone National Park

  • Experience the Rut – free
  • Visit Mammoth Hot Springs and the Visitor Center – free
  • See the Famous Old Faithful Geyser – free
  • Explore Grand Prismatic Springs – free
  • Take a short hike 
  • Drive through Lamar Valley to see fall colors

By Sam, Find Love & Travel

Yellowstone Calder blue water surrounded by dry land

Grand Teton National Park in October (Wyoming/Rocky Mountains)

Grand Teton National Park is a beautiful place to visit in October for cooler temperatures and to watch the leaves turn from green to bright shades of yellow.

To experience the best fall foliage, plan your visit during the first two weeks of October.

After this, the colorful leaves begin to drop, but the park still has a lot to offer, besides the foliage.

The Tetons have been visited by humans for over 11,000 years, and among the first were the Nomadic Paleo-Indians.

It’s one of the most popular parks in the United States for a reason: the pure beauty of it.

You’ll find the park located in northern Wyoming, just about 5 miles north of the popular tourist town of Jackson, and just under 5 hours northeast of Salt Lake City, Utah.

If flying in, the Jackson Hole Airport is located right within the park. It’s the only airport located within a national park in the country.

Or, Idaho Falls Regional Airport, is about 90 miles (2 hours) west of the park.

Both airports have options for rental cars.

Most people plan to fill up on gas in Jackson before entering the park, as there are multiple convenience stores within the town.

But if you need gas while in the park, there are stations at Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain Lodge, and Colter Bay Village.

Grand Teton Lodgings & Hotels

There are 7 campgrounds within Grand Teton National Park, all of which require reservations ahead of time and most close in early October.

Instead of camping, you may consider staying at The Lodge at Jackson Hole, for beautiful accommodations.

Grand Teton in October Temperatures and Bugs

In October, you can expect highs of 61 degrees F and lows of 40 degrees F.

The mornings and nights will be cooler, but the daytime temperatures are perfect for some awesome outdoor exploring.

You may begin to see some snow flying, especially later in the month, as well as rainfall a few days during October.

In the fall, you won’t see many bugs at Grand Teton National Park, as the temperatures are getting cooler.

Fall time is when wildlife within the park begin to prepare for winter and some animals start to head south.

You may encounter wildlife such as bears, moose, and bison during your visit to Grand Teton National Park.

Things to Do at Grand Teton National Park

  • Drive the 42-mile scenic loop and view wildlife.
  • See the fall foliage at Oxbow Bend and Snake River Overlook.
  • Visit Mormon Row Historic District.
  • Drive to Jenny Lake and take in the views.
  • Hike on over 200 miles of trails.
  • Popular trails: Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls, Phelps Lake, Jenny Lake, Delta Lake.
  • Visit Jackson for shopping and dinner, just a few miles south of the park.

By Kassidy, Kassidy’s Journey

Cloudy day at Grand Teton Mormon Row

Utah National Parks

Arches National Park in October (Utah/Rocky Mountains)

National Park in October is a great option if you want to hike in cooler temperatures with fewer crowds.

The park is located in southern Utah about 5 miles north of Moab.

Arches National Park is known for its arches with the most popular being Delicate Arch which can be seen on the license plates of Utah. 

On the Delicate Arch hiking trail, you can find Ute Indian Petroglyphs. 

The hike takes about 10 minutes and you can see the petroglyphs of a horse and rider and bighorn sheep which is typical of the artwork of the Ute tribe.

Arches National Park is the 44th largest national park in the US.

The closest airport to Arches is 9 miles away in Moab. 

Salt Lake City is about 230 miles away.

There are several gas stations in Moab just 5 miles south of the park entrance. 

There is also a Chevron just a mile north of the entrance on HWY 191.

Moab has everything you need for grocery stores, shops, restaurants and cafes so if you forget anything you can pick it up in Moab.

Arches Lodgings & Hotels

All of the best places to stay are in Moab.  

You will find several resorts and hotels in Moab.

The Red Cliff Lodge is an award winning lodge along the Colorado River with beautiful views.T

here are also budget places to stay in Moab such as the Best Western. 

Arches in October Temperatures 

In October, a typical day in Arches National Park is high of 73.9°F (23.3°C) and a low of 42.1°F (5.6°C).

The weather in October is a lot more comfortable than in the summer which is great because there is not a lot of shade in Arches.

While you won’t see any fall foliage at Arches, you can take the La Sal Mountain Loop Road from Moab to see the fall foliage.

This makes for the perfect weather for hiking.

Remember to bring a hat, sunglasses and plenty of water.It gets cool at night so remember to pack warm layers.

Things to at Arches National Park

  • Drive the Arches Scenic Drive
  • Hike to Delicate Arch at sunset – the most popular hike
  • Hike the 8 mile trek around Devil’s Garden to see Landscape Arch and several other arches.
  • Visit Double Arch a short half mile hike
  • Visit the Windows Section and see the view
  • Hike to Sand Dune Arch for a bit of shade and beautiful views
  • View the Courthouse Towers rock and walk around it

By Nicole, American SW Obsessed

Red stone double Arch at Arches National Park

Bryce National Park in October (Utah/Rocky Mountains)

Bryce Canyon is one of the most spectacular national parks in Utah that sits somewhat off the beaten tourist track.

Although it lacks the fall foliage due to its location in the high desert, it offers fewer crowds on trails and more chilled atmosphere compared to some of the most popular national parks in Utah. 

The first week in October is often the busiest in the month.

Located in south central Utah, Bryce Canyon is a popular stop for many travelers along with the neighboring Zion, which is just 2 hours away from Las Vegas by car. 

If you are traveling to Bryce Canyon from Salt Lake City, you need to take Interstate-15 south toward Beaver and get off on Highway 20 and over to Panguitch. 

If you are traveling to Bryce Canyon from Las Vegas, you need to take Interstate-15 north before taking exit toward Highway 89 that will pass through the town of Panguitch and then Utah State Highway 12 before you arrive to the entrance of the park.

Although Bryce Canyon can be visited on a day trip, you should spend more time at this national park if you want to do hiking and explore its spectacular scenery without being in a hurry. 

Most people drive to Bryce Canyon either from Las Vegas which is 258 miles away or Salt Lake City, which is 267 miles away.

Nearby, Cedar City is a popular overnight stop as it’s only 76 miles away from Bryce Canyon, and takes less than 1.5 hours.

The two major airports in the area are Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, however, there are also domestic  flights from several cities to St. George Regional Airport which is about 2.5 hours away. 

The closest gas station is Sinclair right outside the entrance to Bryce Canyon.

There’s also a convenience store nearby so stock up. 

Like many other areas of south central Utah, Bryce Canyon has a rich indigenous history.

There were three groups of natives in this area including the Anasazi and Fremont and the Paiute.

Bryce National Park Lodgings & Hotels

There are several campgrounds inside the park that can accommodate tents and RVs such as Sunset Campground, which closes October 31, and North Campground which is open all yea round.

They are available on first-come, first-serve basis.

There are also several hotels such as Bryce Canyon Resort and Bryce Up Top Lodge. 

Bryce National Park in October Temperatures, Bugs & Animals

October brings mild weather to Bryce Canyon with plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures ranging between 32 F at night and low 60’s during the day.

If you plan on visiting Bryce during this time, make sure to bring plenty of layers.

Since Bryce Canyon is located in the high desert, it doesn’t have my bugs or insects.

Things to do at Bryce National Park

  • Hike Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trails to enjoying clear dark skies at night.
  • Take sunrise photos of thousands of hoodoos, spire-like formations inside the canyon light up in the warm colors.
  • Check out the Visitor Center exhibits on local geology, wildlife, star gazing, historic and prehistoric culture.

By Daria, Discovery Nut

Zion National Park in October (Utah/Rocky Mountains)

Visiting Zion National Park in October is a great time to see the park without the crowds.

Zion is located in southern Utah about an hour from St. George and just under three hours from Las Vegas.  

Las Vegas is the best airport to fly into when visiting Zion as it is the cheapest for most people to fly into.  Las Vegas is 170 miles away and Salt Lake City is 311 miles.

