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September 30, 2018 - Public lands are amazing all year, but there’s something really magnificent about the arrival of fall colors. As whole forests transition into bright reds, oranges and yellows, leaf peepers head to their favorite spots to enjoy cooler temperatures and this gorgeous natural spectacle. Check out a few of our favorite places to welcome autumn.

Acadia National Park

A peninsula of land covered in fall colored forests extends out into the ocean under a blue sky with puffy white clouds.

In the mid-1800s, artists and painters of the Hudson River School flocked to Mount Desert Island in Maine and glorified its natural beauty with their brushstrokes -- inspiring patrons and friends to explore the area. Undaunted by crude accommodations and simple food, they sought out local fishermen and farmers to put them up for a modest fee. As more people came to savor the fresh salt air, beautiful scenery and relaxed pace, the fame and popularity of this gorgeous coastline grew. After years of preservation efforts, this lovely landscape became Acadia National Park in 1929. It’s especially gorgeous in the fall. Photo by Adams Pouliot (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Table Rock Wilderness

Orange, green and yellow plants grow in a rocky clearing at the base of a massive square shaped rock formation.

Table Rock Wilderness in Oregon is a steep and rugged terrain with a quiet forest of Douglas fir and western hemlock, crowds of rhododendron on many of the upper slopes and an island of old growth in an ocean of forest development. A remnant of a lava flow that once covered this region along the western foothills of the Cascades, the "fortress" of Table Rock stands at 4,881 feet above the northeastern portion of this small wilderness. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

A tree with bright yellow leaves stands next to a still pond that shows the tree's reflection.

Fall foliage lights up the lakeshore at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Along with changing leaves, late season sunflowers provide a colorful contrast to red-wing blackbirds that swoop and dart through grasses. The refuge protects a wide stretch of the Rio Grande river where sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl spend the winter each year. Photo of a cottonwood and sandhill cranes by Robert Dunn.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A wide walking trail covered with leaves runs through a forest in autumn.

Throughout fall at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the trees burst with beautiful oranges, reds and yellows. That means autumn is the perfect time to visit. One reason for the amazing fall display is the park’s diversity of trees. Some 100 species of native trees grow in the Smokies, and the vast majority of these are deciduous, guaranteeing big leaves and bold colors. Photo by Peggy Yaeger (www.sharetheexperience.org). 

Grand Teton National Park

Rays of orange sunlight streak across a cloudy sky at sunset above a line of snow covered mountains.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is a must-see in the fall! Aspen tree leaves blaze yellow, orange and occasionally red during autumn, creating a dramatic contrasting with the towering Teton Range in the background. Photo by by Robert Warrington (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Conway Summit Area of Critical Environmental Concern

A forest of yellow trees dusted with snow covers a field that runs up to hills and mountains on the horizon.

Conway Summit Area of Critical Environmental Concern in California offers some of the most accessible and spectacular fall color viewing areas anywhere in California. Because of its high elevation, autumn displays often stand out against the white blanket of early snow. Though the area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the horizon is formed by 12,000 foot peaks of the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

A small waterfall pours over a natural stone wall in a forest of bright orange trees.

If you’re looking for fall colors on public lands, Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park has to be on the list. An easy drive from Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, the falls are one of the most popular spots in the park. Decked in orange and yellow leaves, the forest around the picturesque falls is peaceful and welcoming. Photo by Jennifer Lhost (www.sharetheexperience.org).

South Fork of the Snake River

Trees showing bright fall colors grow along a river as it curves between grassy hills on a foggy morning.

The majestic South Fork of the Snake River flows 66 miles across southeastern Idaho, through high mountain valleys, rugged canyons and broad flood plains to its confluence with the Henry's Fork near Menan Buttes. In autumn, the landscape turns shades of gold. The South Fork is home to 126 bird species, moose, deer and an impressive array of other wildlife. Photo by Jessica Gottlieb, Bureau of Land Management.

Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge

Large, gnarly trees with orange leaves growing in a swamp.

A vital wetland in the Mississippi River watershed, Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas is a haven for a variety of native wildlife and migratory birds. Its fertile forests and some 300 lakes are interlaced with streams, swamps and bayous. The refuge also shows off some pretty fall colors. Photo by Rita Szabo (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

A lone hiker walks around large scattered boulders on a field covered in red, orange and yellow plants.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska erupts with color during the short fall season. You can find more than gorgeous views and amazing wildlife here, though. Field research continues to uncover evidence of prehistoric animals and the first people to settle the continent. Photo by Katie Cullen, National Park Service.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

A dirt path runs by a narrow canal filled with calm water and bordered on both sides with trees showing fall colors.

