Sarah Herron

5 Incredible Fall Weather Road Trips

by

Co-written by Sarah Herron and Morgan Tilton


#FordRanger

#FordRanger

As the heat fades and we anticipate snowfall, fall season is arguably the best time for an exploratory road trip. 

The pavement isn’t icy, yet the temperatures are cooler. The intense buzz of summer starts to wane. The crowds start to dwindle, allowing for more open space, solitude, and reflection. Radiant ruby, marigold, and carrot coloration covers the earth, which is a refreshing and inspirational scene. In my opinion, Autumn holds the perfect ingredients for both relaxation and outdoor adventure. 

Here are five of the most incredible road trip routes for observing the fall foliage as it takes flight. 


1017-SheLift-RappellingDay175.JPG

Moab and Canyonlands National Park 

October is by far my favorite month to road trip to the desert of southern Utah. Three years ago, I organized a fall SheLift retreat in Moab. I’m hosting a crimson-cliffs Tents Without Gents this October 15-18th. Dylan and I venture through or to the area several times a year. Autumn is simply the BEST season to go: The temps drop to a mild range. The sand is warmed by the sun but not cooked, and the crowds fade. When you hike, rappel, or paddle through the canyons, the massive cottonwoods are ignited by their saffron leaves, which is a remarkable juxtaposition against the red rock formations. 

As you drive toward Moab from central Colorado, spend a day or two in Fruita—especially if you’re a mountain biker. The two most popular local trail networks are 18 Road, which is 11 miles north of town; and Kokopelli Loops on the periphery of the Colorado River. Hikers can check out the trails in the Colorado National Monument or the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, which is chock-full of pictographs, petroglyphs, and the second-largest concentration of natural arches in North America. If you spend the night, great camp spots can be found at 18 Road (BLM designated camping), Highline Lake State Park, and the Saddlehorn Campground. If you’re craving more comforts, my favorite vacation rental is called the Sagebrush, a 114-year-old ornamental historic home in the heart of Fruita! 

Next stop: Moab, where the outdoor play and inspiration is endless whether you’re hiking, biking, canyoneering, paddling, camping, or plein air painting! You can take a scenic drive or stroll the trails in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Spend a day at the Wall Street Area for sport climbs or explore the crack climbs in the Wingate Sandstone of Indian Creek. One of my favorite activities is to go rappelling in Grandstaff Canyon. 

When you go to the Canyonlands, don’t miss peering across the spectacular gorges at the Shafer Canyon or Green River Overlooks. And definitely hike to Upheaval Dome, a bizarre 1,000-foot deep crater!

Start: Carbondale, CO

Distance: 459 miles round-trip 

Drive time: 7 hours, 10 min 

When to Go: October 


IMG_7249.JPG

Escalante and Bryce Canyon National Park

Another one of my favorite road trips in southern Utah actually bypasses Moab altogether. Instead, head to Hanksville, Escalante, and Bryce Canyon National Park. The popping colors you’ll scope as you drive are INCREDIBLE. You’ll venture past massive bluffs lined with amber and pineapple tinted cottonwoods. 

After you pass Capitol Reef National Park, and close to an hour before you reach Escalante, you’ll go over Boulder Mountain Pass via State Route 12. The road reaches an elevation of 9,606 feet and is full of sharp curves, jaw-dropping views, and flourishing aspen groves. I’m obsessed with the contrast of texture and terrain you can see from this drive: a bright, ruffled red-canyon backdrop fills the horizon below slopes full of thick forest. Every October, Dylan and his dad meet-up to hunt in this area. 

If you’re willing to make the journey, then you deserve the reward: From the top of Boulder Mountain, you can access Lower Bowns Campground and Reservoir, a coveted place to the few who know it exists. You can show up and have near solitude for days. We camped at this lake a few years ago, and I’d love to return during the fall to see the leaves change. 

Start: Grand Junction, CO

Distance: 636 miles round-trip 

Drive time: 11 hours, 24 minutes

When to Go: October (Note: The fall foliage in Escalante goes off 2-4 weeks later than in Colorado.)


