12 Road Trip Routes Perfect for Fall: West Coast, Great Lakes, and the Mid-Atlantic
Trips across the country are forever attached to the American experience. What better way to take in the history and natural beauty of the United States than on a road trip? From coast to coast, these are some of the best road trip destinations and routes that’ll have you driving off into the sunset.
Best Road Trips Through Newport Beach, California
Nothing says fall like a drive along the California coast. The weather is perfect, the sand is still warm, and the beaches are calling. Escape to seaside towns surrounding Newport Beach for the ultimate getaway.
1. Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Drive
The Pacific Coast Highway is famous for its breathtaking ocean views, sweeping forests, and hidden treasures, nestled in quaint towns throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. The PCH is the longest route in California (over 600 miles).
Travelers can start their trip in Newport Beach and then head south through coastal towns of Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente.
2. Catalina Island
Take a drive from Newport Beach to the small town of Dana Point. From there, you can catch a ferry to Catalina Island and enjoy outdoor activities like scuba diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling. If you’re more of an indoor traveler, take a scenic city tour, enjoy the day at the spa, and visit art galleries and museums.
You can even witness wild bison roaming free along the interior of Catalina Island.
3. Joshua Tree National Park
Open year-round, Joshua Tree National Park is an outdoor lover’s dream. East of Newport Beach, Joshua Tree offers over 300 miles of hiking trails, stunning rock formations, and its famous Joshua trees. Visitors will enjoy the Hidden Valley Nature Trail and the Joshua Tree National Park Lost Horse Ranger Station.
Many also take the two-hour drive along Route 60 to the popular Skull Rock site to see the granite boulder that resembles – yes, you guessed it – a skull.
4. San Diego
An hour and a half drive south from Newport Beach will take you to the picturesque coastline of San Diego. Enjoy major attractions like Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and a visit to the USS Midway Museum while you’re in town.
Ocean Beach, known locally as “OB,” is also a popular spot. Its 1960s retro vibe never went out of style here, so don’t be surprised if you see barefooted surfers and psychedelic murals throughout the town.
Best Road Trip Stops In Virginia
The east coast of the U.S. is steeped in history and home to many notable landmarks. Virginia offers travelers the best of both worlds – historical attractions mixed with modern luxuries. Take in classic Southern cuisine and phenomenal landscapes on your next road trip through the “Old Dominion.”
With ties to both the American Revolution and Civil War, Virginia is rich in history. Richmond offers activities for the whole family, from hiking and mountain biking to a day at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. For those 21 and over, Richmond is also part of Virginia’s Craft Beer Road Trip, a 500-mile beer crawl for beer enthusiasts.
For any historical reenactment fans, a trip to Colonial Williamsburg should be at the top of your list. This restored 18th-century town is part of the Historical Triangle of Virginia (including Jamestown, Yorktown, and the Colonial Parkway). The 301-acre town is a living museum, allowing visitors to experience colonial life through reenactments, tours, and immersive experiences.
And if you’re looking for outdoor activities, hike through Great Falls or the Shenandoah National Park for scenic views.
7. Virginia Beach
A coastal road trip east to Virginia Beach is a popular destination for water sports, award-winning craft beer, and a lively 3-mile-long boardwalk, great for rollerblading, walking, and bike riding. Visitors can also explore the ViBe Creative District, where music, traditional art, and culinary artisans have revitalized the neighborhood as a hub of creativity and expression.
History buffs may be familiar with the Roanoke Colony – also known as the Lost Colony that mysteriously disappeared in the late 1500s. This same area is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and its 469-mile parkway that connects the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
With hiking trails, mountain bike sites, and the state’s only trout fisheries, visitors can enjoy the scenic outdoors or Roanoke.
Best Great Lakes Region Road Trips In Cleveland
Aside from the west coast and east coast of the U.S., the Great Lakes draw visitors to this northern region of the country year-round. Boasting a vibrant culture and historical significance, start your Great Lakes Region road trip in the heart of Cleveland.
9. Lake Erie Coastal Drive
From Cleveland to Toledo, Ohio, the Lake Erie Coastal Trail is nearly 300 miles of coastline, local museums, lighthouses, and nature preserves. Don’t forget to take in the view of Lake Erie along the drive. Travelers can stop in coastal towns like Vermilion and Sandusky – home to Cedar Point Amusement Park, for a day on rollercoasters, waterslides, and classic carnival attractions.
10. Amish Country
East of Cleveland is Ohio’s Amish Country, the second-largest Amish community in the world. Driving through towns like Berlin, Walnut Creek, and Sugarcreek will let you slow down, breathe in the fresh country air, and take in the picturesque landscape.
Take a traditional buggy ride in Schrock’s Heritage Village, enjoy an Amish-style meal at the Amish Door Restaurant, and explore a home and farm at Yoder’s Amish Home for a peek into everyday life.
11. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Filled with stunning views and lush forests, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just a short drive south of Cleveland. Must-see stops include the Brandywine Falls (a 60-foot waterfall along the Brandywine Gorge Loop) and the famous Stanford House (in honor of James Stanford, an original settler of Cuyahoga Valley in the 1800s). The park sits along the Cuyahoga River and offers beautiful views and trails for exploration.
12. Great Lakes Circle Tour
Did you know the Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water? Road trippers can experience the magnificence of the entire Great Lakes region with a circle tour starting in Cleveland. Make your way east along Lake Erie and continue north toward Lake Huron, westward to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and eventually circle back east to Lake Ontario.
Be sure to check visiting the Great Lakes off your bucket list!
Featured Image Credit: AllaSerebrina/Depositphotos.com.