The park is located near Springdale, Utah and you can find everything you need here. 

There are several gas stations in Springdale including a Chevron and a Shell Station.

You can also find great restaurants, bars and cafes in Springdale.

The area that Zion is located on today was home to the Souther Paiute.

They called it Mukuntuweap which means straight canyon.

It was initially named Mukuntuweap in 1872 when it become Mukuntuweap National Monument but changed to Zion when it was taken under federal protection in 1919.

Zion Lodgings & Hotels

There are several places to stay in Springdale near Zion.

There are numerous Springdale hotels and plenty of choices from luxury resorts to budget accommodation.

Cable Mountain Lodge is located among the red cliffs of Zion National Park while still being convenient for eating out, and access to Springdale shops.

You will find all of the hotel chains in Springdale but make sure you book early as Zion is very popular and rooms to get sold out.

If you are traveling onto other parks you might choose to stay in St George which is an hour away or Hurricane which is half an hour away.

Zion in October Temperatures

Zion in October has average temperatures of 52 during the day and a low of 29 degrees at night

There are several places to see the fall foliage in Zion in October. 

You can take the shuttle along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to see the trees.

There are lots of great hikes for fall foliage too such as the Riverside Walk, Hidden Canyon, or Kolob Canyon.

Things to at Zion National Park

  • Hike Angels Landing which is one of the most beautiful day hikes in the world
  • Hike Observation Point which has beautiful views without the chains like Angels Landing
  • Hike to the Lower Emerald Pools and check out the waterfalls
  • Drive to the Kolob Canyon section of Zion and drive the scenic drive
  • Check out the Zion Human History Museum to see the history of Zion
  • Take the Zion Park Scenic Bypass to see the beautiful fall foliage

By Nicole, SW National Parks

Scenic drive in Zion National Park Utah with blue skies

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National Parks in October and Fall Colors

You may also like our guide to the best of the US in November.

Best Places to Visit in December in USA: Shop, Ski & Chocolate Box Towns

Image 1 gorgeous beach and blue skies, image 2 white snowy mountain and red ski lift, image 3 street lamp with red ribbon

Ski, shows, shopping and chocolate box towns straight out of a Christmas movie! If you are looking for the best places to visit in December in the USA, this guide details cities with seasonal events, small towns with snow globe scenes and the wicked good ski resorts across the country.

We’ve shared things to do, festivals to attend and provided a rough idea of accommodation prices for each destination.

If you prefer to travel on a budget, check out our guide to the cheapest citifies to visit in the US.

This article also features temperatures but please note that weather and temperatures don’t always meet expectations which is out of our control.

Choosing a destination for lights? Here’s our guide to the best cities to visit that take decorations very seriously!

Just browsing? Consider the best places to visit in the US in November too.

Best US Cities to Visit in December

Chicago in December for Tree Lighting & Holiday Shopping

Only those who can brave the cold travel to Chicago, Illinois in winter – are you badass enough?

Shoppers love the Christkindlmarket Christmas Market at Daley Plaza in the Loop and Wrigleyville at Gallagher Way for sparkly souvenirs, mulled wine and carol singing.

This is a legit European influenced market with ties to Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg.

You can hire skates and take advantage of indoor rink facilities at Mccormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink or glide outdoors at both Millennium and Maggie Daley Park.

There is also a number of pop-up Christmas events such as Frosty’s Bar.

One of the biggest festive events celebrated in Chicago in December is the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony where a 50-foot+ Christmas tree is lit up in Millennium Park. 

Chicago also has a number of Hanukah events in December.

Plan for temperatures ranging from 24°F (-4°C) to 43°F (6°C).

For more tips here’s our guide to Chicago in Christmas.

Hotels wise, the first weekend in December is considerably cheaper than the first weekend in May for Chicago accommodation.

Christmas Tree Magnificent Mile Chicago

Flagstaff in December For Route 66 & North Pole Experience

Cruise along Route 66, stopping for historical monuments, nature and The City of Seven Wonders.

Stick around Flagstaff in Arizona until dark to take advantage of the Dark Skies status.

If stargazing is your thing, visit Lowell Observatory’s Giovale at night and use high-powered telescopes.

For more festive ideas, you can meet Santa at the North Pole Experience and go sledding at Coconino National Forest.

Ski or snowboard at the Arizona Snowball which has 260 inches of average snowfall, 2300 ft. vertical drop and the largest beginner terrain in the Southwest.

Snowshoe the 10 miles of trails at the Arizona Nordic Village (ANV).

Prefer to be indoors? Hire ice skates at the Jay Lively Activity Center and drink at one of the award-winning breweries.

Let someone else do the driving on this Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend tour which departs from Flagstaff.

Don’t forget to get a picture of the Route 66 Flagstaff sign and take part in line dancing at The Museum Club.

Pack layers for highs of 58°F (14°C) and lows of 31°F (-0.5)°F.

Hotel rates for the first weekend in December are double the price compared to the first weekend in May for Flagstaff.

Flagstaff Arizona Museum Club Sign.

New York in December for Shopping, Shows & Igloo Drinks

The Big Apple is one of the best places to travel in December in the US if you love the cheer of the holiday season.

The month is packed with holiday-themed events like The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, holiday concerts, festivals, and New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Huge Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in NYC

If the weather’s particularly wintery, spend the day inside New York’s famous museums within walking distance of Central Park including the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Guggenheim Museum. 

If you can brace the cold, there are a handful of ice skating rinks around NYC including the two most famous, the Wollman Rink in Central Park and the Rockefeller.

Wollman Rink in Central Park with ice skaters

Do your holiday shopping on Fifth Avenue, or at least take a walk to admire the elaborate holiday window displays. 

Still trying to get in the holiday spirit?

Take a 4-hour sightseeing tour to the famous Dyker Heights Christmas lights in Brooklyn.

Red baubles New York Christmas decorations in Midtown Manhattan NYC.

Aside from sightseeing and shopping, New York is also famous for its world-class food.

While there’s certainly an abundance of gourmet dining establishments, New York is really known for simpler dishes including bagels, pizza, and cheesecake. 

Expect chilly December temperatures between 31°F (-0.5°C) and 44°F (6.6°C) with a very small chance of snow.

Don’t let the temperatures put you off rooftop bars though!

Many are heated and some even have fire pits and igloos.

Begin planning your trip early in the year to get the best deals – prices tend to increase in December, especially closer to the holidays. 

You may also like our free 4-day NYC itinerary and you can find out more about New Year’s Eve at Time Square here.

No surprises that NYC hotels are way more expensive than Chicago in December but the first weekend in December is cheaper than the first weekend in May.

Lower plaza ice skating arena of Rockefeller Center during Christmas Manhattan New York City USA.Depositphotos_208417506_S

Portland in December for Festive Events & Light Shows

Portland in Oregon not only lights up the town but also the water.

In December, the Christmas Ships Parade takes place where decorated ships can be seen on the Willamette and Columbia River.

Portland Winter Light Festival is also a popular festive attraction with around 100 art and light installations dotted around the city with a map to follow.

Some artwork pieces are interactive!

Portland is known for its craft beer and fans can try a range at the Holiday Ale Festival.

For more tips, read out guide to Portland at Christmas.

Expect average temperatures between 36°F (2°C) and 48°F (8°C).

It is possible to book a Portland hotel for under $180 a night during the first weekend in December.

You may also like our free Portland itinerary.

Portland Winter Lights Festival Oregon_

Best Winter Wonderland Escapes in the US in December

Anchorage in December for Unique Winter Activities

Anchorage, Alaska offers the ultimate winter adventure complete with dogsledding, glaciers, and maybe a glimpse of the northern lights. 

While the wintery conditions scare away most tourists, Alaskans aren’t afraid to head outdoors to enjoy wintertime activities.

The city’s 105 miles of award-winning ski trails make it easy to plan a day of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. 

If you’re looking for an extra-unique nature adventure, take a day trip to tour the Matanuska Glacier – the largest glacier in the U.S that’s accessible by car.

Avoid the cold temps but still enjoy the sights aboard the Aurora Winter Train that runs through the Alaskan backcountry.