Running 184 miles from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Parkoffers as much adventure as you can handle. Hiking and biking on the towpath are favorite activities for locals and visitors alike. With so much history and nature to experience, you should visit this fall to enjoy the autumn colors. Photo by Kathi Isserman (www.sharetheexperience.org). 

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

A dirt road curves through a forest in the fall.

You can see amazing fall colors at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge -- located in southeast Maine near the Canadian border -- protects a wilderness of lakes, bogs, forests and more. Wildlife like moose, deer and songbirds thrive in the refuge’s diverse and picturesque habitats. Photo by Keith Ramos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

A waterfall pours over a large boulder in the middle of a blue river that is bordered by tall green and yellow trees.

Fall paints the landscape golden yellow at Lake Clark National Park & Preserve in Alaska. Meander through birch groves and up spruce studded hillsides to a stunning view of Lake Clark. Then round the bend and head down the gentle hill. Here you’ll reach Tanalian Falls, where the soar of the water is deafening and the surrounding beauty of autumn is mesmerizing. Photo by Karen Tucker, National Park Service.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Bushes with red and yellow leaves grow in a field next to a wide bay under a pink sunset sunrise sky.

A spectacular natural oasis within the limits of New York City, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge offers great opportunities for recreation, bird watching and enjoying gorgeous sunrises over the water. Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, it’s the only wildlife refuge in the national park system. Fall photo by Micael Fano (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Blue Ridge Parkway

Rolling mountains covered with trees showing their fall colors stretch out to the horizon under a pink sunset sky.

A rolling carpet of autumn color covers the landscape along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. As summer ends, the green pigments in leaves deteriorate, giving other colors a chance to shine. Carotenoids, the pigment that makes carrots orange and leaves yellow, are exposed as the green fades. Reds and purples come from anthocyanins, a pigment that is formed when sugars in leaves break down in bright autumn sunlight. From mountaintop to valley bottom, the gorgeous colors of nature are calling you to explore this amazing place. Photo by Philip Varney (www.sharetheexperience.org). 

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Trees showing their autumn colors stand along the rocky bank of a still lake.

Located just northeast of Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a 15,000-acre expanse of prairie, wetland and woodland habitat. The land has a unique story -- it has survived the test of time and transitioned from farmland to war-time manufacturing site to wildlife sanctuary today. It may be one of the finest conservation success stories in history and a place where wildlife thrives. It’s the perfect place to relax by the water’s edge and enjoy the gorgeous fall colors. Photo by Jennifer Howell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Trees grow on top of a stone cliff rising above the blue waters of a large lake.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan is truly a mosaic of natural and cultural wonders. Along its 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline are over 15 miles of towering sandstone cliffs, more than 12 miles of beautiful beaches and nearly five miles of enormous sand dunes. And there are waterfalls, lighthouses, lakes, streams and forest to enjoy -- no matter the season. Photo by Gregory Lloyd (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

A long line of fall colored trees line the bank of a calm pond.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border is a wonderland of forested mountains, tumbling waterfalls, Native American and Colonial historic sites, bountiful wildlife and dynamic rivers and streams. Recreation opportunities include boating, biking, fishing, hunting, hiking and enjoying the views along scenic roadways. An easy drive from New York City and Philadelphia, the park is a popular year round getaway. Here, it’s showing a spectrum of lovely fall colors. Photo by National Park Service.

North Cascades National Park

The sun shines through orange leaves in a thin forest on a hillside.

A visit to North Cascades National Park is definitely worth the trek to northern Washington. Here larch trees turn a beautiful soft shade of gold, and when the sun shines through them, it’s a magical moment. Photo by National Park Service.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A flat topped mountain can be seen through a gap in trees showing bright fall colors.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park has the four highest peaks in Texas, an ancient fossil reef, desert, dunes, canyons, wildlife and a touch of fall color. In McKittrick Canyon, the maples put on an amazing autumn display. With lots of trails for hiking and horseback riding, you’ll find the perfect place for your fall pictures. Photo by National Park Service.

With so many places to choose from, you autumn plan a trip to see several public lands this fall. Orange you looking forward to saying yellow to these beautiful views? If you don’t get to, you’ll be red in the face.
Source: DOI