5 Scenic Road Trips To Take In North America This Fall
By Cheryl Tiu
The past several weeks have seen headline after headline on flight cancellations and delays, baggage mishaps and airline and airport staff shortages. For those who may want to steer clear of these hassles, a road trip— peppered with more freedom and flexibility— may be a preferable route to their next rest and relaxation escape.
Andrew Collins, veteran travel writer and editor, recently released “Ultimate Road Trips: USA & Canada,” his second book published by Australian publisher Hardie Grant. (His first book, “Destination Pride,” was published in 2021.)
“I’ve always loved road-tripping, and I’ve driven all around North America quite a few times over the years,” shares the author of the first LGBTQ travel guidebook produced by a mainstream publisher, Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA. “In summer 2020, the first big assignment I landed after the onset of the pandemic involved writing about national parks in the western United States. In previous years, I’d have flown out west from one of my home bases (Mexico City and a small town in New Hampshire) and rented a car, but given the situation with Covid, my partner and I decided to drive our car across country over a couple of months—it was a safer way to cover a lot of distance than flying, and it allowed us to go at our own pace and tailor our itinerary to avoid big crowds as much as possible.”
Collins has always wanted to visit every U.S. county, and has now been to over 2,500 with about 550 to go. After the 2020 trip, he felt inspired to turn road tripping into a project he could share with other enthusiasts, and the idea of the guidebook was born. Unlike other road-trip guides, Collins book covers both the U.S. and Canada, and also includes tips on what to see and eat, alongside entertainment options. The book is replete with travel inspiration, and source of newfound knowledge of the different counties in North America.
I asked Collins to suggest his top road trips this fall:
Coastal Carolinas and Georgia
“This is one of my favorite fall (and spring) road-tripping adventures—driving from the Outer Banks in North Carolina and down through the beautiful but compact cities of Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. By September, these areas have fewer crowds than their summer peak seasons, and so hotel rates also tend to drop a bit, and the weather cools off a bit but not so much that you can’t enjoy some swimming off the coast around Cape Hatteras or Georgia’s enchanting Golden Isles. The itinerary I wrote for this chapter actually continues down all the way through northeastern Florida, which remains temperate and appealing right through December—it’s a perfect time of year for beachcombing on Amelia Island or walking through the historic downtown of St. Augustine.”
Quebec’s Cities, Mountains, and Fjords
“This is to take nothing away from New England—there are two very comprehensive New England chapters in the book, one coastal and one on the mountains, that are perfect for a fall leaf-peeping adventure. But I want to call attention to Quebec, because the fall foliage is also incredible, especially up around Mont Tremblant and Saguenay Fjords national parks. But there are also the vibrant cities of Montreal and Quebec City, which look even more alluring when their tree-lined streets burst with fall color. And if you’re traveling from the United States, the exchange rate also makes Quebec a relatively good value.”
The Lake Michigan Circle
“As with New England and Quebec, this is another wonderful destination for viewing fall foliage and exploring both small and picturesque towns—in this case, places like Door County in Wisconsin and Harbor Springs and Traverse City in Michigan. The cities of Chicago and Milwaukee are also most appealing to me in the fall—free from the chill of winter or heat and humidity of summer. This chapter also has some side trips to other places that are beautiful when framed with fall foliage, including Madison and also the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, from Marquette to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.”
Pacific Northwest Wine Country
“This is one of two wine-centric itineraries in the book (there’s also one on California’s regions), and I love wine-touring this time of year because wineries are in full-on fall harvest mode. Many wineries have harvest dinners or grape stomps, and generally the area’s tasting rooms and patios are a bit less crowded than in summer. This itinerary passes through the spectacular Columbia Gorge and up along the eastern side of the Cascades, which also have beautiful fall colors. And the scenery in the high-desert wine regions—Walla Walla, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley—is spectacular in September and October.”
The Desert Southwest
“This itinerary covers a lot of ground and some of the world’s most breathtaking desert landscapes: Joshua Tree and Death Valley, Sedona and Scottsdale, Tucson and Bisbee. These are all places that enjoy sunny yet temperate weather in the fall, especially later in that season—from mid-October into early December. So it’s a nice time to set out on desert hikes, and there is, to the surprise of some, plenty of fall color in the desert: cottonwoods, willow trees, oak trees—and in the higher elevations—aspens.”
And as for today’s rising fuel prices, Collins suggests “trying not to get overly stressed out about the highs and lows, because it’s nearly impossible to predict where gas prices will lie several months from now.” But in addition to offering helpful tips to moderate fuel costs, he does recommend making an educated guess on what gas will cost when planning, as doing so may help inform route and vehicle choices.
“To find the best prices on gas, consider joining a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club and filling up at these places as much as possible during your trip—prices at these establishments can be $0.20 to $0.50 less per gallon than at conventional gas stations,” he advises. “Also try paying for gas using a debit card, as this can save you $0.10 or more per gallon at many stations. And download the app GasBuddy, which you can use to find the gas stations nearest you, based on your GPS location, with the cheapest gas prices. And finally, if the car you own has poor gas mileage, consider renting a car with better mileage for your trip. Even if the savings on gas prices don’t quite make up for the cost of renting a car, driving a rental car—especially on a long trip—can result in significant savings, in general wear-and-tear and depreciation, in the long run.”
“Ultimate Road Trips: USA & Canada” is available for purchase on Amazon