The train connects Anchorage to weekend destinations like Talkeetna and Fairbanks. 

You can also spend a day learning about Alaskan history, art, and science at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

Seafood dominates the local food scene, which means plenty of warm chowders to warm up after a cold day exploring the city. 

The crowds tend to avoid Anchorage in December, which means it’s pretty easy to find affordable accommodations and airfare.

Keep in mind that some hotels and businesses keep winter hours, so check those before making plans. 

Hotel prices are cheaper during the first weekend in December compared to May for Anchorage.

By December, Anchorage will probably already have a coating of ice and snow.

Expect average temperatures between 17°F (-8.3°C) and 25°F (-3.8°C).

Keep an eye on the aurora forecast as well; Alaska’s famously dark winters provide ideal conditions to see the northern lights.

Anchorage also features in our guide to the best places to visit in June as it nearly has 24 hours of daylight!

Kennebunkport in December for an Award-Winning Christmas

Where else are you going to see Santa sailing in on a lobster boat?

Kennebunkport in Maine puts on a host of shows and events during the month of December such as carol singing, spiked cider tastings and decorated home tours.

This popular seaside town calls its festive period, its Christmas Prelude and it is organized annually by the Kennebunkport Business Association.

Old favorites include the Hat Parade and Pooch Parade as well as the tree lighting event where you won’t see a star on top of the tree…

The Christmas Tree Trail invites local businesses to decorate their own tree and visitors can tour the trees using the trail map.

If you like to try new things, there is a cocktail, coffee and choco trail which is guaranteed to make you jolly.

There’s plenty of holiday shopping opportunities in Kennebunkport too.

York in December for Family Festive Fun

Another Maine coastal town know for its Christmas schedule is York.

See Nubble Lighthouse all lit up, search for candy canes and shop at the local fayer.

The official Festival of Lights events include ornament painting, breakfast with Santa and a parade on the ground and in the water.

Expect festive floats in York!

Newport in December for Rhode Island Mansion Decorations

The tiny state of Rhode Island is bursting with holiday spirit come December – especially the colonial coastal town of Newport. 

December visitors should tour Newport’s Gilded Age mansions, which are always decked to the halls for the holidays.

For a unique twist on a holiday classic, try to catch a performance of A Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff – a ballet performance presented throughout a beautifully decorated New England mansion. 

There’s also the two-week Christmas in Newport Festival featuring daily events like concerts, tree lightings, and fairs. 

Get to know the town’s unique history while admiring the impressive holiday decorations on The Newport Historical Society’s guided Holiday Lantern Tour

Stop for a bite to eat at the White Horse Tavern, the oldest operating restaurant in the U.S. 

December visitors shouldn’t be afraid of a walk along the beach or through Queen Anne Square.

Average temperatures fall between 34°F (1.1°C) and 45°F (7.2°C) with cloudy skies and a very small chance of precipitation. 

Newport hotels during the first weekend in December are half the price of May!

Newport RI Mansion Near Boston New England

Leavenworth in December for Chocolate Box Christmas Village 

The Bavarian-styled village of Leavenworth, Washington in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains provides a picturesque backdrop for your next winter getaway. 

The town knows how to cater to tourists, and it goes all out for the Christmas crowds. 

Downtown Leavenworth transforms into a holiday wonderland with carolers, Santa Claus appearances, and live entertainment through most of the month. 

Swing by the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum that boasts a collection of more than 7,000 nutcrackers. 

Do some holiday shopping at the Leavenworth Winter Market that’s held each weekend on Front Street. 

You also shouldn’t miss a chance to participate in the town’s favorite winter pastime: Sledding. 

Head to Front Street Park or Leavenworth Ski Hill for the best downhill action. 

It’s no surprise that the German-themed town has plenty of German food and beer on the menu – be sure to indulge with a warm pretzel. 

Although Leavenworth is a small town, it does see some serious crowds for its holiday events. Make hotel reservations and travel arrangements well in advance. 

Plan for cold, wintery weather with average temperatures between 21°F (-6.5°C) and 34°F (1.1°C) with cloudy skies and possible precipitation.

Hotels book up very far in advance so don’t hesitate to secure your stay for next year if you decide that Leavenworth is the December vacation of your dreams!

Lake Placid, Adirondack Mountains for Olympic Level Fun

New York’s Lake Placid is one of the oldest winter playgrounds in the US and has hosted two winter Olympics.

You can still enjoy Olympics activities such as the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Cliffside Coaster, which is a bobsled and a roller coaster!

Olympic Jumping Complex has a SkyRide gondola that reaches the highs of the base of the ski jumping towers, which offers epic views of Lake Placid and the High Peaks.

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, head to Mirror Lake for ice skating or snowshoeing on the 2,000 miles walkable Adirondack trail system.

Accommodation wise, hotels and lodges don’t have too much of a mark up the first weekend in December compared to May.

Best Ski Destinations in the USA

Stowe in December for Best Skiing on the East Coast

The little mountain town of Stowe, Vermont is one of the best places to visit in USA in December on the East Coast for skiing.

Take a gondola ride up Mount Mansfield where you can grab dinner and a drink at Cliff House Restaurant while looking over Vermont’s snow-covered peaks. 

You’ll have lots of options when it’s time to hit the slopes. 

Stowe Mountain Resort is popular, particularly for its double black diamond trail that’s considered the most challenging in New England. 

That’s not to say Stowe is only for advanced skiers – there’s plenty of terrain for different ages and skill levels. 

Stowe has 116 ski trails, 13 lifts and gondolas connecting Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak at 4,395 and Spruce Peak.

If you’re not much of a skier, take a leisurely snowshoeing trip along the Stowe Recreation Path, which brings trekkers through the forest to picturesque covered bridges. 

Be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes for whatever activity you choose.

Average temperatures in Stowe are between 8°F (-13.3°C) and 23°F (-5°C).

Save time to spend a day in Downtown Stowe to enjoy its many galleries, breweries, shops, and spas. 

Winter athletes should check out the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum to learn all about the region’s winter sports history. 

Stowe couldn’t be a great ski destination without some great food. 

Local specialties include locally sourced apples and maple syrup.

Swiss fondue, American comfort food, and craft beer are also local favorites.  

Mose people recognize Stowe as the “Ski Capital of the East,” so start planning your December vacation early in the year.

To avoid crowds, skip the weekends when locals ski and use the Mountain Road Shuttle from Main Street.

As to be expected, Stowe accommodation is slightly more expensive in December than May.

Stowe mountain ski resort gondola, Vermont.

White Mountains in December for a Winter Road Trip & Skiing

If you are yearning for that fresh free botox feeling on your face from the freeze and have a desire to test out your new winter tyres, plan a road trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountains to see frozen lakes and snow-dusted peaks.

Average temperatures in the White Mountains are between 13°F (-10.5°C) and 39°F (4°C).

The most popular touristy towns in the White Mountains are North Conway, Lincoln and Littleton.

Things to do in North Conway include tax-free shopping on Main Street at the independent stores, a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad snow train and tubing at Cranmore Mountain Resort, where you can also ski.

Hike around the lake at Echo State Park; it is only one mile, so not too much effort is required, ideal because you’ll be wrapped up against the cold.

Add on the Cathedral Ledge overlook, which is 1.2 miles, for views of the River Saco Valley in winter.

Just a 15-minutes drive from North Conway is Nestlenook Farm in Jackson for ice-skating and s’mores.

Skiing wise, there are various ski resorts around Mount Washington Valley, such as Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley, Wildcat Mountain, Attitash, Bretton Woods and Cannon Mountain.

Annually, New Hampshire hosts the Insta-famous North American Ice Castles, but the season doesn’t tend to open until January.

Do you agree that New Hampshire is one of the best states to visit in December if you are seeking a Hallmark movie winter trip?

Hotels and lodges are slightly more expensive in December compared to May.

Sun Valley in December for Slope, Backcountry & Heli-Ski

Sun Valley, Idaho has been a must-visit for winter sports enthusiasts since the 1930s. 

The area’s most popular ski destination is Bald Mountain, or “Baldy,” at Sun Valley Resort.

There’s terrain for nearly any skill level accessible from 13 lifts. 

