Fall is a favorite season for many as nature gets dressed up in warm, earthy hues. It’s a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy some crisp fresh air before winter arrives.
What better way to experience all the fall foliage than going on a Vanlife adventure through North America? With our collection of the most scenic byways, national parks, and small towns, we can’t imagine a better or cozier experience.
Come explore these top spots for leaf-peeping across the USA and start planning your next excursion.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
This vast national park spans nearly 500,000 acres across the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. The history of natives living in Shenandoah began in 1700, where resources like game, farmland, and freshwater made the region attractive to numerous settlers. Some of their first villages are still located just outside the park.
The area is well known for being a canvas of fall colors; from September to December, the forests of Shenandoah get painted with nature’s most vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows.
One of the bucket list activities includes driving Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive in your campervan. It’s the only main road that runs through the entirety of Shenandoah. In addition to driving, it is also possible to biking or walk on sections of the route. The steep curving road probably means you will want to take regular breaks to enjoy the view, and there are 70 overlooks to meet these needs.
In case you like backpacking, this park has easily accessible backcountry camping and hiking trails. There are also some dry RV sites within Shenandoah itself. If you would prefer to have full hookups to your RV, convenience is not far away, as a number of RV parks are just nearby from a KOA to smaller local campgrounds.
Lake Tahoe, California
Being on the road in California to Lake Tahoe offers an incredibly scenic drive. From green aspens, lemon yellow cottonwoods to striking fireweed, it’s a feast for the eyes. Fall lovers will also enjoy the beautiful leaf cover that blankets the ground with warm colors. Needless to say, Lake Tahoe itself provides a tranquil viewing point to enjoy the spectacle.
In October, it’s prime time to watch the Kokanee Salmon migration – a free activity at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. Seeing these fish defying gravity is definitely worth a visit. The month also brings about the annual Alpine Aspen Festival, a perfect way to celebrate the natural beauty of the region in autumn.
Many options for RV camping are available year-round in the Lake Tahoe area, which is known for endless outdoorsy activities like hiking, boating, and fishing. Some highly reviewed options include Zephyr Cove Resort and Tahoe Valley Campground.
Redwood National & State Parks, Washington
Fall is the best season for looking at trees, and these include redwoods too! Ironically, redwoods are evergreen trees, but that doesn’t mean the oldest tree grove in the world is any less beautiful.
The redwoods still get tinted with orange as they shed their foliage, while a number of the local oak trees add splashes of yellow. The most dramatic shades of red in the parks are found in poison oak that turns crimson in fall. A beautiful sight, but definitely keep your skin out of the way!
Whilst you’re in this immense woodland system, keep an eye out for a glimpse of a mountain lion or elk. If you’re really lucky, you might get to see some whales by the coast.
Carson River, Nevada
The Carson River begins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – a beautiful resource that provides a source of water, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities such as fishing, swimming, and boating.
It is truly incredible to visit the river during the autumn months as the trees framing the river put on their best fall colors.
There is also no shortage of other activities in the area. A must-do hiking trail known as Kit Carson Trail takes visitors through 1800s-era Victorian-style homes, museums, and churches. It features over 60 landmarks of the capital city’s history. Even in the city, the thick trees lining the sidewalks glow yellow and create that special fall atmosphere.
Carson City has a selection of RV parks for you and your motorhome, and if you’d like to stay close to the river, Desert Rose RV Park is in an ideal location that will also link you to Reno. Full hookups, as well as concrete sites, are standard here.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns dessert plants might not demonstrate the same dramatic transition as their deciduous counterparts; however, the woody plants here show off the own unique flowering throughout the year. In fall, the Orange Butterflyweed blooms and serves as a good source for several butterflies and Caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly.
During this autumn season, the park hosts full moon walks where rangers answer questions about the nocturnal creatures in the area, local lore, and astronomy. It’s also a great place to spot bats in the caves in late summer and early fall – be sure to wear some sturdy footwear when exploring the slippery caverns.
