Top Campgrounds for Fall Foliage
Robert Frost said, “nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold,” and if you’ve spent your falls chasing the vibrant colors of changing foliage, you know just how right he was. A week or two too early or late and you’ve missed it all. But when you get it right, the results feel like a poem: canary, umber, tangerine, and, yes, gold. That’s why we set out with our tents and backpacks, in our RVs and camper vans, in search of those transcendent moments where the shifting colors of nature remind us of the transience of nature’s beauty.
If you are hoping to experience your own poetic moment, or maybe just see some really cool colors painted across a landscape, you’ll want to know some of the best areas in the United States to see the changing of the leaves. Here are some of the premier areas and camping spots to see nature’s gold.
The Early Birds
For those who are prepared to journey out as soon as fall colors set in, you can find campgrounds across the U.S. that offer a spectacular show as early as the beginning of September.
- Stanley, Idaho--whether it’s rustic tent camping at Pettit Lake Campground or the more comfortable Stanly RV + Camp, the splendid Sawtooth Mountains offer a backdrop of Alder and Aspens that is stunning. Changes are best viewed from September through early October.
- Aspen, Colorado--The Difficult Campground on the Roaring Fork River in Aspen is host to a display of creams and oranges starting in late September and lasting through early October. The interspersed Aspen, Fir, Cottonwood, and Spruce make Aspen’s fall display one of the most spectacular in the U.S.
- Isle Royale National Park, Michigan--Just outside the Canadian border, this group of islands in Lake Superior offers a remote protected wilderness from which to view fall foliage. The primitive campsites of Devilfish Lake Campground provide a quiet and gorgeous setting for watching the leaves turn for most of September into mid-October.
Maybe you’re one of those who is too busy coming off of summer to make those early turning sites. But that’s okay as there are plenty of places to visit where leaf color peaks a little later in the season.
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming--RV enthusiasts are likely to spot bison, moose, and mule deer moving through the sagebrush and blue spruce of Gros Ventre Campground set in the Grand Tetons. This quieter sister of Yellowstone, which lays just south of the better known (and more visited) park, is a gem of fall foliage for most of the month of October.
- The Sierra Nevadas--From mid-September through the end of October, the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Oregon are a wonderland of color. You can’t find a more tranquil backdrop for watching the leaves than Emerald Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
- Santa Fe, New Mexico--For a stunning and different fall experience, visit Agua Piedra Campground where Ponderosa Pines blend with Aspens, and where you can enjoy not only local scenery but also the thriving arts scene of Santa Fe and Taos.
Never fear if you’re late to the game. Those last minute thoughts of catching fall foliage don’t need to be shelved if you know where to go. There are a number of fabulous sites that peak well into November.
- Big Bend National Park, Texas--The Chisos Basin Campground offers the best of both worlds with full amenities campsites and Chisos Backpacking Sites. This area south of El Paso may be one of the more unusual displays of fall color you’ll ever experience. Bigtooth maples, walnuts, and oaks are set against a limestone backdrop, accented by Madrone red berries and show off their fall colors through much of November.
- Jackson, Mississippi--For a staggering late display of color, head to Roosevelt State Park, where you’re likely to catch the peak fall change from mid-October to Mid-November. The park offers lakeside RV camping and also has cabins available where you can spend a few days catching the backdrop of colors reflected in the Mississippi River.
- Chattanooga, Tennessee--Prepare for a one-of-a-kind experience when you park your RV at the Chattanooga Holiday Travel Park and hop on the Tennessee Valley Railroad to watch the carpets of color sweep by as you loop through the Hiwassee River Gorge. The highest chance of peak colors here occurs from late October to the early weeks of November.
Ivan Young is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with Pakmule hitch rack carriers.