Avoid crowded slopes and hop on a heli-ski tour from the top of Bald Mountain to remote backcountry ski destinations. 

There are more backcountry ski opportunities near Galena Pass that don’t require a helicopter to access. 

Head to the nearby town of Ketchum to learn about the area’s history and ties to Old Hollywood celebrities including Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe. 

Stop for coffee and a pastry at one of the town’s many cafes.

Bigger appetites will find plenty of comfort food and classic pub dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients. 

Stargazers will be delighted to know that Sun Valley is within a dark sky reserve are, which offers some of the country’s best stargazing. 

Be sure to bundle up when you head outside, especially at night. 

Average temperatures in December are between 7°F (-13.8°C) and 31°F (-0.5°C) with snow and ice possible. 

Besides the weather, be sure to check the daily avalanche report before hitting the slopes. 

Don’t wait until the last minute to book your Sun Valley vacation.

The area is already bustling in December when prices jump and reservations are harder to come by.  

Park City in December for Ski

Did you know Park City in Utah hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics?

With 7,000 skiable acres, Park City Mountain is the US’s largest ski and snowboard area.

In December, temperatures range from 31°F to 12°F (-0°C to -11°C).

Some visitors like to stay at resorts with ski in and out facilities on Mountain Resort and use the bus system to get around, others prefer to book accommodation downtown and use the Town Lift up.

There are two food stores for those who want to rent a condo and cook up a big breakfast before hitting the slopes or a variety of brunch options if you are planning a slower paced trip.

Park City’s alcohol rules differ to other parts of the country as it is state controlled so remember to pick up alcohol before 8pm and that you can’t buy it on Sunday.

Downtown offers a mix of 19th-century charm from the area’s silver mining history and award-wining restaurants and bars.

Enjoy American food in an an old lumberyard at Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive or Mexican food at Alberto’s.

Sip cocktails in an igloo at Stein Eriksen Lodge or go for lunch.

The best way to get to Park City is to travel from Salt Lake City which is a 40-minute drive.

Park City Hotels are also more expensive in December compared to May.

Ski boarder at sunset on snowy mountain

Warm Places to Visit in December in the USA

Death Valley National Park for Hikes and Spas

Death Valley National Park is known as being one of the hottest places on earth but temperatures drop to 65.1°F (18.4°C) – 38.3°F (3.5°C) in December.

It’s not the warmest destination but if you plan to hike in this California and Nevada national park, the temperatures may appeal to you!

Highlights include the Devil’s Golf Course salt pan, the drive along Artists Drive for photos of Artist Palette and hiking the 2.7-mile long Twenty Mule Team Canyon. 

Stay in the park at The Inn at Death Valley for 5-star hotel and spa treatment, prices don’t change much when comparing the start of December to May.

Note: Death Valley became federally protected in 1994, after years of national monument status (1933).

However, Timbisha Shoshone People lived in Death Valley long before it was declared a national monument.

Death Valley also features in our guide to best national parks in March.

Woman standing in Death Valley desert with water bottl

Orlando in December for Disney with a Christmas Spin

Not the hottest place in the states but it is home to the happiest place in the world…

Orlando in Florida is a popular choice for families who want to experience Walt Disney World with a Christmas twist while enjoying warmish temperatures which can make getting around the four parks bearable.

Blue skies at Hollywood Tower Orlando

The most popular way to spend your time is at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

Do holiday shopping on Main Street or Disney Springs, devour a mountain of s’mores cake at Epcot and look in awe at the festive light projections at Hollywood Studios.

Fireworks Disney at Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World in Orlando

Orlando is also home to Universal Studios where you can wander the wintery streets of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and discover Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure.

But that’s not all!

Along International Drive you will find heaps of family fun at i-Fly, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and ice skating at Funtania Family Fun Center on International Festival Plaza.

Buy the astronaut wannabe in your family the gift of a lifetime with tickets to Kennedy Space Center.

International Drive hotels are slightly more expensive during the first weekend in December compared to May.

Atlantis Kennedy Space Center Orlando, Florida

New Orleans in December for Fun Decor & LUNA Fête

New Orleans in Louisiana is a good choice of location all year round if you like food, drink, music and festivals.

In December, NOLA’s hotels deck the halls so visit The Roosevelt and the Royal Sonesta lobbies to experience the magic.

See the Christmas tree at Hotel Mazarin in the French Quarter and listen to jazz on Frenchmen Street.

While The Skeleton House on St Charles Avenue is famed for its Hallowe’en decor, it puts on a good show for Christmas too.

Catch the holiday lights show, Celebration in the Oaks and also the festival of lights, art and technology, LUNA Fête.

For more touristy stuff, hop aboard a riverboat cruise, drink cocktails on Bourbon Street and find out more about the ghosts in New Orleans.

Finally, take a tour of the Whitney Plantation which gives accounts from enslaved people.

In December, temperatures range from 48°F (9°C) to 68°F (20°C).

Read more about our New Orleans tips in our guide.

You could save around $100 per night booking a hotel in New Orleans for the first weekend in December instead of May.

New Orleans beads on a gate

Maui in December for Whale Watching and Outdoor Adventures

Did you know that Hawaii is an archipelago of eight major islands?

Being able to choose an island that best suits your travel needs is ideal for holiday maker as historically Kauai and the North Shore of Oahu typically sees a lot of rain during December and flash flood warnings.

Hawaii Map

There’s no denying that Maui is one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in the USA because from December to April, 10,000 humpbacks migrate to Maui’s warm and shallow waters!

Other things to do include a ride along the Hana coast to see black sand beaches, the 3.5 mile Wailea Beach Path which is relatively easy to stroll along and exploring the active volcanoes at Haleakala National Park.

The closer it gets to the Christmas, the more expensive hotel rates get in Maui with some doubling in price.

Read our guide free things to do in Maui for budget-saving tips!

This is just a selection best places to visit in winter in USA

We have an extensive warm US places to visit in December guide you may like too.

Wailea Beach Path over golden sand at Maui Hawaii

Other US Travel Guides You May Like

3 Fun Days in Chicago Itinerary

Chicago River Boat Tour

In a lot of ways, Chicago has everything one would want from an international city. It has beautiful buildings, tons of entertainment options, diverse cuisines that will make your taste buds sing, and so much history and culture in terms of art and technology. If you are planning to visit, aim to spend at least 3 days in Chicago because there is so much to see. 

People from all over the world enjoy visiting Chicago because it is very laid back compared to the bustle of New York or Los Angeles. It has an idyllic lakeside location and a very friendly atmosphere that cannot be missed. 

Chicago has some of the most stunning skyscrapers, with many overlooking the Riverwalk that glistens from the reflection of water and sunlight. More than a hundred buildings fill the skyline of Chicago, and new ones are opening all the time. The city has a fantastic reputation for architecture. 

There are so many restaurants along the river where you can kick back and relax while watching all the kayaks and tour boats row by. If you have seen the movie “The Vow” with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, you might have already fallen in love with Chicago. Who wouldn’t want to get married at the Art Museum and pose for wedding photos with the backdrop of a very sparkly bean? 

Here are Chicago itinerary tips to help you plan your trip to this beautiful city. That way, you can try a lot more things than deep-dish Chicago pizza, even though that is the best, and you will never want to eat regular pizza again. 

You may also like our guides to free things to do in Chicago, unique activities and Chicago at Christmas.

How to Spend Three Days in Chicago

One Day in Chicago

Morning – Riverwalk + The Bean

Hotel check-ins in Chicago are usually around 3-4pm, but many of them offer earlier check-ins depending on room availability, or you can leave your luggage with them and go for a stroll. 

The first step of your itinerary should be a casual walk along the river.

This is known as the Riverwalk, where you have a winding path near the water passing by several restaurants and cafés. 

Chicago River Boat Tour

Chicago Riverwalk

If you have not had breakfast yet, there are many options to choose from.

Although you might be dying to try deep dish pizza, you should save that for lunch after you are famished from all the sightseeing. 

A deep dish is a Chicago style pizza in Chicago, which is very heavy and should only be consumed as a main meal rather than a snack.

