Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable autumn adventure? The fall season offers a stunning canvas of colors as the leaves change, creating the perfect backdrop for a fall road trip. In this guide, we’ll explore the top five fall road trip ideas that will take you to some of the most picturesque destinations in the US. Road trip planning is our middle name, so buckle up and let’s bring on the pumpkins!
Fall Road Trip Destinations
Before we dive into specific road trip ideas, let’s talk about the thrill of planning a fall road trip. Taking a road trip in the fall comes with its own set of delights and challenges. The weather is usually mild and comfortable, making it an excellent time to hit the open road. However, the changing weather can also bring some unpredictability, so it’s essential to be prepared for varying conditions.
But fear not! Camper vans offer the perfect climate controlled oasis for all of your autumn adventures, and GoCamp rentals come fully stocked with everything you need to just Hop In and Go. Whether you’re a seasoned road trip enthusiast or a first-timer, these destinations will surely leave you awestruck.
#1 Leaf Peeping in Colorado
If you're a fan of vibrant fall foliage, Colorado should be at the top of your list. Starting from September, the leaves begin to change, painting the mountains in breathtaking hues. One popular route is starting in Denver and heading toward the mountains, passing through charming towns like Breckenridge and Aspen.
In Colorado, you’ll find an abundance of picture-perfect landscapes that are ideal for leaf peeping. To make the most of your adventure, consider this three-day fall road trip itinerary starting from Denver:
Day 1: Denver to Estes Park
Campground: Hermit Park Open Space Campground
- Rocky Mountain National Park: Drive along the Trail Ridge Road for incredible leaf peeping opportunities.
- Hiking: Explore the many hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park to immerse yourself in the fall colors.
- Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for elk, deer, and other wildlife, as they are more active during the fall mating season.
Day 2: Estes Park to Aspen
Campground: Difficult Campground
- Maroon Bells: Visit the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, one of the most iconic spots in Colorado for fall foliage.
- Scenic Drives: Take a drive on Independence Pass or Castle Creek Road for breathtaking fall views.
- Biking: Consider biking along the Rio Grande Trail or the Glenwood Canyon Recreational Trail, surrounded by colorful fall foliage.
Day 3: Aspen to Breckenridge and Return to Denver
Campground: Prospector Campground
- Breckenridge: Explore the charming town known for its colorful fall foliage and vibrant atmosphere.
- Leaf Peeping: Drive along Boreas Pass Road or the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway for more leaf peeping opportunities.
- Hot Springs: Soak in the soothing hot springs at places like Glenwood Springs or Buena Vista to relax after your adventurous road trip.
The best time for fall foliage in Colorado is usually from late September to early October, but the timing can vary depending on factors such as elevation and weather conditions. So, plan your fall road trip during this period to witness the mesmerizing beauty of changing colors.
#2 Washington Apples and Fall Foliage
If you're more of a foodie and enjoy a relaxed road trip, a journey through Washington's apple country might be the perfect choice. Starting from Seattle, you can head north to Leavenworth, Cashmere, and Wenatchee to experience fall at its finest. Apples in the fall at harvest time, does it get any more delightful than that?
Consider this four-day road trip itinerary for a delightful fall road trip starting in Seattle:
Day 1: Seattle to Leavenworth/Cashmere/Wenatchee
Campground: Icicle Creek in Leavenworth has a multitude of camping options
- Leavenworth: Enjoy the charm at the base of the enchantments with great beer and gorgeous surroundings.
- Wenatchee: Explore the new home of Oktoberfest, a lively festival that was once in Leavenworth and is now held in Wenatchee.
Day 2: Leavenworth to Methow Valley (Winthrop/Twisp)
Campground: Raccoon Mountain Campground
- Methow Valley: If the fall weather permits, experience some of the best road and mountain biking in the state, and reach out to Methow Cycle and Sport for bike rentals and recommendations.
- If you are intrigued by Burning Man, you don’t want to miss the Okanogan Family Fair, also known as Barter Faire, for a unique taste of the Northwest. This is an after-burn Rainbow gathering that you need to see.
- Be sure to grab a baked good at Cinnamon Twisp. You’ll thank us later.
Day 3: North Cascades Highway to Deception Pass
Campground: Deception Pass State Park
- Deception Pass State Park: Enjoy the stunning views and relax at one of the most beautiful places in Washington. Take a day hike to Maple Pass for a view of spectacular fall colors.
- Optional Coastal Drive: Consider taking a scenic drive along Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham.
- Towns to visit along the way: La Connor, Bow/Edison. Stop at Slough Food in Edison for lunch if you get the chance. It’s everything we love about PNW dining.
Day 4: Deception Pass across Whidbey Island back to Seattle
#3 Wine Tasting In Napa Valley
For a more laid back and indulgent road trip, Napa Valley is the ultimate destination. Starting from San Francisco and moving north to Napa Valley, you'll have the opportunity to explore vineyards, enjoy fine wine, and revel in the picturesque landscapes.
Here’s a three-day fall road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Napa Valley:
Day 1: San Francisco to Napa Valley
Campground: Bothe-Napa Valley State Park Campground
- Wine Tasting in Napa Valley: Head to Mumm or Domaine Carneros for some sparkling wine tasting, Ashes & Diamonds for a cool mid-century vibe, and Stags Leap Wine Cellars to explore their historical significance and new hospitality space.