DylanHBrown-RoadTrip2020-2877-2.jpg

Jackson and Yellowstone National Park  

Wyoming is another magical location to savor the fall foliage. The bustling summer crowds of Jackson teeter off, and the vibe is mellow. There are so many cute restaurants, motels, and rental homes for travelers to take joy in. And the October sky really bursts with a deep blue against the landscape’s changing tones. 

From Denver, you could easily cruise on the highway through the plains up I-25 to I-80—but I’d much rather revel in a scenic route! Instead, drive to Meeker and up to Dinosaur National Monument, where you can relax with a picnic, hike, or camp out. Then, exit Vernal and go north through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area followed by Rock Springs and Jackson. 

Alternative route: If you start in Salt Lake City, UT, drive to Ogden followed by Garden City, where the bright blue waters of Bear Lake stretches from Utah into Idaho. Next, go through Montpelier, ID. And then cross the Idaho-Wyoming border to go through Star Valley Ranch and Hoback before reaching Jackson.

With Jackson as basecamp, I love driving the circuit through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. These two national treasures have expansive meadows with a prism of fall hues as far as the eye can see. In the chilly daytime air, thick steam rises from the thermal streams and the divergence is a deep reminder of this fleeting period, which I appreciate. Don’t miss Grand Teton National Park’s Snake River Overlook, along US-191, which is one of my favorite lookout points. This is the spot where Ansel Adams captured the iconic black-and-white image of the Snake River, more than 70 years ago.

Start: Denver, CO

Distance: 1,360 miles round-trip 

Drive time: 24 hours, 34 minutes

When to Go: October

Whitefish and Glacier National Park  

When I was on set with the Bachelor, I had an opportunity to travel to Whitefish mid-October—and absolutely loved my time there. Taking a fall-weather road trip back to this gem-state has been a dream of mine ever since. 


IMG_8240.JPG

This route would prioritize enjoyment and panoramas so it’s not direct. From central Colorado, drive to Salt Lake City (you can go through Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument on the way) and steer north to Twin Falls, Idaho. Then link up Sun Valley and Stanley via the Scenic State Highway 75, one of my favorite mountain passes! The views are spectacular. After you leave Salmon, cross the border into Montana and go through Missoula, which is surrounded by natural hot springs–the perfect place to take a break from the road! Check out Lolo, Jerry Johnson, or Weir Hot Springs. 

In Whitefish, I highly recommend hopping on a horse-drawn wagon ride, where you can sit back, watch and listen to the rustling gold, clementine, and burgundy leaves. Blankets and hot cocoa will keep you cozy. This historic, quintessential way of travel is such a unique, fun way to experience the American West and Northern Montana. From town, you can drive northeast into Glacier National Park—I personally cannot wait to visit and hike around the rugged peaks of this national park! 

Pack smart and layer up! Montana is COLD in October.

Start: Carbondale, CO

Distance: 2,262 miles round-trip

Drive time: 40 hours, 26 minutes

When to Go: October

Lake Louise and Banff National Park 

Also while filming the Bachelor, I had a chance to visit Banff and Banff National Park, in October. Many of the leaves in the Canadian Rockies fall by the end of September, but the atmosphere still radiates with a vibrant, potent chill that I love before winter. 

You can enjoy a canoe ride across the glorious turquoise surface of Lake Louise. If you’re brave enough—or have television producers forcing you, like I did—you can take a glacial polar-bear plunge. We stayed at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise against the water’s edge, which I recommend. From the Fairmont, you can take a short drive south via Moraine Lake Road to visit Moraine Lake, which is likewise a stunning sight. 


IMG_8332.JPG


ladies in robes.jpg

For this road trip, you can sync up several incredible U.S. national parks—Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier—on your way to Alberta. Or, you can fly into Calgary, where you’ll road trip west along the Trans-Canada Highway through a towering, heart-stopping vein of the Canadian Rockies. Stop in Canmore for lunch at Crazyweed Kitchen; and book an excursion with Canmore Cave Tours to go spelunking in the Rat’s Nest Cave, one of the longest, most incredible underground caverns in Canada! 

Due to COVID-19, be sure to check travel restrictions by road or air before booking your travels. 

Start: Carbondale, CO

Distance: 2,610 miles round-trip 

Drive time: 47 hours, 48 minutes

When to Go: October

Comments +

Reply...