For breakfast, you can try a traditional Chicago hot dog. This would be with mustard, chopped white onions, and a sweet pickle. The toppings are mouthwatering and will leave you satisfied until later in the day. 

A casual stroll at Riverwalk should take about an hour or two, depending on your pace and whether you stop for breakfast.

There are also steps on the way where you might see a lot of people sitting to enjoy the view. 

This is the perfect place to drink a takeaway coffee and rest your feet before walking some more. If you go up these steps, you can find small bridges connecting the streets. 

These bridges are the perfect spot for a photo op with the skyline and water in the background.

Don’t forget that Chicago is called “The Windy City,” and this is for a very good reason.

Depending on the day you are visiting, it can be very windy, and you should always hold onto any hats and wear appropriate clothing. 

During winter, Chicago does have thick inches of snow, and then you will need proper boots, jackets, and gloves. 

» You may also like | Chicago in winter


Downtown Chicago winter view with frozen lake

There will be signs along the way telling you where the tourist attractions are. You should look for one that says, “Cloud Gate” or “Millennium Park” which is part of the Chicago Loop/Central Business District. 

This is where the shiny bean is. The bean is also one of the free things to do in Chicago which makes the spot popular with crowds.  

The bean is a Cloud Gate sculpture that was unveiled at the opening of Millennium Park back in 2004. It has now become the most famous symbol of Chicago photographed by every tourist because of its unique reflectiveness. 

When you enter Millennium Park from the main street, you will see a memorial fountain that is also beautiful to take photos of. This is because the skyline is directly behind it. You get a bit of the city and the park together in this shot. 

Then you should turn right and follow the signs or just see where everybody else is walking to.

Pretty soon, you will notice the giant shiny ball in the center surrounded by even more buildings.

The reflection of the skyline on the bean is incredible, and you can enjoy doing poses while seeing your own on the bean. 

The Chicago Bean is curved, so on the outside, you just see your own reflection and all the people and buildings around you. Hopefully, it is not that crowded in the morning, but on weekends, things can get a little crazy. 

When you step inside the bean under the curve, you can get a good laugh by seeing a very distorted reflection of you and your friends because it feels like a magic mirror experience at a carnival. 

After this area, you should walk around the rest of Millennium Park because it is gorgeous and serene.

You will see beautiful flowers along the way, and an incredible concert theatre where they often have live opera shows.

Some small bridges and walkways are also shiny like the bean. 

Millennium Park is massive, and you can pass by the Art Institute of Chicago, which is right by the Crown Fountain.

Visiting the institute will take time, and you can do this on Day 2. In the meantime, continue walking through Millennium Park until you reach Grant Park, where the Buckingham Fountain is. 

This is an ample open space with the most beautiful fountain to take photos.

This is also the same place where they host the famous Lollapalooza music festival every year. 

Afternoon – Willis Tower + Pizza

After the bean Chicago sightseeing experience, you deserve a drink and should visit a bar and restaurant called Cindy’s.

For this, you will have to walk back to the bean and exit the park next to it. Across the street, you should see the restaurant right next to Shake Shack and Panera Bread. 

Cindy’s has an incredible rooftop bar that you take the elevator up to.

It is free to enter, but there might be a crowd of people waiting for the elevator.

Depending on how early it is in the afternoon, there might not be too many people there if you are lucky. 

When you hit the top floor, the lift doors open directly into a bar.

This is where you order a drink first and then make your way across the restaurant to the balcony to enjoy an outdoor rooftop view. 

They have a lot of drink deals for cocktails, but their coffee is recommended. 

Watch the tourists surrounding the bean below while you refuel with caffeine or sugar!

After your drink at Cindy’s, it is time to visit Willis Tower, which is the largest building in Chicago. 

You can try walking there as it only takes twenty minutes.

All you need to do is exit Cindy’s on street level, walk to the right, and take the first right again. Then it is a straight road walk all the way to Willis Tower. 

If you do not feel like walking that much, you can always get an Uber or Lyft.

These are very cheap in Chicago, especially if you are willing to carpool with others. You can choose Uber Pool or Lyft Line on the apps and spend only five or ten dollars for a short trip. 

Along the way, you will also see a lot of souvenir shops if you feel like stopping by.

When you arrive at Willis Tower, there will be signs telling you what floor the observation deck is on.

This is also called “Skydeck Chicago,” and it is a must-do in Chicago. It is always better to buy tickets online, Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Experience so you can plan ahead and skip the line. 

There is not much to see in the lobby area so you can go straight through to the security checks before entering the lift.

This will save you a lot of time because the lines in the lobby can take over an hour, and then there are more lines when you reach the top floor because this is one of the best places to visit in Chicago.

Willis Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and at approximately 1300 feet, you can step into a suspended glass box that surrounds you with 360-degree views of the entire city. 

You will be on the 103rd floor, so hopefully, you are not afraid of heights because it is daunting stepping into that glass box since you see all the streets and buildings below your feet.

It can trigger a little Vertigo, so you should be careful.

There are two glass boxes on the ledge, so you can choose any of them because they both face the same side of the city.

There will be a couple of security guards to monitor how long each person takes in the box. 

When you first step into one, the security guard will advise you to pose and look up at their camera.

This is for the souvenir photo that you can later buy from the gift shops. 

You do not have to spend any money and can take your own photos. Be ready with your poses because the guards only allow you to stay there for a couple of minutes maximum, depending on the crowd. 

If there are not too many people in the line, you can get a little more time in the glass box to take photos.

You should check out #ChicagoSkydeck on Instagram to get some ideas on how to pose, mainly because you have such limited time to do it and need to be ready. 

The security guards might take photos for you, but it is not their job, so do not feel bad if they refuse. It is always better to ask a friend or somebody else in line to take your pictures.

If you successfully get a stranger to take yours, it is common courtesy to offer to take their photos as well. 

After the glass box Chicago activity, you can visit the gift shop to buy some souvenirs or view your professional photo on the screens. There will be a staff member there who will print out your picture and give three copies of it in a souvenir folder that says, “On the Ledge.”

If you decide to purchase, you will get one large photo and two smaller ones, which is great to share with other members of your group. 

When you are done with Willis Tower, you might be feeling hungry, and now it is time for the infamous deep-dish pizza in Chicago. 

Chicago Skyline

Willis Tower and other buildings in the Chicago Skyline

If you follow S Franklin Street to your right, you should see Giordano’s restaurant.

This is an Italian chain of restaurants that are famous for their deep-dish pizzas. 

Deep dish pizza is a Chicago-style pizza that is thick and baked in a pan.

It is layered with cheese and other fillings, such as meat and vegetables. There is a ton of tomato sauce in between the layers, and the crust is usually around three inches tall. 

This buttery crust gets fried thanks to the delicious oil in the pan, and the pizza looks very bulky rather than a flatbread.

It was invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago back in 1943, so this pizza has a lot of history. 

It is impossible to eat a slice by hand, so you should use cutlery and prepare for a lot of stringy cheese to ooze from every bite.

It is very challenging to eat an entire pizza alone, and you should plan to share with a partner or group of friends. 

Giordano’s might only have a 12-inch as their “Smallest,” but it is not small at all, and you might start suffering from being too full after just two slices. Never make the mistake of ordering an appetizer beforehand, no matter how persistent your waiter is. 

Eating a deep-dish Chicago for the first time is a religious experience, and you should savor every mouthful.

The pizza does not look appetizing in photos, but it will still make you drool whenever you look back on your memories of being in Chicago. 

After such a hearty lunch you might want to head back to your hotel to complete the check-in process.

By now, it should be around 4pm, and your room might be ready.

Grab a quick shower and stretch out on a comfortable bed while digesting all that food after having seen a lot for one day in Chicago. 

Deep Dish Chicago Pizza

Evening – Bar Hopping

When you are done getting a little bit of rest, head back out to any of the numerous bars in Chicago for some fun. 

One of the best bars to visit is “Nacional 27” for their incredible Latin parties every night. This is on the north side of the river and takes twenty minutes to walk from Willis Tower. 

They have an in-house DJ who really knows how to bring the house down, and you should try their mojito specials where each glass is as big as a person’s head.