Camping options within the park itself are rather limited. Fear not, you won’t be forced into boondocking, as there are several RV parks in the vicinity. Carlsbad RV Park is one example. They provide full hookups and even a pool just 15 minutes from the national park.
The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico
In this part of New Mexico, the signature fall color is yellow, and the 83-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, from Taos to Questa, beams with color this time of year. The open road takes you through the communities of Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire. Throughout your drive, you’ll enjoy a landscape of aspens, spruces, and pines against the backdrop of Wheeler Peak.
In addition to driving the byway, spend some time exploring the artist colony of Taos, especially the unique adobe buildings. The nearby Rio Grande Gorge Bridge should also not be missed. Taos Valley RV Park & Campground is just minutes away from the action and makes a great home base.
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Utah
Yet another beautiful byway to enjoy in your campervan is found in Utah, as part of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The 20-mile drive winds through rugged alpine canyons of the Wasatch Range, offering gorgeous views of Mount Timpanogos.
Fall colors are in no shortage as the reds and golds of maple, oak, and aspen contrast sharply against the evergreens. During the trip, Timpanogos Cave National Monument makes a worthwhile stop. Cascade Springs is another great add-on to see waterfalls dressed up in fall splendor.
After completing the byway, spend some time exploring the Heber City region. Mountain Valley RV Resort makes a good home base to see the area, including the Rocky Mountains.
Gunnison National Forest, Colorado
Located a few hours from the city of Denver, the Gunnison National Forest makes a fantastic base to appreciate nature and fall.
Colorado is another state known for remarkable fall colors. Late September and early October are the best times to camp here to see the changing leaves while enjoying crisp and cool temperatures that aren’t too cold.
There are a number of hiking trails here, perfect for color-viewing and suitable for hikers of different levels. Mesa Tops is a newly opened one at 10,800 feet elevation that is worth exploring with its view over Grandby Lakes and other points below.
Temecula Wine Region, California
When the seasonal months arrive, the endless vines in the vast wine valley turn the color of well, red wine. In addition, to unique fall foliage views, the wine itself is the main draw of this region. Get off the highway, just an hour from San Diego, for this great escape.
The Old Town here is a charming must-see, and it’s almost like stepping into an old Western film but with full fall technicolor. Of course, enjoying Temecula will likely involve a glass or two, so put away the campervan keys for the night at a convenient RV Park in town.
Pechanga RV Resort is a full-service option that has great amenities and beautifully manicured grounds reflective of Temecula. Plus, sites have picnic tables, gazebos, BBQs, and fire pits, so all your RVing needs are taken care of.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
With the density of deciduous trees in the Columbia River Gorge, it is no surprise that falls foliage blazes to life in varied hues of red, yellow, and orange. It’ll almost certainly be raining this time of year, but it’ll be so beautiful you won’t care.
An ideal campervan trip, the Historic Columbia River Highway is a pleasant backroad drive, with the chance to take a break at Vista House for amazing fall scenery. After that, stretch your legs at Multnomah Falls by taking one of the hikes in the forest.
As a well-known outdoor destination, it’s very easy to find accommodation here, whether at simple sites within the park or more comfortable full-service parks a few minutes away.
Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, Maine
A little further away than our typical West coast destinations, we’ve found a gorgeous drive on the East coast that can’t be missed!
An easy 2.5 hours or 52-mile drive around Maine’s Rangeley Lakes region will bring you to a sea of burnt oranges, fiery reds, and explosive yellows, poised against a backdrop of the Mooselookmeguntic and Upper Richardson lakes. Many who have done this trip make coasting along the Appalachian Mountains ridgeline an annual affair as the views just can’t be beaten.
No matter where you’re headed this autumn, set yourself up for a cozy and comfortable trip with an RV rental with Travellers Autobarn. Our spacious yet compact campervans make the perfect tiny homes under the falling leaves.
Check out our locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
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About the Author
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.