Fall is the perfect time to travel to these six spots

Scenic trips worthy of fall travel, from epic Arizona landscapes to a state park full of starry skies

It’s finally fall, a season that brings fresh starts, crisp air and cozy layers—and, as it turns out, the perfect time to hit the road. Between temperatures cooling down and crowds on their way out, many of the country’s premier destinations are quickly becoming all the more desirable with seasonal attractions—not to mention the sights and staples these spots boast all year long. From epic Arizona landscapes to a state park full of starry skies, here are six trips worthy of fall travel.

 

Estes Park, Colorado: Wildlife spotting and brisk mornings

 

Mountain views and fall colors blend together beautifully in Estes Park. Photo: John Berry

Why fall: Fall is arguably the best time to experience a little bit of everything at Estes Park— the base of Rocky Mountain National Park and a town home to ample forests and stunning valley views. While September is still considered peak season, this quickly tapers off to reveal slower tourism in October and November and an often-ideal climate of refreshing mornings and comfortable, sunny afternoons. Shoulder season is also mating season for much of the wildlife here, meaning spottings (including elk, mule and deer) are almost guaranteed. Embark upon Gem Lake, a trail accessible via Lumpy Ridge Trailhead that provides a meditative path through a landscape of aspen groves, along with a panoramic view across the entire park (and Longs Peak).

 

 

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: A summer lake retreat— More accessible in autumn

 

Architectural details and cozy details are visible at Black Point Estate, one of Lake Geneva’s many attractions. Photo: Black Point Estate

Why fall: Lake Geneva is a favorite for day and weekend trips alike, but summer months can bring impressive crowds. Fall is the perfect time to experience the town’s less-busy months and all they have to showcase: ornate lakeside mansions, abundant water activities and myriad restaurants and shops. Try a visit to Black Point Estate and Gardens, a mansion built in 1888 that represents one of the most respected examples of Queen Anne design in the region. Continue housespotting along the Geneva Lake Shore Path, a 21-mile stretch through the backyards of the town’s historic (and highly acclaimed) lakefront homes. Afterwards, you can always unwind in one of the town’s top restaurants, such as Pier 290, Savoy, Opus or Crafted Italia, and come morning, grab a coffee and pastry to-go from Inspired, a café led by and benefitting those with developmental disabilities.

 

Acadia National Park, Maine: Night skies and easy terrain

 

Minimal light pollution and expansive views make Maine’s stargazing one for the books. Views of the Milky Way in this shot are stunning. Photo: Visit Maine

Why fall: In autumn, this park’s dark skies and minimal light pollution make it perfect for star-gazing—and celebrating, as evidenced by the Night Sky Festival (happening this year from September 29 to October 3 and bringing with it a full lineup of events and speakers). If you’re more of a morning person, this park offers a perfect spot for you: At 1,530 feet high, Cadillac Mountain stands as the highest point along the North Atlantic Seaboard—meaning that starting in October, its summit is the very first place in the U.S. to catch the sunrise. It’s accessible via a moderate 4.4 mile hike for those who dare to start their hike with headlamps—or by car for those who would rather cozy up with a coffee behind the windshield as they take in views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay.

 

 

 

The Berkshires, Massachusetts: Film-worthy foliage

 

Fall colors are on full view in Lanesborough, MA. Photo: Ogden Gigli

Why fall: When it comes to epic East Coast foliage, this destination takes the cake. Vibrant colors can be spotted from an array of sites, including the top of Mount Greylock or Lenox Mountain (which is also accessible by horseback—another big autumn activity in Western Massachusetts). Those with an appetite for adventure will find it in the Berkshires, thanks to the area’s mountain resorts and the activities they offer. Be it biking, ziplining or whitewater rafting, each of these itineraries ensures even better views of these autumnal backdrops.

 

Saugatuck, Michigan: A Midwest fall escape with a focus on farms

 

Local treasures abound at Pennyroyal, as well as at Michigan’s many orchards and farms. Photo: Jill DeVries

Why fall: Though the lake and arts community have long been draws of this Michigan town, its culinary presence is growing larger, thanks to its proximity to some of the area’s best farms and orchards. In fall the fun is just beginning, with new growth of apples and pears along with some of late summer’s best finds: apricots, cherries and peaches. Experience perfect produce firsthand with visits to a few local purveyors, including Gold Coast, Third Coast and Mud Lake, or peruse a medley of them with a visit to Pennyroyal Provisions’ Little White Barn and their farm-to-table menu. As a bonus (with a buzz), cap off your trip with a tasting at Virtue, a favorite for farmhouse-style hard cider.

 

Sedona, Arizona: Peaceful trails that beckon adventure

 

Hikes in Arizona bring stunning scenery, such as these views of Teacup Trail in the distance. Photo: Heather Hermen

Why fall: Cooler temps and lighter crowds make it easier than ever to enjoy this high desert destination, which sits roughly 4,500 feet above sea level and lays claim to nearly 2 million acres of red rock—striking sandstone formations of buttes and mesas. Those postcard-ready sights alone deem Sedona worthy of a visit, but it’s the rugged terrain that beckons more active crowds— especially avid hikers and mountain bikers. The former can check out Llama Trail or the Teacup Trail, while the latter can grab their wheels for views (and modest-to-challenging rides) at Bell Rock and Slide Rock State Park.

This story appears in Adventure Awaits, Berkley One’s digital magazine celebrating creators, experiences and stories. Read the issue here.

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Header Image: Jordan Marentette.