The mojitos are delicious, and you will end up wanting to have a dozen of them while dancing the night away. 

Nacional 27 also has some great Latin American themed food; in case you are hungry again and want to grab a quick dinner with drinks. 

Bars in Chicago close around 2am, so you should have plenty of time to have a lot of fun before tucking into your hotel for a good night’s sleep because you have already seen a lot of Chicago in a day.

If you were only spending 1 day in Chicago, there would be more pressure to fit a lot of sites on your Chicago itinerary, but you should space things out to try and relax a little. 

2 Days in Chicago

Unless you are severely hungover, it is time for more sightseeing and touring around Chicago. You should wake up early for another big day. 

Morning – 360 Chicago (John Hancock Observatory)

You can either have breakfast at your hotel or head out to any of the cafés and restaurants along the river again. 

However, most hotels include breakfast in the price, so you should get your money’s worth by spoiling yourself at the buffet before stretching those legs again for a long day. 

The first stop on your Chicago trip planner should be the 360-degree Chicago Observation Deck experience at the John Hancock Observatory. 

The John Hancock Observatory is open every day from 9am to 11pm, with the final group allowed in at 10:30pm, and it is located at North Michigan Avenue. 

With the pass mentioned above, you can skip the line at the ticket booth altogether and head straight for the elevator for just $22, which is usually around $25 on-site without the ability to get through lines faster. 

The elevator will speed you up to the 94th floor in just forty seconds, where the observation deck above the Windy City is.

Unlike Skydeck, you will get to see a lot of beautiful lake views and more skyscrapers.

From such a high floor, you can also see 4 neighboring states, which is incredible because you are over a thousand feet in the sky. 

If you are an adrenaline junkie, you should try upgrading your pass to include TILT, which the highest thrill ride that will change the way you see Chicago, and it lets you tilt out over the city from the 94th floor.

It extends out over the entire skyline and the Magnificent Mile.

You just have to step against a glass enclosure and put your hands on the window, and it tilts outwards, giving you a massive adrenaline rush as though you are going to fall. 

There is a very fancy restaurant up a flight of stairs to visit for a drink or some food before heading back down. You can also go there to use the bathrooms without having to spend any money.

Don’t miss the toilets on the 96th floor… 

On the ground floor, you can see the Chicago Multimedia Exhibit with high definition interactive touch screens to learn about the sights from different angles.

The exhibit will teach you everything about the city’s history, culture, scenery, and architecture, and you can listen in many languages. 

The most exciting exhibit is “Michigan Pete,” which pays tribute to Evald Peterson, who was the construction inspector for John Hancock Building.

He captured all his personal experiences in a journal, and that brought this building’s architectural journey to life. You can hear all about the challenges of the building’s construction through his words and pictures. 

Reserve your skip-the-line ticket here.

If you’ve had your fill of touristy activities check out our guide to unique things to do in Chicago too,

Afternoon – River Cruise

After completing the John Hancock building tour, it is time for a trip on the river so you can see the entire Riverwalk without having to go on foot. 

The Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-The-Ticket-Office and it is the most popular Chicago attractions pass if you want to relax on the river while sightseeing. 

This is a seventy-five-minute tour departing from Navy Pier, where you can see a lot of hidden architectural wonders along the way and some of the most renowned landmarks.

There will be a guide on board to provide live narration, and you should expect to see around forty structures, especially under some historical bridges. 

Chicago River Boat Tour

You will be cruising along all 3 branches of the Chicago River while getting a lot of information about the forty landmark buildings.

Some of these will be Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, Willis Tower, Trump Tower, Marina City, and many more. 

Unlike day one in Chicago, you will get to relax and enjoy an insightful trip. This is also better than the Chicago water taxi because it is longer and full of great information about this city’s history. 

When the cruise returns to Navy Pier, you should take a casual stroll around and either ride the giant Ferris Wheel or grab some lunch from any of the local restaurants.

There are many options for seafood, especially crab and oysters. 

After lunch, you should try to visit a couple of museums in Chicago on free days. The museums are usually free on Tuesdays from 12:30pm to 9pm.

Some of the best ones to visit are The Museum of Science and Industry, Alder Planetarium Chicago, The Field Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, DuSable Museum of African American History, and the Art Institute next to Cloud Gate. 

If you enjoy nature, you should visit the Chicago Botanical Garden in Glencoe.

This is a wonderfully photogenic spot for all Instagram addicted travelers.

In the evening, when the sun goes down, the entire garden comes alive with colorful lights.

You can see an exciting waterfall of dancing lights, and whole mile-long pathways with arches covered in wondrous fairy lights with a choir of singing trees. 

Tribune Tower Chicago

Tribune Tower displays bricks from around the world

Evening – Live Music + Bars

Chicago has a very young vibe, and people love going to bars and enjoying live music with some food and drinks. This is also one of the best ways to unwind after spending 2 days in Chicago. 

This time, you should visit Social Twenty-Five or Smartbar. Both have excellent live music with a stage in the middle and very affordable drinks. They are also open between 2am-4am in case you like to stay out later than usual. 

After the performance of some local live bands, a DJ takes over, and you can enjoy some great electronic music with popular hits. People are very friendly in Chicago, so do not be surprised if you randomly meet some locals to have a conversation with. 

They are very helpful and can give you more tips on what to see in Chicago in one day to wrap up the end of your trip.

Evening Alternative – See a Show

There are a number of places where performances take place in the city but the most famous is The Chicago Theatre aka Balaban and Katz Chicago Theatre. This landmark is located on North State Street in the Loop area and was built in the 1920s.

Chicago Theatre

3 Days in Chicago

Now that you have already seen most of popular Chicago in 2 days, you might want to try something different.

  • Check out the Pilsen neighborhood at the Lower West Side for the Chicago Arts District in East Pilsen, the National Museum of Mexican Art at Harrison Park and the Mana Contemporary Gallery. It is also known for its street art murals and Mexican food
  • Tan at one of Chicago beaches such as the most popular, North Avenue 
  • Bar hop, vintage shop or catch a gig at the hip Wicker Park Chicago
  • Enjoy jazz or blues show at River North
  • Have a lazy afternoon at I|O Godfrey rooftop. In winter there are igloos!
  • If visiting during the sports season, catch a game at Soldier Field (American football) or Wrigley Field (baseball).
  • Hike the Starved Rock which has 14 moderate trails ranging from 1.7 to 26.8 miles
  • Visit Ernest Hemmingway’s home in Oak Park
  • Shop ’til you drop at Magnificant Mile
  • See the Botanics at Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Visit the Standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park and dine in a snug at Gej’as Cafe which serves fondue! 

What about a day trip from Chicago like visiting Michigan for some beautiful scenery?

For this, renting a car will be best.

Otherwise, you can use the greyhound Chicago service or Megabus Chicago. 

The only downside is that these buses or the Chicago Amtrak have strict schedules, and you will need to plan carefully.

Whereas, driving on your own is much more fun and comfortable with a GPS. 

With your own car, you can drive part of the famous route 66 which starts in Chicago. 

There is a number of amusement parks in Illinois that can be reached from Chicago such as Niles Park District Oasis Water Park, Donley’s Wild West Town and Magic Waters.

Abraham Lincoln Chicago Standing Lincoln Park

Chicago Travel Tips

Getting to Chicago

Arriving from overseas at O’Hare International Airport is a little overwhelming. Mainly because of how long it takes to clear customs. 

On a busy day, you might have to wait to use one of their computer systems and print out an entry card after typing in your passport details.

Then the line for an interview with immigration officers can take another hour or more, depending on how many people there are before you. At least your luggage will already be on the belt after all that waiting, so you can finally rush out of there when you clear customs. 

By the time you exit the Arrivals terminal, you will realize that O’Hare is a minimum of thirty minutes away from Downtown Chicago, and this could easily stretch into an hour’s journey if you arrive when there is a lot of traffic. 

Taxis from the airport can be costly because of how far you must travel.

But do not worry, there are plenty of shuttle buses with counters at the airport where you can buy tickets from, and this is the best way of getting to the city without burning a hole in your wallet on your first day. 

