Fall in Love With Amazing Public Lands in Autumn

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, people begin to head to their favorite spots to enjoy cooler temperatures, the healing power of nature and this gorgeous seasonal spectacle.

Check out a few of our favorite places to welcome autumn.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

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

Photo of a cottonwood and sandhill cranes by Robert Dunn.

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.

Table Rock Wilderness


Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

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. 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. 

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.

Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

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.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park


Photo by Jennifer Lhost (www.sharetheexperience.org).

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.

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.

Photo by Jessica Gottlieb, Bureau of Land Management.

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.

Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge


Photo by Rita Szabo (www.sharetheexperience.org).

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.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

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

Photo by Katie Cullen, National Park Service.

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.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park


Photo by Kathi Isserman (www.sharetheexperience.org). 

Running 184 miles from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park offers 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, the C & O Canal provides fresh air and fall foliage for all to enjoy. 

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

A dirt road curves through a forest in the fall.

Photo by Keith Ramos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve


Photo by Karen Tucker, National Park Service.

Fall paints the landscape golden yellow at Lake Clark National Park and 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.

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.

Fall photo by Micael Fano (www.sharetheexperience.org).

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.

Blue Ridge Parkway


Photo by Philip Varney (www.sharetheexperience.org). 

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.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

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

Photo by Jennifer Howell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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. It transitioned from farmland, to war-time manufacturing site, to a 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.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


Photo by Gregory Lloyd (www.sharetheexperience.org).

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.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

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

Photo by National Park Service.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border is a wonderland of forested mountains, tumbling waterfalls, Indigenous cultural 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.

North Cascades National Park


Photo by National Park Service.

A visit to North Cascades National Park Service Complex 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.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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

Photo by National Park Service.

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.

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.