7 Reasons Fall is the Best Camping Season
Everything You’ll Love About Camping After the End of Summer
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Fall is the season we never knew was our favorite. As Floridians, we had no idea what the fall really was until we hit the road full-time. Sure, we learned about the 4 seasons as kids, but there’s nothing like experiencing fall for a season. Not only did it become our favorite, we became convinced it's the best camping season.
Our first fall season was spent watching the leaves change color in the Southeast. We had an amazing Thanksgiving in North Carolina, and spent time in Virginia and Georgia that fall as well. The fall comes a bit later to the Southeast so it’s a great way to extend a fall foliage roadtrip through the Northeast.
Our second fall season was spent in the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone. It’s definitely worth it to see the Aspens turn gold. Yellowstone was beautiful in the fall, though we learned (the hard way!) areas like Idaho and Wyoming nearly jump from summer to winter.
While camping in the fall, we realized there are many advantages to continuing on past summer.
1. Fall Foliage
The trees put on quite a show as they trade their emerald hues for gold, amber, and ruby red. A familiar national or state park transforms and shows you a side you hadn’t seen before. Hikes through glittering yellow leaves feel magical. If you enjoy a little nature photography while out camping, your pictures will have a beautiful pop of color.
Try Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton for a western fall. In the East, you can’t go wrong anywhere in the Northeast. If you’re near the Canadian border, try catching the fall foliage in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. Down South, Pocahontas State Park in Virginia is great for fall camping. For late fall, northern Georgia has great options.
2. Fewer Crowds
Whether you’re trying to reserve a developed campsite or you boondock in an RV (our favorite), you’ll find it’s much easier to find a spot. We love boondocking, but find that it can be hard to find a spot where you can truly be alone in nature during the summer. As great as it is can be to have neighbors, sometimes it’s nice to experience feeling like you’re the only person on Earth.
We’ve visited Yellowstone twice, once during the summer and once during fall. In the summer, we had neighbors and struggled with internet connectivity due to how much the summer crowds overloaded the cell towers. In the fall, we had an entire creek to ourselves and had better connectivity whenever we were within range of the cell towers.
Out East, where boondocking is limited, and you may have to rely on campgrounds, you’ll have an easier time finding sites in the summer–just remember to mindful of big college football weekends near some of the football heavyweight universities.
If you visit National Parks, the fall can be quite the treat. Some National Parks can become too heavily trafficked and even theme-park like in the summer. When fall rolls around the serenity returns. In some parks you won’t be able to drive your vehicle through during the summer, but you can in the fall. Some parks we’ve been to that were a bit too busy were Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain National Park. The experience is less hectic during the fall at all of them with less crowds.
3. The Bugs Have Left
Okay, so depending on where you are, and how early it is in the fall, there may still be a few bugs. Overall, you’ll need to slather on a lot less repellent. You’ll also be able to enjoy views without constantly slapping at mosquitoes.
The mosquitoes at Yellowstone and Grand Teton are huge and plentiful in the summer. When we returned in the fall, they were gone. In our experience these are the kind of mosquitoes that seem to be able to bite through clothing, so it was a welcome change for us. Do keep in mind that fall is very short at these two parks and some seasonal road closures begin as early as September.
Over in the Southeast, it takes a little while longer into the fall, but the hikes and the lakes are so much more enjoyable without annoying mosquitoes. There is always something you can do about them. Bug repellent, permetherin treatment for gear, foggers, and campfire smoke all deter the pests, but it’s so nice not to have to even worry about them.
4. Less Humidity
Out East, humidity is an overbearing beast we’re happy to have escaped from by traveling full-time. Summer humidity can be downright oppressive, especially in the Southeast. Although, in those areas the humidity will never be as low as in parts of the West, you do get a nice respite during fall.
During the summer you’re left sweaty and constantly peeling your clothes off your skin as they stick to you like cling-wrap. But once fall hits, it’s pleasantly warm at first. As the season continues you have cool mornings and evenings, until eventually the temperature is pleasant all day and you’re able to do things without becoming a sticky, sweaty mess.
September is nice in the northern parts of the East, while later October and November can be downright gorgeous further south. Your options for camping open up as it becomes less of a big deal to camp without campground showers, or your own shower, and you can keep up better between showers if you want to do any backpacking or multi-day camping. We’ve also found it easier to fall asleep with lower humidity in the fall.
5. Less Heat
In our opinion, summer brings out the best in mountain towns (Telluride, Breckenridge, Sun Valley) and the Pacific Northwest. Some of the most beautiful summer we’ve seen has been in Napa, Portland, Seattle, and their surrounding areas. Yet summer also brings with it monster heat waves with temperatures that climb into the nineties and even triple digits.
We also love the desert, and much of it is too hot, even dangerously hot, for camping once summer rolls around. Fall brings cool temperatures and an end to the heat waves. The desert becomes pleasant again and those of you in tents won’t be baking in them so early in the morning.
We also welcome the fall with open arms because we travel with our dogs in our RV. We can’t possibly take them everywhere, yet there’s absolutely no way to leave them in their house when the temperatures climb into the eighties and beyond. The fall makes traveling with them much easier again.
Unless you’re at high elevations, the summer temps will hit a point where it can be uncomfortable and the start of fall dials that back to comfortable. This can be short lived in some of the northern areas of the country, so get out there while it lasts!
6. Perfect Temps for Cozying Up
Have you had moments where you catch yourself wondering if it’s not a bit too hot for the campfire or brewing that morning coffee? As fall progresses and it becomes a bit more chilly, the camping is still great, because the cool temperatures become perfect for getting cozy.
You can snuggle by the fire (well, we actually hate the smell of campfire smoke, but we did get to camp with friends who had a propane campfire and that was awesome!), wrap up in cozy blankets, and break out comfy sweaters and beanies. Jon and I like to have hot coffee and tea in the morning. Sometimes during the summer, we end up opting for iced coffee and tea. That’s fun too, but there’s nothing like snuggling with our dogs, hot mugs of coffee and tea in hand.
7. Campsite Rate Savings
We almost always boondock. But, since family is all out East, we generally find ourselves heading back East sometime in the fall. We end up staying in campgrounds more than we normally would at this point, but we’ve found once the summer season ends, many campgrounds drop their nightly rates.
We love the savings in nightly campsite rates that come with the fall season! Some campgrounds will have just a high season and low season rate. The savings are greater at those. Others will have a middle rate, or “shoulder” season rate for fall, but even if this is the case, you can save while enjoying a great compromise between price and comfortable temps.
Fall is a season many of us look forward to. There are apples to be picked, pumpkins to carve, pumpkin spiced everything, and beautiful foliage. The colors, temperatures, and overall ambiance of fall is perhaps best experienced outdoors. We’ve come to love the fall season and firmly believe it’s the best camping season. What do you think is the best season to camp in? What do you love about fall camping? Let us know in the comments below!
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