10 Terrific Fall Travel Ideas
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Crisp air temperatures, vibrant colors and much smaller crowds -- what's not to love about fall travel in the good ole’ USA?!? Come on and get inspired for your next trip with our 10 unique and exciting Road Trips to experience fall around the US of A. Looking for leaf-peeping? We've got great ideas in New England and beyond.
A road trip is as American as a barbecue on the Fourth of July. The open highway, an iPod loaded with tunes. A cooler full of sodas and snacks, let’s not forget unforgettable conversations about nothing and about everything.
The US possesses an awesome variety of road trip-suitable routes, from straight shots across deserts to stomach-churning switchbacks through the mountains. Whatever type of adventure you seek, however much time you have and whatever you want to see, there's a road out there for everyone.
1. Best Romantic Road Trip: The Pacific Coast Highway, CA Route: Route 1, from Monterey to Morro Bay (123 miles)
We certainly hope your partner makes your heart absolutely soar; if not, the unimaginably gorgeous views from the Pacific Coast Highway will definitely do so! Frequently coined the most romantic drive in the United States, the road jogs alongside the beautiful California farms and soaring cliff-edged beaches, across high bridges and near groves of towering old redwood trees. Tour the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, enjoy lunch at a glorious Carmel-by-the-Sea cafe, see the famous waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and take a romantic sunset stroll along The Big Sur. There are plenty of romantic bed and breakfasts where you can spend the night or maybe even a couple nights in bliss.
2. Best Road Trip in the Middle of Nowhere: Marathon to Presidio, TX Route: U.S. Highway 385, FM-170 (160 miles)
The only companions you'll have during long stretches of this paved, two-lane road through Big Bend National Park are cacti and chirping migratory birds. This is perhaps one of the most isolated of all U.S. national parks, but it's also one of the most dramatic and stunning, with desert, canyon and simply amazing mountain landscapes. Santa Elena Canyon is worth the detour from the main park road to see its 1,500-foot drop-offs. Stop for lunch at the 1930's-era Starlight Theatre in the historic Terlingua Ghost Town. Movie buffs will really marvel at the abandoned Western film sets at Contrabando.
3. Best Thrill-Seeking Road Trip: The Road to Hana, HI Route: Routes 36 and 360, from the town of Kahului to Hana and a little beyond (68 miles)
Brace yourself -- literally -- for the wildest ride of your life. Maui's Hana Highway may sound tropically dreamy, with its lush rain forests, multi-tiered waterfalls and super scenic turnouts, but it's not for the faint of heart -- or weak of stomach. The winding, narrow road contains hundreds of twisty curves and dozens of bridges (many of which are one lane), and the first time a fearless local in an SUV zooms by you, you'll wonder where your breath went. Good places to stop and find it? The Ke'anae Arboretum (just past mile marker 16), Upper Waikani Falls (mile marker 19) and Ka'eleku Caverns (mile marker 31) are some great locations to take a nice break and take in the absolutely breathtaking scenery.
4. Best Wildlife Enthusiast Road Trip: Jackson to Yellowstone National Park, WY Route: U.S. 191 (82 miles plus mileage within the park)
You could consider Yellowstone to be America's version of the Serengeti in Africa. Bison, elk, wolves, moose, bears and dozens of great bird species live in America's first national park, making it one of the best places in the United States to view wildlife in its most natural habitat. While animals are abundant inside the spacious park, you'll likely see some species on the short drive from Jackson to the park's south entrance, and many more at Grand Teton and Jackson Lake along the gorgeous way.
5. Best Foodie Road Trip: Stowe to Rochester, VT Route: Route 100 (49 miles)
Farms, local breweries, picturesque wineries, yummy creameries, gourmet shops and quaint restaurants are nestled along the rolling pastures of Route 100, which bisects perhaps the prettiest state in New England. Take a leisurely drive along the north-south artery and its side roads, stopping to nibble artisanal cheeses at various farm shops and creameries. Sip apple cider and buy maple syrup at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center, and taste robust red wines at Boyden Valley Winery in Cambridge. Browse Weston's Vermont Country Store -- its retro candies are worth the stop alone. And the grand finale? A simply delectable tour of Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury.
6. Best Motorcycle Road Trip: Los Angeles, CA to Taos, NM Route: Interstate 40 (916 miles)
Aching to be your very own counterculture hippie on a soul-searching personal odyssey? Time to re-discover yourself again? Billy and Wyatt (a k a Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda) covered this neat course and then some in the 1969 film "Easy Rider." They were headed to the Big Easy-New Orleans for Mardi Gras; if you don't have it in you to make such a long and lengthy trip, we suggest just covering the section from sunny California to New Mexico (or at least Flagstaff, Arizona), with a nice big detour to the amazing Grand Canyon.
7. Best Fall Foliage Road Trip: Lead Hill to Hot Springs, AR Route: Arkansas State Highway 7 (179 miles)
We'd normally select famous New England for autumn's most breathtaking kaleidoscopic of colors only the Big Man could dream up, but even its most out-of-the-way back roads can be congested during peak periods. Instead, take it easy and avoid the headache of crows, and decide to drive along Arkansas' first state-designated scenic byway to the Ozark National Forest, which has 42 different species of oak trees, plus huge hickories, majestic maples, beech and ash, among others. Such a vast variety of trees results in unimaginable colors painting the region's low river valleys and hillsides for your personal pleasure. If you get an early enough start, you can have breakfast or lunch at the Cliff House Inn and Restaurant overlooking Arkansas' version of the Grand Canyon, in the nice town of Jasper.
8. Best Classic America Road Trip: Beartooth Highway, MT Route: U.S. Highway 212, from Red Lodge to Cook City, Montana (68 miles)
A zigzagging road with countless switchbacks, endless beautiful views and steep climbs, the Beartooth Highway seems to have changed little since Civil War General Philip Sheridan led 120 men along the winding route. Certainly the views are the same: snow-topped Rocky Mountains, the bluest and serene of blue skies, and bypasses through Custer National Forest, Shoshone National Forest and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. No wonder longtime road tripper Charles Kuralt, the late CBS correspondent, called it "the most beautiful drive in America." Note that the road is only open limited times: mid-May through mid-October.
9. Best Picturesque Mountain Trip: Blue Ridge Parkway, NC Route: Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains Park (469 miles)
The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than a road – it’s a beautiful journey! The Blue Ridge Parkway entices visitors to explore a 469-mile gateway to America’s rich cultural heritage including Cherokee traditions, music, crafts, agriculture and nature. Your journey is just around the corner! So much to see and do and gorgeous stops and lookouts along the way, you just gotta check it out! Nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive” it connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
10. Best Romantic Water Views: Thousand Islands, NY Route: Kingston to Cornwall on the Canadian side and Oswego to Massena on the US side.
Plan your next special lovely vacation to the 1000 islands. The Thousand Islands (1000 Islands) Region is an international tourism destination, encompassing communities on both sides of the US and Canada border along the scenic St. Lawrence River and the serene eastern shores of Lake Ontario. The region takes its name from the more than 1000 islands that dot the lake and river along this international waterway.
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