When it comes to camping in the fall, it seems like no two people can agree. The opinions on which place is the absolute best are about as diverse as the colors of the changing leaves. If there’s one region, though, that dominates the polls, I think it’s probably the east coast. The rolling hills, winding channels of water and plethora of deciduous trees are enough to satisfy anyone’s eye for fall colors. Since we can’t all make the weekend trip out to New England, however, I would like to point out one place from each region in America to call it the “best place to go fall camping”. There are about a million different factors that could go into this (for example, one might have the best hiking trails while another might be preferred for its prime fishing), so let’s just stick to “general camping”. No doubt, if you’re reading this, you’ll have some different opinions, so please share your thoughts in the comments below. Here we go…
Northeast – Lost River Valley Campground, NH
Tucked away in the White Mountains, surround by national forest and bordered by two rivers is Lost River Valley Campground. You just can’t go wrong in New Hampshire. This campground has trees on pretty much every side, making it an excellent location for the autumn photographer. It has opportunities for hiking, canoeing and even golfing, as well as a host of nearby attractions, including caverns, scenic railroads and mountain trails. Campsites are available right on the river, also making it a great spot for trout fishing. What makes Lost River Valley a worthy candidate for my list (besides its fall foliage) is that it appeals to all levels of camping enthusiasm. If you want the home-away-from-home comfort of an RV, tow along your RV and enjoy the popular attractions and clean-cut recreation areas. If you prefer “roughing it” in a tent, there are plenty of woods to go and get lost in.
Southwest – Cave Springs Campground, AZ
Finding a place to go camping in the Southwest isn’t difficult, but finding a place that is especially attractive in the fall is a little bit more of a challenge. With much of the Southwest offering beautiful rock formations and wide open prairies, Cave Springs Campground in Arizona takes the cake for fall foliage. Cave Springs is located in the Oak Creek Canyon and surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. The forest is populated by Ponderosa pines and oaks along the river. With the red sandstone canyon walls as a backdrop, the trees make an excellent autumn collage. One of the most popular activities for Cave Springs campers is swimming in the water hole at Slide Rock State Park. With Arizona’s balmy temperatures throughout the fall and winter, swimming is a year-round activity, though December and January might get a little cold for some preferences.
West – Zion National Park, UT
I may be a little bias on this one having camped in Zion on a trip through the West/Southwest, but this location really does offer a lot for camping any time of year. Zion National Park is located in the southwest corner of Utah and is made up of an incredible 229 square miles of magnificent canyons, exotic wildlife and a variety of smallish trees, such as Utah junipers, pinyon pines and Fremont Cottonwoods. As such, the hiking here is one of the main attractions. It may not have the color spectrum offered by other regions, but that doesn’t mean Zion isn’t beautiful in autumn. The Fremont Cottonwood trees in particular turn a shade of vibrant yellow that transforms the valleys into a golden wonderland. Some the favorite activities in Zion National Park are backpacking, climbing, bicycling and whitewater rafting.
Southeast – DeSoto State Park, AL
Lush forests and scenic waterfalls are commonplace in this area in Alabama, but besides its beauty, one of the reasons I chose it was again for the variety of camping options. Do you prefer the comfort of a cozy cabin or are you a camping purist who will only sleep under the stars in a bivy sack? It doesn’t matter either way here. You can choose from cabins, RV sites, primitive lots in the backcountry and more. DeSoto State Park has tons of activities, including hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, swimming and even golfing and geocaching. It is also known for its beautiful wildflowers, but assuming you’re going for the fall colors, those might not be as prevalent.
Midwest – Peninsula State Park, WI
Bordered on Green Bay in Wisconsin, Peninsula State Park is basically six different campground locations in one. The park is populated with mostly maple and beech trees making this a prime location for fall lovers. The trees, combined with the sheer bluffs that overlook Lake Michigan, are postcard perfect. Some of the activities in Peninsula State Park, besides gawking at the scenery, include biking, hiking, swimming (might be a little frigid in fall), boating, kayaking, fishing, archery, golfing and even theatre performances. As if that weren’t enough, there are also several sights to see such as the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and the Eagle Tower.
Autumn, at least in the Midwest, seems to be gone as soon as it arrives. Old Man Winter just can’t wait to come in and turn everything into an icy wasteland. No matter where you live, though, the fall colors don’t last forever. There’s nothing like spending the crisp nights of autumn out under the stars with a crackling fire and a cup of hot cider to keep you warm. When you mix in the vibrant colors of the changing leaves, it’s arguably the best season for camping wherever you pitch your tent.