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Five Fall West Coast Road Trips

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

There’s just something about this time of year that makes you want to wash your car, roll down the windows, and hit the open road. Maybe it’s the fall foliage, or maybe the fact that “summer” is in the air in San Francisco. Whatever it is, few could argue against the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the west coast as one of the best places in the world for fall road trips. Today we spotlight a few of the best fall drives on the west coast.

Napa Valley Silverado Trail, California. It’s hard to beat Northern California Wine Country any time of year, but the rolling hills of Napa really rise to the occasion come harvest season during the fall months. While fall often brings to mind images of lush trees draped with brightly colored leaves, the rolling hills of Napa feature vines glowing in bright orange, red, and gold colors. Start at the south end of the valley on Highway 29 and wind your way through the small towns and big wineries on your way toward Calistoga.

Cascade Loop Scenic Highway, Washington.
It should come as no surprise to find the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway on here since the Cascade Mountains are considered one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. However, while some of these drives are doable in a day, you’ll want to give yourself a little more time since the entire loop is well over 400 miles. Starting just north of Seattle, this scenic highway takes travelers over rivers, through woods, and past lakes to get a full fall foliage experience.

Columbia River Highway, Oregon.
Oregon’s Columbia River Highway is unique in that it holds the distinction as the first scenic highway in the U.S. to be named a national historic landmark. The 75-mile highway begins just outside of Portland, meandering around the hills, through the Columbia River Gorge, and past waterfalls. While we’ve listed it here because of the fall foliage that travelers can see, the Columbia River Highway is a notable drive for the many waterfalls along the way, including the famous Multnomah Falls.

Pacific Coast Highway, California. It’s hard to talk scenic highways in the U.S. and not mention the Pacific Coast Highway. While the most popular and scenic part of Highway 1 is through Big Sur, there are many beautiful parts of the drive stretching throughout Northern, Central, and Southern California. While some of these scenic drives make for a good day trip, giving yourself a weekend on the Pacific Coast Highway just scrapes the surface.

Seward Highway, Alaska. With its location so much further up the Pacific coastline, Alaska often gets overlooked. However, there are few drives in the world that are more offbeat and unspoiled then Seward Highway. The 127-mile stretch of highway connects Anchorage and Seward, but features natural landscape you aren’t going to find on just any drive, including glaciers, fjords, and expansive forests. Bring a pair of binoculars and a camera with a good zoom, as some of the wildlife you may see includes bald eagles and beluga whales.