Just because we've entered the fall season doesn't mean you have to stop camping. There are many great destinations throughout the U.S., especially in early autumn, in which you can find not only decent weather but fewer crowds. This time of the year is often ideal to camp if you choose the right location. Here is a look at 10 excellent choices for a fall camping getaway.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is located in the central Sierra Nevada of California. Early to mid-fall often brings ideal temperatures, sunny skies and far fewer tourists to the valley, making it an ideal time for camping. The entire park usually stays open through October and even into November; however, the Tioga Road area shuts services down after September, so you'll need to stick to Yosemite Valley and Wawona areas, which remain accessible by car all year.
Keep in mind that early snows can sometime hit as soon as late September -- and two weeks later it can be hot and dry. While most trees are evergreen, there are black oaks, big-leaf maples, Pacific dogwoods and other deciduous trees that showcase brilliant colors around mid-October.
Plymouth Park Campground in Plymouth, Washington, is located on an island on Lake Umatilla just across from Umatilla, Oregon, and 185 miles east of Portland. Set in the dry highlands of the upper Rockies, it's a spectacular place to camp in the fall. Enjoy beautiful fall foliage and great fishing in the river.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Autumn is the most breathtaking time of the year to drive Medano Pass Road to Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado, and roadside camping is permitted at the 18 marked and numbered campsites along the road in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. These sites are even free of charge, although available only on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pinyon Flats Campground inside the park does not take reservations after early September; however, the 88 sites rarely fill up after mid-September. Weather brings beautiful sunny blue skies and ideal temperatures in the 60s and 70s, with fall colors peaking in late September to early October.
Poudre River Canyon, Colorado
On the north end of the state, the Poudre River along highway 14 offers many great places to camp. While quite a few areas close at the end of September, the Narrows Campground, about 32 miles northwest of Fort Collins, is open through October. This is an outstanding location among beautiful autumn foliage at the edge of the river; great for trout fishing and nestled among ponderosa pines.
Poudre Canyon Highway runs through the canyon with stunning mountain scenery, although some years may bring early snow so it's a good idea to double check the weather before heading out. Most years you'll experience a perfect climate with bright sunny blue skies and evening temperatures dipping only into the 40s.
September is often the real start of summer on the Oregon coast, and with the kids back in school and warmer temperatures, camping is at its prime after Labor Day. Along the entire coastline, there are many great campgrounds, with Beverly Beach State Park a favorite for many. Access can be found along the east side of the highway between Depoe Bay and Newport, Oregon. This campground has beach access via a tunnel underneath the highway and offers a mile and a half stretch of sand and 273 campsites. Camping is often at its best from early to mid-September through the end of October.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Whitefish Township on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan offers year-round camping, and in October campers can even participate in the Lower Falls autumn camping experience with campsite decorating, trick-or-treating and evening pumpkin carving and costume contests at the annual Harvest Festival tradition (October 13 this year).
Bundle up -- while daytime temperatures average in the low 60s, nighttime temperatures are typically in the low 40s. It's well worth it for the scenery filled with with glowing oranges, golden yellows and fiery reds.
West Greenwich, Rhode Island
If your goal is to be among the most brilliant foliage in the country, head to Rhode Island and the Oak Embers family campground, open through October 31. New England's autumn scenery is known worldwide as the best of the best, and with the campground adjacent to the Arcadia Management Area, you can experience it all on horseback through Arcadia State Park with trail rides offered by Stepping Stone Ranch.
Temperatures in the fall here range from highs in the mid-50s to the mid-60s during the day and in the 40s at night.
While the temperatures in the Adirondacks dip rather quickly after fall hits, many campgrounds stay open at least through the second or third weekend in October. Cranberry Lake Campground remains open until October 17, located 75 miles northeast of Watertown, New York. Cranberry Lake is one of the largest remote lakes in the Adirondacks and adjacent to 50,000 acres of wilderness filled with 50 miles of developed trails.
Though the climate here can be chilly in October, with average temps in the high 50s and temperatures at night in the upper 30s, it's worth it for the remoteness, fewer campers and breathtaking fall scenery.
Sedona's red rock country offers some of the most beautiful campgrounds in Arizona, with the scenic views of the majestic red rocks at its peak in autumn, and far fewer crowds filling the campgrounds. Here the fall foliage peaks closer to the end of October, and with it comes brilliant blue skies and ideal daytime temperatures in the upper 70s, with nights not dipping lower than the high 40s.
There are many great campgrounds in Oak Creek Canyon, including Cave Springs, Pine Flat and Bootlegger.
Northern California Coast
Northern California beach camping offers some of the very best in the fall. While summer months often bring coastal fogs, during the winter campers are often hammered by major storms bringing cold, wet weather.
Patrick's Point State Park in Trinidad, California, just 15 miles north of Arcata, offers a meadow-covered headland with high cliffs overlooking the rugged and stunning coastline that includes Agate Beach with lots of tide pools. In the fall, there is often more wildlife than people, including deer, sea lions and seals, and even occasional gray whale sightings.
K.C. Dermody grew up frequently camping throughout the state of California, carrying her love of the outdoor activity into adulthood, experiencing it often throughout the west, the mountain states, and other areas of the country as well.