Unless you live in beautiful Southern California, you’ve probably packed away the beach gear, vacuumed the sand out of your car, and said goodbye to summer by now. Welcome fall and the beautiful colors that the change of seasons brings with an unforgettable road trip. Travelers often think of the east coast when they think of fall leaves, but there are ample scenic road trips worth making this fall. Here are five of the best fall road trips in the western United States.
Travel 363 miles and allow yourself a minimum of 10 hours to experience all that this scenic byway has to offer. The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway follows the Oregon coast along Highway 101 and hits several points of interest along the way. If you want to make a weekend of your road trip, plan to check out the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center, both in the coastal city of Newport. If you opt to keep driving instead of making stops, you still have plenty of breathtaking sights to enjoy. The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway is one of the most photographed regions in the western US, thanks to all of the natural beauty on display. From dramatic sea cliffs to lush rain forest to majestic rock formations, road trippers will delight in the journey. If you make the journey in late fall, keep an eye on the horizon for a glimpse of a passing grey whale or two.
This coast hugging drive is enjoyed starting at either end of the trail. One option is to start in San Diego, in the southern end of California, and travel north through beach towns, then Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, lush wine country, and end the journey in San Franciso. This 123 mile winding, cliff hugging drive is often ranked among the most scenic drives in the world. Enjoy mountains on one side and the roaring waves of the Pacific on the other. Take in towering redwoods and a rare purple sand beach on this one of a kind journey.
The only major route on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula is the loop highway. Beginning at Highway 101 at the junction with Highway 104, this trip will take you all the way around the Olympia National State Park. You’ll feel like you’re in an exotic foreign country as you make the loop around the peninsula. Lush waterfalls and sweeping cliff views, as well as seemingly endless beaches and mossy woodlands, make this drive unforgettable. If you can, step out of your car for a bit at the wild coastline during low tide to take a peek at the multitude of tide pools that are home to starfish, hermit crabs, and other interesting sea creatures.
If you are a thrill seeker and do not have a fear of heights, you will love the twists and turns as you navigate the Million Dollar Highway. Driving on the edge of a very steep cliff, with no guard rails, is not for the faint of heart, but it offers unobstructed views of the breathtaking panorama. The section of the roadway referred to as the Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles in Colorado, along US 550 between Silverton and Ouray.
If you are looking to enjoy the vibrant colors of fall leaves, then head to the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in Taos, New Mexico. This roadtrip takes about 3 hours to enjoy. From Taos Plaza on Highway 64 head north to Highway 22 to Questa. From there take 38 east to the Red River, then head south to Eagle Nest and Angel Fire before returning west to Taos on 64 again. This scenic byway circles Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state. Enjoy views of the oldest rocks in the southwest, including quartz and feldspar, that are over 2 billion years old. In the fall, the lovely colors of the golden aspen trees and red cottonwoods will make you feel like Autumn truly has arrived.
Are you ready to load up your car and head west for a road trip yet? I know I am!