Fall is coming (despite all heat wave evidence to the contrary) and it’s the perfect time to hit the road! Find all the fall leaves and pumpkin patches just a short drive away from the Bay Area. We’ve picked a few of our fall faves, check them out below and start planning your fall family road trip.

Editor’s note: Many towns are open for recreational visitors with social distancing requirements in place. Check the cancellation policies before you book. Follow county requirements for COVID-19 including wearing a face mask. Keep our community safe! 

Wine Country

Gorgeous browns, reds and oranges take over wine country when the temps start to drop. While we might not have all the harvest festivals this year, there are a number of farms in the area that offer apple picking this time of year like Gabriel Farm and Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch in Sebastopol. For tips on family-friendly wineries and other activities in the area, check out this story

Where to stay: The brand-new glamping spot Wildhaven Sonoma is the perfect option for families looking some fall fun in Healdsburg. They have upscale glamping tents right on the Russian River so you can enjoy the lingering warmth well into the fall. Cook up some burgers on the communal grills or head to PiZzando for some tasty take-out pizza. Bonus: They just added some Riverside Tent Cabins with larger porches and more privacy, as well as outdoor showers for rinsing off after a day in the river. 

photo: Miramar Events

Half Moon Bay

This coastside Bay Area town goes all-out for giant orange pumpkins every fall. While you won't be able to experience the usual pumpkin festival this year, you can still enjoy the fall season in this coastal town. Head to one of the many pumpkin farms in the area that offer fields of pumpkins to pick and photo opps galore. One of our favorites is Lemos Farms with their petting zoos and rides for kids. This year's Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off will be coming to you virtually as spectators aren't allowed due to COVID-19. 

Where to stay: There are tons of vacation homes available for rent in Half Moon Bay with water views and privacy. This villa sleeps 5 and has a fire pit that you'll definitely want to hang out at after a day at the beach. If you have a bigger group, this 3-bedroom home sleeps 9 and and is a quick walk to the beach. Or, bring the whole family including the dog to this beachfront home with hot tub

More area informationvisithalfmoonbay.org

photo: Kate Loweth


Between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe you'll find the quaint Gold Rush town of Auburn. We love to stop here for lunch on the drive to Tahoe but it's also a great destination itself especially on fall weekends.

Families can begin their day by taking in the fresh air and hiking one of the many scenic trails in the Auburn State Recreation Area. As hikers enjoy the beautiful scenery, they can then venture to the vast American River and find the iconic Foresthill Bridge.

After hiking, head to town to grab a bite from the artisan bread bakery and cafe The Baker and The Cakemaker, offering delicious sandwiches and salads that are tasty for both adult and child palettes. The Auburn Alehouse is another family-friendly option with huge pretzels and burgers on the menu. 

Where to stay: The location of this 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is ideal for days spent hiking in Auburn. Or invite the whole crew to stay with you at this Auburn home that sleeps 16

For more info: visitplacer.com

photo: Kate Loweth


Autumn days bring harvest season in this gorgeous coastal region north of San Francisco. Ride a horse along the shore or visit the African hoofstock at B. Bryan Preserve where they just opened a drive-through car safari tour that ends with giraffe feeding. Be sure to stop by Frankie's Ice Cream and Pizza for a slice of mushroom pizza followed by a cone topped with candy cap mushroom ice cream when you are in downtown Mendocino. Read all our Mendocino recs here

Where to stay: Reserve a cottage at the Point Arena Lighthouse to hear the waves crashing off the cliffs nearby and possibly see migrating gray whales offshore. If a private vacation rental is more your speed, check out this oceanfront home with hot tub that sleeps 8. 

More area informationvisitmendocino.com

Lake Tahoe/Reno

Before the snow doubles the driving time, head to Tahoe for some fall family time. You'll be rewarded with gorgeous vistas, perfect hiking weather and lots of seasonal activities. Scarecrows take over downtown Tahoe City businesses during the fall and you can take advantage of the weather and check out the many recreational activities that are available like stargazing and fishing. Nearby Reno doubles the fun of any Tahoe trip with a gorgeous downtown full of public art, restaurants and parks. Read all our Reno recs here

Where to Stay: You will love the hygge vibe at this cozy cabin in the Tahoe Donner community where you'll find room for 10 and a fire pit for nights under the stars. Or, go for this woodsy A-frame with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a loft that has a wrap around deck where you'll want to enjoy some coffee. 

More area informationgotahoenorth.com and tahoesouth.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Siskiyou County

Head north past Redding and you'll make your way to the tranquil county of Siskiyou that extends to the California-Oregon border. Here you'll find gorgeous hikes like the Hedge Creek Falls Trail in Dunsmuir and the McCloud Falls Trail. Spend some time fishing for trout and exploring all of the outdoor adventure that the area has to offer. Read all our area recs here

Where to stay: The brand-new LOGE Mt. Shasta is the perfect home base for families visiting from the Bay Area. Book their "Whole Crew" room and you'll have a king-sized bed and pull-out couch in the main room, and a separate bunk bed room for the kids (plus, an in-room hammock!). We also love the vintage cabooses turned into sleeping compartments at Railroad Park in Dunsmuir. 

More area informationdiscoversiskiyou.com

photo: Kate Loweth


Characterized by the rolling hill terrain with 360-degree panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Rocklin is the perfect stop for an outdoor family day. Visitors can take in the picturesque setting of Rocklin at Quarry Park, which is filled with entertainment for families and plenty of wide-open space for visitors to social distance. Read our review of Quarry Park here

Where to Stay: Families will love this Fair Oaks guesthouse with access to a pool. This farmstay in Lincoln offers another great family-friendly option and you can even help milk the cows! 

More info: visitplacer.com

photo: Kate Loweth

Hope Valley

Just over three hours from the Bay Area, sits the often-overlooked Alpine County, just south of Lake Tahoe. We love this destination for fall as there are ample hiking and fishing opportunities that are perfect for families. Don't miss a stop at the hot spring-fed pool at Grover Hot Springs State Park (be sure to book your spot before you head over as they are limiting the number of visitors). 

Where to stay: The newly-renovated Wylder Hotel Hope Valley is the perfect home base for your Alpine County adventures. Wylder Hotel Hope Valley has tons of different lodging options for families. From cabins that sleep up to eight people to campsites, yurts and even a vintage Spartan, you'll find something that suits your family's travel style, for sure. Cabins share outdoor spaces with hammocks, swings, picnic tables and fire pits. Read our review here

More info: alpinecounty.com

—Kate Loweth

Featured image: Seth Lemmons via flickr



10 Things You Must Do in California’s Siskiyou County

Outdoor Adventure Awaits at Wylder Hotel Hope Valley

The Best U-Pick Apple Orchards

The Great Pumpkin: The Bay Area’s Best Pumpkin Patches