Fall for a National Park

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~George Eliot

Autumn is a magical time of year. The brilliant colors are awe-inspiring and there’s something about a chill in the air that feels invigorating. It’s a time to slow down and appreciate the ephemeral beauty of nature, to enjoy the great outdoors before the impending cold of winter.

It should come as no surprise that exploring our national parks is an excellent way to get outside and truly enjoy an autumnal day. Mountains, plains, desserts, and forests all provide different but beautiful terrain to witness the changing seasons.

And if you need another reason to Find Your Park this fall, think about the benefits to your health. We’ve recently marked World Mental Health Day, a date set aside to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. And as it turns out, getting outside is good for both your physical and mental health.

A study out of Stanford University found “quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.” Lead author Gregory Bratman believes that their findings could help demonstrate how nature has an impact on an “aspect of emotion regulation – something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better.” Another Stanford study, completed in 2015, found that those who walked in nature experienced a decrease in anxiety, benefited from improved cognition, and experienced more positive emotions.

Spending some time outside can also contribute to your improved physical health, which will likely come as no surprise to outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, kayaking, running, or just taking a stroll through a national park may reduce your stress levels and blood pressure. In a study conducted in 2016, people were asked to engage with nature every day, for a month. At the end of the study, those taking part were “found to have sustained increases in happiness, health, connection to nature, and pro-nature behaviors.” And since an improvement in health is related to an improvement in happiness, there seems to be good things happening when one connects with nature.

Convinced that some leaf peeping might be good for your body and mind this season? Then we’ve got some great suggestions for you. The Wilderness Society has released a list of fifteen national parks that offer stunning views of fall foliage. National parks like Shenandoah, The Great Smoky Mountains, Cuyahoga Valley, and Grand Teton are all at peak in midtolate October, so the timing is just right. You can check out the full list here.

We hope you manage to step away from the chaos of daily life this autumn and explore a national park. Soon enough, the season will change and many of us will seek out the comforts of home as we ride out the winter. If you do take some time to do a little leaf peeping, make sure to share your photos with us on social media. We’d love to join you on your adventures.

As always, our national parks give us so much. Help us to continue to protect these amazing resources and consider sending a donation our way. We want to make sure future generations can enjoy these treasures and stay healthy, and happy, too.