- Lunch at Brasswood: Enjoy a delicious lunch at Brasswood in St. Helena, where they have a fantastic restaurant with farm-to-table cuisine.
Day 2: Napa Valley Exploration
Campground: Skyline Wilderness Park Campground
- Continue Wine Tasting: Explore more wineries in Napa Valley, such as Chateau Montelena or Beringer Vineyards, known for their beautiful estates and excellent wines.
- Vineyard Harvest Experience: If visiting in September, you may witness the harvest action at some wineries. Participate in grape picking or learn about the winemaking process.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: Consider taking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise for a unique and breathtaking view of the vineyards and fall colors.
Day 3: Napa Valley to San Francisco
Campground: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Campground
- Visit Calistoga: Spend some time in Calistoga, known for its hot springs and quaint downtown area.
- Explore Sonoma Valley: If time allows, venture into neighboring Sonoma Valley and visit wineries like Buena Vista or Benziger Family Winery.
- Return to San Francisco: Head back to San Francisco and reminisce about your wonderful wine-filled adventure.
Need more Napa in your life? If you’re interested in experiencing van life and working in the wine industry during the harvest season, consider checking out the Harvest Help listings on winejobs.com. Many wineries hire interns for a few months during the harvest and provide opportunities to park camper vans on their vineyards, creating a unique and immersive experience. GoCamp offers long-term camper van rentals at a discount for those seeking a bolder adventure. Contact us today to get started.
#4 Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, a road trip through the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute dream. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds through the Appalachian Mountains, offering breathtaking views and numerous opportunities for camping and hiking.
A three-day fall road trip from Nashville offers the chance to explore some beautiful locations in the region and experience the vibrant colors of the changing leaves.
Day 1: Nashville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Campground: Elkmont Campground
- Cades Cove: Drive or bike the scenic Cades Cove Loop Road to view the stunning fall colors and potentially spot wildlife.
- Clingmans Dome: Hike up to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park, to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains covered in fall foliage.
- Waterfall Hikes: Take a hike to see some of the park’s beautiful waterfalls, like Laurel Falls or Abrams Falls.
Day 2: Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Chattanooga
Campground: Raccoon Mountain Campground
- Lookout Mountain: Visit Lookout Mountain and enjoy the breathtaking fall vistas from places like Rock City Gardens or the Incline Railway.
- Ruby Falls: Take a guided tour of Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall, and marvel at the beautiful rock formations.
- Chattanooga Riverwalk: Stroll or bike along the Chattanooga Riverwalk to enjoy the fall foliage along the Tennessee River.
Day 3: Chattanooga to Nashville
Campground: Two Rivers Campground
- Cheekwood Estate & Gardens: Explore Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville, where you can admire the fall colors in the beautiful botanical gardens.
- Pumpkin Patch: Visit Gentry Farm in Franklin to pick out pumpkins and enjoy other seasonal treats.
- Haunted Tour: Embrace the Halloween spirit with a haunted tour of a historic site in Nashville, such as the Hermitage or the Ryman Auditorium.
#5 Fall for Utah
For those seeking a unique and picturesque fall road trip, Utah offers an enchanting journey from Park City to Moab, surrounded by stunning landscapes and vibrant colors.
Day 1: Salt Lake City to Park City
Campground: Jordanelle State Park Campground
- Scenic Drive: Take a leisurely drive along the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, which offers breathtaking views of fall foliage and the Wasatch Mountains.
- Hiking: Explore some of the beautiful hiking trails in the area, such as the Mirror Lake Trail or the Bloods Lake Trail.
- Historic Main Street: Wander through the charming streets of Park City’s historic downtown area, lined with unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Day 2: Park City to Moab
Campground: Dead Horse Point State Park Campground
- Dead Horse Point State Park: Witness the stunning sunrise or sunset from Dead Horse Point, and explore the hiking trails along the rim for breathtaking views.
- Arches National Park: Spend the day exploring Arches and its iconic sandstone arches. Don’t miss Delicate Arch or Landscape Arch, and consider hiking the Devil’s Garden Trail.
- Stargazing: Moab is known for its dark skies, making it an ideal place for stargazing on a clear fall night.
Day 3: Moab to Capitol Reef National Park and Return to Salt Lake City
- Capitol Reef National Park: Enjoy the fall colors and explore scenic viewpoints such as the Goosenecks Overlook and the Capitol Gorge Trail.
- Fruita Orchards: If you’re visiting during apple harvest season (usually September to October), consider picking fresh fruit at the historic Fruita Orchards.
- Scenic Drive: Take Utah State Route 24 through the stunning landscapes of the Waterpocket Fold on your way back to Salt Lake City.
This three-day road trip offers a wonderful mix of breathtaking scenery, outdoor activities, and the chance to witness the beauty of fall colors in Utah’s diverse landscapes. Whether you like hiking in national parks, stargazing in Moab, or picking fresh apples in Fruita, this road trip is sure to create unforgettable memories.
Let GoCamp Help With Your Next Road Trip
No matter which fall road trip idea captures your heart, GoCamp is here to help you make it a reality. With a camper van rental, you can have the freedom to explore these incredible destinations at your own pace and in comfort.
Start planning your fall road trip today and immerse yourself in the splendor of the season. Witness the mesmerizing fall foliage, indulge in delicious wines, explore charming towns, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Happy road tripping!