Iconic Road Trips: An Unforgettable Trip Down The West Coast

The days I spent driving down U.S. Route 101 in Oregon through Highway 1 in California were some of the best days of my life. Admittedly, I was malleable for the molding. I had just gone through a breakup and was getting ready to start a summer-long tour alongside the ex. I decided to take a detour on my way from New York to California, where the tour began. I drove across the country to Seattle and then down to Portland. I went west from Portland until I hit the Pacific and then I drove south and didn’t stop driving south until I hit San Diego. I pulled over at just about every lookout and inhaled the fresh scent of pine. Hardly developed at all, the journey down the 101 and the 1 is dotted with plenty of scenic lookouts.I picked wildflowers and stretched beneath the perfect West Coast summer sun. The hills were steep and a new picture-perfect landscape seemed to await me at every turn. The waves crashed violently against the rocks below. I listened to my favorite songs on repeat and forced myself to keep my eyes on the road ahead, rather than the views of the ocean to my right. I set up a tent and camped overnight at Harris Beach State Park. I woke up shivering without care, awe struck by the beautiful ocean before me. I saw Redwood Trees for the first time in my life. I walked through them, shaded by their enormous branches, one afternoon. I crawled inside of one in disbelief. Taking the long way to California for this trip was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. The bliss that accompanied me on this route never entirely left. When I think of my happy place, I often reflect back on the images I will forever hold from this trip.

If you make this drive, stunning scenery is inescapable. You’ll pass through or beside dozens of National and State Parks and Forests. Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Humbug Mountain State Park, Prehistoric Gardens, Rogue River National Forest, Redwood National Park, Humboldt Lagoons State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Arena Rock Marine Natural Preserve, Point Reyes National Seashore, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Los Padres National Forest to name just a few.

The Poconos pair autumn foliage with a wide-range of lodging options

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Poconos Mountains have been a haven for people looking to escape the bustle of city life ever since Buck Hill Falls Inn and The Inn at Pocono Manor resorts opened in 1901 and 1902. With its reputation as a perfect getaway location, the Poconos has continued to be developed with things-to-do offerings and options for places to stay. In the fall, the more than 100 types of trees become a palate of color brilliance.

With a bit of planning, you can time your visit to hit the foliage at its peak and settle in for a night at one of the Pocono’s lodgings whether you prefer a vacation rental tucked in the woods, or a Poconos resort like the Inn at Pocono Manor that includes a golf course, horseback riding and a spa. Because eighty percent of Pennsylvania’s resorts are located here, there are plenty of choices. The Buck Hill Falls Inn, however, is no longer open. It is for sale, though. Annie also suggests Rentalo.com for seeking out lodging deals. She found a Poconos hotel for $75 per night. There are even less expensive digs listed here. If you’re interested in a couple’s only retreat, the Caesar’s Paradise Stream may be the answer.

To help you decide where and when to go and the best route to take for the best fall foliage here are 8 suggestions:

  • Ricketts Glen State Park–Considered the most scenic part of Pennsylvania, this park has more than 20 waterfalls, a gorge and old growth timber. Some trees are 500 years old. The area not to miss here is Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark.
  • Lehigh Gorge State Park–Great place to see wildlife because the gorge’s river serves as a transportation corridor. A unique way to visit the area is by taking an Audubon Auto Tour.
  • Hickory Run State Park –Has scenic overlooks, hiking trails and trout streams. The park’s Boulder Field, is also a National Natural Landmark. An Audubon Auto Tour is also available for this park.
  • Big Pocono State Park–From the summit of Camelback Mountain the view includes part of New Jersey and New York. There’s a paved scenic drive, so you can get the view without hoofing it.
  • Lacawac Sanctuary–This historic nature preserve is a place to pair foliage with wildlife viewing thanks to folks who treasure the environment and share. In October there are fall foliage walking tours.
  • World’s End State Park–If you go here, head to Canyon Vista.
  • Beltzville State Park–The park’s 949-acre lake is a stopping place for migrating birds and if you walk along Saw Mill Trail you’ll pass through remnants of area history going back to the 1700s.
  • Delaware River Gap National Recreation Area–Why not see fall foliage from the water? Adventure Sports offers canoe, kayaking and rafting trips through the end of October.

    To help plan a scenic drive, here’s an excellent resource I found. This page on TripCart outlines specific driving routes and highlights places to look for and things to do along the way.

    Call the Pocono Mountain Fall Foliage hot line at (570)421-5565 for an up to date report on what colors can be seen where and when. Included in the recording are the types of trees that show such glory. I just called and can vouch for this resource. It’s terrific. Here is an on-line version.