Autumn might just be the best time of year to visit the United States’ national parks. Summer’s crowds fall by nearly half, wildlife spring into a final frenzy of activity before winter, and colorful fall foliage transforms the landscape for a few brief but brilliant weeks.
Although autumn leaves are lovely all around the world, North America’s vivid red hues are special. Why? Some scientists suggest that during ancient ice ages, the north-south orientation of mountain ranges in North America allowed animal species—including insects—to retreat from oncoming glaciers, meaning trees were evolutionarily encouraged to produce the red pigments, which are known to protect them from pests.
Whatever the cause, the explosion of fall colors across the U.S. is a stunning sight to see. From Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Alaska’s roadless wilderness, explore the national parks that shine brightest in the fall.