You will be driving on highways most of the time, so you will not get to see any scenic views or anything apart from advertisement billboards and a lot of traffic.

However, the moment you get closer to Chicago, you will see the beautiful skyline, and that is when the excitement of being in Illinois kicks in. 

Getting Around Chicago

It’s really easy to navigate downtown Chicago, like Vancouver in Canada it uses a grid system. Downtown is divided by Madison Street (North and South) and State Street splits up East and West.

There is an extensive transport system for those who prefer not to walk and/or want to squeeze more in. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) runs the train and bus system in the city. You can pay with cash for single trips or invest in a reloadable Ventra Transit Card or Unlimited Ride Pass for multi-use savings.

The ‘L’ train covers 144 rail stations and two of the links operate 24 hours a day.

The Blue Line links the airport (O’Hare) to downtown and the Red Link hooks up the North and the South. Some of the buses are also run 24 hours a day. You need the exact change for buses.

Chicago Accommodation

The best but most expensive area to stay in Chicago is Downtown.

Even though hotels in downtown Chicago are more expensive than apartments in other neighborhoods, you will save a lot of money by walking around rather than catching a Train, Uber or Lyft all the time.

You will also have a lot of flexibility instead of planning your entire trip around train schedules. 

Everything you need to see in Chicago is in downtown. You can access everything on foot and see a lot of beautiful flowers that cover every pavement. 

Downtown Chicago Hotels

  • Chicago Moxy: Modern chain hotel at a great price. Cool vibe, nice atmosphere.
  • River Hotel: 4-star boutique hotel. Excellent price, fitness suite access.

Downtown Chicago Hotels

  • Freehand Chicago: Artsy River North (aka RiNo) district, dorms have privacy curtains.
  • FOUND Chicago: Upmarket hostel at River North
  • See all hostels in Chicago here.

Chicago Beach with USA Flag

Chicago FAQ

Here are some of the most asked questions about spending 3 days in Chicago.

How Windy is Chicago? 

The wind in Chicago can exceed an average speed of 10.3 miles per hour. However, it is not the windiest city. Boston has winds of up to 12.4 miles per hour. In Chicago, you will experience some high winds between the tall buildings and near the lake. It is not unbearable, and you can still enjoy sightseeing without looking for shelter with every gust. 

Does It Get Very Cold in Winter? 

Yes, Chicago is Winterfell in real life. Temperatures during winter can reach minus thirty degrees Celsius. This should not deter you from visiting because seeing the entire city covered by a thick blanket of snow is a marvelous sight. The entire river freezes too, so you might want to bring some ice skates.

How Many Days to Spend in Chicago? 

You should aim to spend three days in Chicago if you do not want to rush everywhere and want a relaxing holiday. This will also give you plenty of time to include a day trip to any of the neighboring states that have the most beautiful scenery if you enjoy hiking. 

What Is the Best Time to Visit Chicago? 

The best time to visit Chicago is between June till September. This is when the weather is warm and perfect with a lot of sun. Hotels and flights might not be cheap around this time, but you will feel less pain from high winds by avoiding sightseeing in winter. 

Is Chicago Dangerous for Tourists? 

Even though Chicago has a global reputation as a crime capital, it is very safe for tourists.

There are some trouble neighborhoods outside downtown, but you can always feel relaxed in all the touristy spots, even at nighttime.

However, it is not recommended to walk alone at 3am with a gold chain and a wad of cash in hand. 

Will I Gain Weight from Eating Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago?

Yes, but you are on holiday and should not be so focused on dieting because that is what reality is for when you return home after spending the best 3 days in Chicago. 

Going to Chicago? Save to your Chicago travel board

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Final Words

There is something in Chicago for every kind of tourist. You can either go on historical tours, photogenic tours for social media, or party the nights away at the trendiest bars. Chicago is also slightly more affordable than New York City and Boston. To cut costs, you can try eating a lot of meals outside the typical tourist hotspots. 

The best part about Chicago is the skyline, and there are several rooftop spots around the city where you can enjoy being on top of the world with a delicious cocktail. Unlike New York and Los Angeles that are confined to East and West coasts, Chicago is in the Midwest, and you can easily travel to any of the surrounding states. 

Chicago feels comfortable and relaxing to visit, unlike the chaos you experience in New York City. It is like Boston in that sense, but the pizzas in Boston will never come close to the mighty Chicago deep-dish. 

Author’s Note: 

Shipra has visited the city very recently and hopes to help you have the best 3 days in Chicago. She made the mistake of ordering a “Small” 12-inch deep-dish pizza at Giordano’s and has vowed only to eat it with a group of famished friends the next time. She also came back a few kilos heavier but still glances at her shiny bean fridge magnet souvenir with so much joy remembering the good times. 

16 Best Beaches in the USA for Vacation & Day Trips

Beach with cottages at Nags Head in the outer banks. North Carolina

Fresh air, lapping waves, sun kissed skin; who is ready to discover the best beaches in the USA? From underrated beach towns to popular coastal escapes, white sandy beaches to unusual stony shores, this guide details where to plan your next beach getaway in the US.

We’ve also included family-friendly beaches and livelier vacation ideas for big kids.

Have you missed your favorite beach in the USA? Tell us in the comments!

You may also like our dedicated beach packing list, which has a free usable checklist, and our guide to the best beaches to visit in December if you are planning a winter getaway.

Best Beaches in Northeast USA

1. Play in the Surf at Plum Island Beach

This barrier island in Newburyport, Massachusetts is a family-friendly beach town perfect for rare bird-watching, exploring a pristine wildlife refuge, and playing in the incredible waves of the Atlantic.

Named after the beach plum shrubs that grow in the dunes, beachcombers find this area an exciting spot for shells.

Mad Martha’s Island Cafe is a must for strong coffee, creative breakfast dishes, and vibrant beach décor before you spend the day at the shore.

Visit the North Point beach to escape the worst of the crowds and to lounge at one of the prettiest beaches in the US!

Note: Be mindful that this area gets Greenhead Flies around July so pack long layers and bug spray or avoid this summer month for a pleasant experience.

2. Explore One of the Only Jasper Beaches in the World!

Head to Howard Cove in Machiasport, Maine to experience a beach so rare, you’d have to travel to China to find the only other one like it.

Though most people prefer soft sand over rock beaches, these jasper rocks create a beautiful and peaceful sound like music as they jostle with each wave that washes ashore.

Many people claim to hear the rocks almost singing while they explore this beach—you really can’t miss this experience.

Jasper Beach is a geologic wonder and a local’s secret, which makes it one of the most secluded beaches in the US!

3. Head to Misquamicut Beach with the Family!

Rhode Island has some of the best beaches to visit in the US, but most tourists pick the more popular beaches of Cape Cod or the Hamptons—head to Westerly, Rhode Island to escape the worst of the crowds!

Misquamicut Beach, a half-mile stretch of sand and sea with lots of bathrooms, changing areas, vigilant lifeguards, and great food options make this beach one of the best family beaches in the US.

This beach also has wheelchair accessibility and shade gazebos for anyone who needs a break from the hot sun.

Locals and tourists alike love the Windjammer Surf bar for its fresh seafood, cold beer, and fun live entertainment!

Best Beaches on the East Coast

4. Lewes Beach for Family Fun

There’s no denying that Delaware has some of the best beach towns in the US and while Lewes is one of the smallest, it is ideal for families as the bay waves are pretty calm.

Entry is free and there are restrooms at the beach.

Unlike its neighboring beach towns, Lewes doesn’t have a built up boardwalk but there are restaurants close by such as Big Oyster Brewery, Half Full and On The Rocks Dockside Grill.

Lewes, Delaware bench on beach

Other things to do in Lewes include visiting Cape Henlope State Park to hike and cycle, hopping aboard the ferry to Cape May in New Jersey and day tripping to Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany Beach.

Since Lewes, is the ‘first town in the first state’, it makes sense that the community puts on a firework display for July 4th which makes Independence Day Weekend a busy time to visit.

Check out our guide to the best places to visit in May for more Memorial Day Weekend ideas.

Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes

5. Look no Further than Atlantic City Beach if you’re Ready to Party

Atlantic City Beach in New Jersey goes almost undisputed as one of the best party beaches in the US.

