10 Scenic Drives That Showcase the Best Fall Foliage on the West Coast


10 Scenic Drives That Showcase the Best Fall Foliage on the West Coast

As autumn approaches, the West Coast of the United States transforms into a stunning display of vibrant fall foliage. From California to Washington, there are numerous scenic drives that offer a front-row seat to nature's captivating transformation. In this article, we will explore ten of the most picturesque routes that showcase the best fall foliage on the West Coast.

1. Pacific Coast Highway - California

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is arguably America's most beloved road. This iconic coastal route in California offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is a perfect choice for a fall foliage road trip. As you drive along the stretch from Big Sur to Monterey, you will be treated to a captivating fusion of fall colors and awe-inspiring ocean vistas. The rugged cliffs adorned with red, gold, and orange hues create a stunning contrast against the deep blue waters. Further north, near Mendocino and Fort Bragg, you will encounter lush forests that meet the coastline, creating a picturesque canvas of vibrant fall foliage harmonizing with the majesty of the Pacific Ocean.

Best stops for fall foliage: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Mendocino, San Francisco

2. Columbia Gorge River Highway - Oregon

Oregon is famous for its stunning landscapes and magical towns, and during the fall season, the Columbia Gorge River Highway truly comes alive with vibrant autumn colors. As you travel along this scenic highway, you will be surrounded by lush forests bursting into brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold, harmonizing with the majestic flow of the Columbia River. Be sure to make stops at iconic waterfalls such as Multnomah Falls and Horsetail Falls, as they are surrounded by vibrant foliage. The highway's twists and turns unveil scenic viewpoints that offer sweeping panoramas of this seasonal spectacle. With its stunning vistas and cascading colors, the Columbia Gorge River Highway becomes an enchanting route to experience the West Coast's fall foliage.

Best stops for fall foliage: Vista House, Multnomah Falls

3. Cascade Loop - Washington

The Cascade Loop in Washington is a must-visit destination for an unforgettable fall foliage journey. This scenic drive takes you through diverse landscapes, from dense forests to charming towns, showcasing the best of fall in the region. One standout location along the loop is the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, which is enhanced by its alpine charm and vibrant autumn hues. As you traverse Stevens Pass and North Cascades Highway, you can expect breathtaking mountain vistas adorned with golden colors. Don't miss the opportunity to visit Lake Chelan, Wenatchee River, and the stunning Diablo Lake. The Cascade Loop promises an enchanting fusion of fall colors and scenic beauty, making it a journey worth embarking upon.

Best stops for fall foliage: Sky Valley-Stevens Pass, Tumwater Canyon

4. Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway - California

California's Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway offers a spectacular fall foliage drive worth experiencing. Aspens turn a vibrant gold, and the highlights include June Lake Loop's mirrored reflections and Convict Lake's colorful backdrop. The route leads to the high desert, where cottonwoods add an additional charm to the autumnal landscape. With its natural beauty and changing hues, the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway provides a rewarding fall journey through California's Eastern Sierra region.

Best time for this road trip: Mid-September to early November. Popular stops like June Lake Loop and Convict Lake guarantee scenic landscapes.

5. Mount Hood Scenic Byway - Oregon

While the fall foliage along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway in Oregon may not be as vibrant as in some other regions, the route still offers glimpses of golden aspens against rugged landscapes. Worthwhile stops include June Lake Loop, known for its reflective waters enhancing the fall colors, and Conway Summit, offering expansive views of the surrounding mountains. The byway passes through the high desert, where cottonwoods contribute to the seasonal palette. While less intense than some fall destinations, the Mount Hood Scenic Byway provides a satisfactory opportunity to witness autumnal changes.

Best places to stop: Lake Oswego, Bald Mountain Hike, Mirror Lake

6. Lake Tahoe Loop - California/Nevada

Lake Tahoe is a favorite summer destination, but during the fall, taking a drive around the Lake Tahoe Loop becomes a magical experience. This 72-mile road is considered one of the most beautiful and scenic drives on the West Coast. As you journey around the lake, you will be treated to glimpses of golden aspens against the backdrop of the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains. Fallen Leaf Lake is a must-visit spot, featuring the best fall foliage in the region, contrasting with its pristine waters. Spooner Lake is also an excellent spot for travelers seeking peace and a beautiful landscape. Additionally, the charming town of Hope Valley is worth exploring for its perfect fall scenery.

7. Siskiyou Scenic Byway - Oregon

Driving through the Siskiyou Scenic Byway in Oregon during the fall is a truly memorable experience. As you traverse this scenic route, you will witness the foliage taking on warm hues, creating a picturesque landscape. Key highlights include Siskiyou Pass, which offers expansive views complemented by changing leaves, and Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, a unique blend of fall colors and distinct ecosystems. If you have extra time, be sure to add stops such as Pilot Rock and Greensprings Mountain, as they both feature scenic viewpoints. October is the best month to drive along the Siskiyou Scenic Byway, as the trees' colors often peak during this time.

8. Highway 101 - Washington

Highway 101 meanders up the West Coast of the United States, winding all the way to the coastal area outside Seattle. This highway offers gorgeous views of both the ocean and the trees in all their fall glory. One particularly scenic spot to visit is the Twisp River Valley, where fields, trees, and mostly green mountains create a striking landscape. Cape Flattery, the northernmost point of the contiguous US, is also a worthy stop along Highway 101.

9. Bishop Creek Canyon - California

California's Bishop Creek Canyon is a paradise for foliage enthusiasts, particularly during the fall season. Bursting with pear and apple orchards, this historic mining town turns into a gold and crimson wonderland. As you explore the quaint downtown area, make sure to visit the Julian Cider Mill for some delicious cider and indulge in a tart, apple-filled pastry from Mom's Pies. Take advantage of the local hiking trails for some autumn leaf peeping, or head south to Lake Cuyamaca for even more fall foliage. If you find yourself in need of rest, book a night at San Diego Country Estates.

10. Glacier National Park - Montana

Glacier National Park in Montana offers another breathtaking destination for fall foliage enthusiasts. As the autumn months arrive, the park's aspens turn gold, while the reds hold on until mid-October. Apart from exploring the park, there are many other spots around Montana that display spectacular fall colors. A visit to Glacier National Park provides an opportunity to witness nature's incredible transformation while enjoying the stunning mountain vistas.


Embarking on a fall foliage road trip along the West Coast is a magical experience. From the iconic Pacific Coast Highway in California to the stunning landscapes of Oregon and Washington, each scenic drive offers a unique opportunity to witness the captivating transformation of fall colors. So pack your bags, hit the road, and immerse yourself in nature's vibrant autumn display on the West Coast.

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