The month of September is the time of year that signifies early fall. But if you're a hiker, September also means plenty of opportunities to cross a few day hikes off of your bucket list. The weather becomes nicer and cooler to go trekking in, gorgeous fall foliage decorates national forests, and the mountain ranges offer panoramic views of fall color gradients everywhere. So, what are the best places to hike in September?
Best Places to Hike in September: 12 Parks with the Best Trails for Fall
1. Grand Canyon National Park
Since Arizona is known for its dry, three-digit temperatures during the summer, spring and fall seasons are the best times to visit the Grand Canyon. The weather is much cooler ranging from the mid-20s to mid-70s, so be sure to pack a variety of clothing. Interestingly enough, summer is also when the park is the most packed anyways. So if you visit during the fall, you'll be able to bask in the beautiful weather while avoiding all the crowding.
2. Yosemite National Park
Contrary to Arizona, California is generally known for its gorgeous weather all year round. Of course, some places can get hotter or colder than others depending on whether you're more north or south in the state. But hitting Yosemite Valley during late September means you'll get to explore the area in the 50s and 60s, really intaking the views of the awe-inspiring, giant sequoias in Merced Grove or the magnificence of the Nevada Falls.
3. Acadia National Park
It might be a little colder hiking these trails in Maine during early October, but it's not too cold to behold all the wonders this park has to offer in maybe the month prior. You can observe the grandeur of the South Bubble glacial erratic, a rock formation on the mountain's edge that isn't to be missed, or opt for a simple trail that follows the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. Either way, Acadia National Park isn't to be overlooked during the fall.
4. Shenandoah National Park
Hike three miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia on the Little Stony Man hike to get to the park's second highest peak at 4,011 feet. At the top of the mountain, you'll get to oversee the mountain town of Luray and the 50-mile long Massanutten mountain range adorned with all the wonderful color changes of fall. On your drive home, you'll take the spectacular Skyline Drive Scenic through the Blue Ridge Mountains while enjoying the sun setting over the horizon.
5. Glacier National Park
One the reasons why September is the best month to visit Glacier National Park in Montana is because the Going to the Sun Road, a highlight of the park, is open. The scenic mountain road normally doesn't open up until mid-July, but it's perfect to drive on as the fall season begins. Although the park is up north, the weather will still be around the 50s and 60s during this time, so you can expect to bring a variety of clothing for your hike.
6. Grand Teton National Park
This Wyoming park is known for its impressive landscapes during September. Along with all the surrounding fall foliage, there is plenty of wildlife to add to all the colors you'll see. The weather stays pretty consistent around the 70s, making exploring outside even more enjoyable for hikers who are looking to find oranges and yellows popping out among the evergreens.
7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best parks to visit during the fall. Although its general area is more ideal to visit in October or November, a specific mountain is actually worth seeing in September. Mount LeConte, part of the mountain range that straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is the third highest peak in the area at 6,593 feet. Although you'll spend a good portion of the day hiking, you'll be able to see the beginning of all the colors changing across the horizon once you reach the top.
8. Rocky Mountain National Park
Hiking this Colorado national park means you'll get your fill of its popping, golden-yellow aspen trees. Start at the lesser-known and lesser-crowded Wild Basin trailhead, and follow it through the aspens while observing how the colors change with the elevation gain.
9. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is a popular US park for many outdoor activities all year round, but during September, backpacking trips are really magical. Although the treks (as any hike) will take some effort and energy, there's a sleepy feel to the park's backcountry while the weather is cooling down. And the best part? The lack of bugs. The pesky mosquitoes that would bother you during the summer normally die off by the time fall season starts.
10. Zion National Park
Although fall normally hits the entirety of this Utah park closer to November, the iconic Observation Point Trail is worth hiking in September. After climbing to the top at 6,521 feet, you'll witness panoramic views of the widest part of the canyon, where yellow, orange, and red trees start to peak through.
11. Mount Rainier National Park
Just 60 miles south of Seattle in Washington, Mount Rainier National Park is a place to go to in September if you want to explore the area to the fullest. You'll avoid the summer crowds while reveling in the breezy weather, which ranges between the 50s and 70s. You'll also get to embrace how the surrounding colors change with elevation gain during your hike, but with rainy season all year round, keep a rain jacket with you just in case.
12. Silver Falls State Park
This Oregon state park features amazing hikes that will take you across eight miles and 10 waterfalls. It also features an old-growth forest, where you can truly see the magnitude of the beauty in its fall foliage. Full of massive dark green trees with bursts of yellow, this park is definitely a must-see if you want to hike somewhere in the Pacific Northwest during the month of September.
Have you hiked a specific place in the US during September to witness the wonderful changes of fall? Share your experiences with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!