5 Great Drives for Fall Road Trip Enthusiasts
Cooler weather is on the horizon, but that doesn’t mean an end to road-trip adventures. Fall offers an opportunity to capture more dramatic views of the Pacific Northwest natural beauty. The following five road trips across the region are enjoyable year-round and offer great drives for fall road trippers.
The Okanogan Trails Scenic Byway
East of the Cascades, where the weather is drier and the sun more reliable, a long stretch of pavement runs north and south along the Okanogan River. The Okanogan Trails Scenic Byway is a picturesque drive around rolling hills, past scrub and sagebrush and through subalpine forests. Passing through the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the 83-mile route runs from the Canadian border to the small town of Pateros, with each stop full of hidden gems that will leave a lasting impression on those who travel it.
Driving/Camping Along the Oregon Coast
Writer Brian J. Cantwell and his wife share their experience touring park campgrounds along Oregon’s sublime shoreline during shoulder season — the slower period between the peak summer months and the winter off-season. The couple mapped out almost 350 miles tailor-made for a camping road trip, with more than 60 state park viewpoints, picnic sites or beach pullouts along the Highway 101 corridor, plus 16 state park campgrounds.
Idaho Panhandle Loop Auto Tour
This auto tour through the Idaho Panhandle covers 220 miles and takes five to six hours to drive without stops. The trek heads north from Spokane along U.S. 2 before turning east into the Gem State, then strikes north to Priest Lake on state Highway 57. Upon returning to Priest River, the tour continues east to Sandpoint on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille. After a scenic side trip to Schweitzer Mountain and/or the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway, the tour turns south on U.S. 95 to Coeur d’Alene and then west to close the loop in Spokane.
Skagit Flats–Fidalgo Loop
This Skagit Flats–Fidalgo Loop auto tour traces a 74-mile, counter-clockwise itinerary through the western portion of the county, offering an introduction to the natural variety that makes Skagit Valley such a marvel. From the bustling cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington along the Interstate 5 corridor, the route strikes west to the shores of Padilla Bay, circles Fidalgo Island through the port city of Anacortes, and passes the scenic Deception Pass State Park. Returning to the mainland, it traverses the Skagit Flats, a fertile agricultural district that dazzles with colorful floral displays every spring.
Mountain Loop Highway
The Mountain Loop Highway is best in late summer or early fall. You can complete this road trip in a day, or break it up into three or four days to take full advantage of the outdoor activities and the breathtaking fall views along the way.
The official scenic byway starts in Granite Falls and ends in Darrington. To make it a 95-mile loop, start in historic Arlington, follow Jordan Road along the Stillaguamish River to Granite Falls, then take the roundabout to state Highway 92 East and turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway. The drive officially ends in Darrington, but continue to Arlington to complete the loop. Before you go, make sure the Barlow Pass is open.
–Top image of a overlook near Sandpoint, Idaho. By Visit Idaho.