Colors Of The Wild: 3 National Parks For Fall Drives
Looking for a National Park for a fall drive? Before the reds and yellows fade away, and sleet begins to pummel park highlands? Your NPS Senior Pass holes up for winter? Ice makes trails too slick for brisk walks?
Here are 3 ideas for almost-winter driving adventures, NPS Senior Pass in tow. (There’s a companion piece for National Monuments at: Walk With History: 3 National Monuments For Fall.)
So, crank up the car, and throw in your proverbial muddy boots or bicycle. Time to head to a National Park for a fall drive, brisk constitutional included.
Acadia National Park ME
Set on the the ragged and rocky shoreline of southern Maine, Acadia is one of those parks where you can drive and clamber up a high spot to admire the view. Drive some more and bury your feet on a sandy beach. Mosey a little further and check out Maine’s tree-covered wilderness landscape.
If you’re sick of driving altogether, hop on a park-provided shuttle bus that takes you all over.
Getting hungry? The town of Bar Harbor is right there. Wander along the busy little streets and get yourself a gigantic ice cream or a fresh seafood lunch.
Need more exercise? Acadia is renowned for its 45-mile network of hardtop trails called “carriage roads”. These were constructed for old-time pleasure driving, now closed to cars. Haul out your bike or rent one and have a vigorous pedal.
Camping? You betcha! Now that the busy season has wound down, Blackwoods Campground will have openings. Don’t get too late in the year, though, or you’ll find yourself decamping in the snow.
Shenandoah National Park VA
Shenandoah National Park is well known for being accessible to the densely populated cities of the east coast, but it’s also worth a special trip. IMBO.
Shandoah is ideal for dawdling in a car. Traveling along a ridge, the Park road has frequent pullouts for views. Since wildlife hasn’t been hunted there for several generations, you may well see bear or deer foraging for the winter or merely getting on with life while you watch.
Wish you could loosen your legs? The Appalachian Trail parallels the road; it’s easy walking in this stretch. You could do a quarter of a mile or several. And the odds of seeing wildlife sharing the trail? Wonderfully high.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park TN
Throngs of Smokies-sightseers are unavoidable almost everywhere you go if you’re headed to this area of the southern mountains. It’s the most-visited National Park, after all (yes, busier than Yellowstone). A major bonus of going there for fall color, IMBO? Less smog sucked in from southern cities, more chances to gawk hither and yon.
Plan a walk in advance. And, whether you intend to go peak-bagging or day-hiking the AT, take your boots, trekking poles, water, and snack. If you’re going to be in the woods for more than an hour, your “10 essentials” are recommended.
Photo credits. Featured image and 3rd from top, Shenandoah National Park fall creeper: CC BY 2.0 by Shenandoah National Park via Wikimedia. Top, Acadia Carriage Road, Quiet Spaces: Public Domain by J.R. Libby via Flickr. Acadia National Park: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Heipei from Deutschland via Flickr. Acadia, Blue hill overlook, October sunset: CC0 by Kristi Rugg/NPS. Bottom, Smokies, Ocanaluftee Overlook at Newfound Gap: CC BY-SA 3.0 by I Blinutne via Wikimedia.