It is a classic destination for fun-loving travelers, with free beaches, giant casinos, a thriving nightlife, and 24-hour liquor licenses, this beach is a must for your next beach party destination.

Don’t miss out on the world famous Steel Pier Amusement Park with thrilling rides, delicious food stands, and a Ferris wheel that looks over the entire city at its top.

Steel Pier at Atlantic City, New Jersey

6. Spot Wild Horses at the Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island in Maryland is a national seashore, which means it is specially reserved by the federal government for public use and enjoyment.

This beach is perfect for all kinds of outdoor recreation, like kayaking, crabbing, birdwatching, fishing, biking, and hiking.

The 37 mile stretch of the island features white sands, the famous Assateague Lighthouse, and sprawling dunes and marsh ecosystems, making it one of the most underrated beaches in the US.

If you’re lucky on your outdoor adventures, you can catch the Blackfin Food Truck and enjoy a local favorite—the Coastal Poke Bowl!

You may also like our guide to the best East Coast lakes.

Horses at Assateague Island National Seashore, a barrier island in Maryland

7. Visit the Classic Kitty Hawk Beach on the Outer Banks this summer

The Outer Banks have some of the most famous beaches in the USA for a reason: more than 100 miles of shorelines bordering most of the North Carolina coast, gorgeous, sprawling beaches, and a unique local culture.

Kitty Hawk Beach and the surrounding town is a perfect beach getaway in the USA, rich with tradition and history—it is the location the Wright Brothers chose to conduct all their aviation experiments in the early 1900s.

For a refreshing treat, try any of Big Buck’s Homemade Ice Cream‘s (3810 N Croatan Hwy) 51 homemade flavors, like Hazelnut Cappuccino!

Take advantage of this glorious Outer Banks stretch of white sand beaches by day tripping to other areas like Nags Head, Pea Islands Beach and Coquina Beach.

Beach with cottages at Nags Head in the outer banks. North Carolina

Best Beaches in South USA

8. Swim in the Gulf of Mexico at Biloxi Beach

Located at the center of the southern edge of Mississippi, Biloxi Beach is known for its 26 miles of soft sand and gentle waters.

There are access points to the beach all along the coast, and is easily accessible from Highway 90.

Biloxi is known for its fabulous casinos, so once you’ve had your fill of the sun and surf, take a chance and play at Treasure Bay Casino!

9. South Padre Island Beach for Florida Waters in Texas and Night Life

Located right on the southern border of Texas.

South Padre Island is located right on the southern border of Texas and is a spring break destination for students.

Known for its clean waters and tropical climate, this beach enjoys the same longitude as Fort Lauderdale.

The Laguna Madre Bay is a “hyper-saline” bay which means it has a lot of salt in the water.

Other things to do a South Padre include water sports, Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Mexican influenced food.

Find out more in our Texas beaches guide.

Sunset at South Padre Island Beach in Texas

Best Beaches in the Southeast United States

10. Enter a Fantastical World at Driftwood Beach

You will be totally amazed when you see the arrangement of driftwood and trees scattered across Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

They are gnarled, bent over, and exposed to decades of the elements, making these unique trees both beautiful and like something out of a story book.

The soft sands and gentle waves are some of the best parts of this secluded beach.

There are a few access points to Driftwood Beach along North Beachview Drive, where you’ll also find ample parking and even a campground, should you decide to stay overnight!

Read more | Best beach towns on the East Coast.

Jekyll island, Georgia beach

11. Visit Nanny Goat, the Best White Sand Beach in the US

Look no further if you’re on the hunt for an incredible white sand beach in the United States.

Nanny Goat Beach on the southern tip Sapelo Island, Georgia can be challenging to get to, but its quiet shores and soft white sands will be well worth the travel.

The beach is only accessible by a 30-minute ferry ride, so make sure you check the timetable of departures on Georgia’s Dept. of Natural Resources website.

Its coast features one of the largest live-bottom reefs in the Southeast, undisturbed natural dunes, and five different ecological zones.

12. Spot dolphins at Mitchelville Beach

Mitchelville Beach on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is a beach loved by locals.

Instead of a tropical scene, the beach is surrounded by massive oak trees draped with Spanish moss, thick forests with amazing wildlife, and is frequently visited by dolphins!

It’s almost always quiet, which makes it perfect to spend the day searching for seashells, animal tracks in the sand, and other treasures washed up on the shore by the sea.

Do the self-guided tour of Mitchelville Freedom Park to learn about the formerly enslaved sea islanders of Hilton Head.

Hilton Head has been designated a gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists; the trails are a great way to explore the island at your own pace.

Visit the Coastal Discovery Museum to see giant oak trees, wander through the butterfly gardens, learn about Hilton Head’s historical figures, and more.

Learn more about all of the free things to do in Hilton Head, SC.

13. Explore the Only Undersea Park in the US

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida is a truly unique, must-visit beach.

Spanning over 70 nautical miles, visitors love exploring the special Florida mangroves and the colorful, lively coral reefs.

Get a glimpse of the coral reefs on a glass-bottom boat tour, or by snorkeling or scuba diving; this kind of experience makes the Coral Reef State Park a top US beach destination.

Swim under water to get a glimpse of Christ of the Deep aka Christ of the Abyss by Guido Galletti.

Picnic on white sand under the best palm trees on any beach in the US or swim on Canon Beach, which features a shipwreck just 100 feet into the water.

Take a day trip around the lower Florida keys stopping at Bahia Honda State Park and the popular sundeck restaurant, Sunset Pier at Key West.

Aerial photo Sunset Pier Zero Duval Street Key West Florida USA

Best Beaches in USA West Coast

14. Lounge with the Locals at Pfeiffer Beach

If you visit one beach on the West Coast, make sure it is Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, California.

This beach is off the beaten path, accessed only by an unmarked road called Sycamore Canyon Road off Highway 1.

Besides the incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, this beach features purple sands, towering redwood trees, and dramatic rock structures jutting up from the waters.

Catch the sun setting through the small west-facing opening in the magnificent Keyhole Arch and explore the rich tidepools at the north end of the beach.

These unique features make Pfeiffer Beach one of the most beautiful beaches in the USA.

Pfeiffer also made it to our top beaches to visit in winter list!

Plan a day trip to the famous Bixby Bridge which features in the TV series, Big Little Lies with Nicole Kidman and Zoe Kravitz which is 16 miles north of Pfeiffer Beach.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is another 15 miles along the coast but worth adding to your itinerary if you like art-filled US beach towns.

Check out our romantic US destinations guide for details.

Bixby Creek Bridge Big Sur. California

15. Head to Cobble Beach in Oregon if you miss the East Coast

The Northeast US might be well-known for its quant beach towns and lighthouses, but Cobble Beach in Newport, Oregon rivals New England.

The cobblestones that make up the shore are weathered stones from a lava flow millions of years ago, but in the present day, they shift in unison with the waves, making the whole beach shimmer in the sun.

Cobble Beach is one of the best places in the United States to explore tide pools.

You won’t want to miss the sea anemones, urchins, and starfish at low tide!

The best feature of the beach, though, is the 1873 Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which is easily accessible via a short walk up Yaquima Head.

You may also be interested in our guide to beach towns on the Oregon Coast for more dreamy ideas.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse Newport Oregon.

16. Swim in the Clearest Water in Hawaii

Though the Hawaiian Islands are well beyond the West Coast, they definitely needed a spot in this list of the best beaches to visit in the US.

Lanikai Beach in Oahu, Hawaii is the best beach in the US with clear water, and is ranked as one of the best beaches in the world.

Hawaii Map

The water here is perfectly turquoise blue, and it extends for miles and miles, as far as the eye can see.

Be aware that parking is extremely difficult, especially in the peak seasons and over the weekends.

Plan ahead by traveling with your group in a single car or arranging to be transported to and from the beach for your visit!

Hanauma Bay in the south of Oahu also comes highly rated making Oahu home to many of the top US beach destinations.

Blue ocean. sandy beach and cliffs of Hanauma Bay at Oahu in Hawaii.

You may also like these US travel guides