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, harvest festivals and pumpkin celebrations just a short drive away from the Bay Area. We’ve picked a few of our fall faves, check them out below and start your fall family road trip.

photo: Josh Wray Photography

Mammoth Lakes

With record moisture this past winter and snow pack still lingering on the mountains, the Eastern Sierra color display is expected to be at an all time high this fall. The leafy fireworks  are just getting started, with the color show culminating in mid-late October at the lowest elevations. Get a bird's eye view of all the fall colors with a flight on SkyTime Helicopter Air Tours. See the colors up close when you hike one of these trails (Heart Lake is particularly kid-friendly). Ride the scenic gondola to the top and enjoy lunch on the summit (bonus: kids ride free!).

Where to stay: The Sierra Nevada Resort offers a quintessential mountain town lodging experience or stay in the Village at the Westin where you can easily access all the shops and restaurants in the area. 

More area informationvisitmammoth.com

photo: Tenaya Lodge


There's no doubt that fall is one of the best times of year to head to Yosemite—the temps are perfect for hiking and there aren't as many crowds as you'll find in the summer. Head for the Tuolumne Grove Nature Trail to see the reds and oranges of the Dogwood trees, and up the Mist Trail to see the last of the waterfalls for the season. 

Where to stay: We love Tenaya Lodge for its convenient location and loads of kid-friendly amenities. Book one of their new two-bedroom Explorer Cabins and you'll have room to spread out. Nightly dive-in movies at the pool and complimentary breakfast and happy hour will make your stay all that more fun for everyone. Don't miss the on-site activities like archery lessons and the kids adventure course. 

The Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite is another great option with villas that can sleep up to six and lots of on-site activities for everyone. Peer through a telescope to view the night sky or try your luck at Boga, which is basically yoga on a paddle board. Without TVs in the rooms, you and your crew will be exploring the kids zip lines, life-sized checkers and nature crafts. There's even a massive indoor game room with games like foosball and an amazing treehouse climbing structure. 

Online: redtri.com

photo: Miramar Events

Half Moon Bay

This coastside Bay Area town goes all-out for giant orange pumpkins every fall. The festivities kick off in early October with pumpkin patches springing up all around town. Kids will love a visit to Lemos Farm to pick out the perfect pumpkin and ride some ponies, too. The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off is a celebrated local event that will be held on October 14 where gargantuan gourds battle head-to-head for the big cash prize. On October 19-20, folks flock to Half Moon Bay for the annual Art & Pumpkin Festival to enjoy pumpkin eats, crafts, a haunted circus and more. 

Where to stay: The Half Moon Bay Lodge offers suites, oversized guest rooms and even pet-friendly rooms so you can bring your whole crew along. It has easy access to downtown and the beach. 

More area informationvisithalfmoonbay.org

photo: Kate Loweth


Autumn days bring harvest season in this gorgeous coastal region north of San Francisco. Ukiah Country Pumpkinfest takes over in mid October followed by Mushroom Feast Mendocino in early November. Ride a horse along the shore or visit the African hoofstock at B. Bryan Preserve. 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 or spend a night on the farm at Mar Vista Cottages

More area informationvisitmendocino.com

Wine Country

Gorgeous browns, reds and oranges take over wine country when the temps start to drop. Harvest festivals, pumpkin celebrations and Oktoberfests are plentiful in the region during the fall months. Get a bird's-eye view of all the fall colors when you book a helicopter tour with Butterfly Aviation (all ages are welcome!). The Fort Ross Harvest Festival is particularly fun for kids with apple picking, dancing and games on October 5. There are a number of farms in the area that offer apple picking this time of year like Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol. For tips on family-friendly wineries and other activities in the area, check out this story

Where to stay: Santa Rosa is a great home base for wine country adventures and we particularly like the family rooms offered at The Sandman. Two Thirty-Five Suites in Healdsburg is another solid option with suites big enough to share with another family. 

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, archery and fishing.

Head to South Lake Tahoe for the Fall Fish Festival or the Oktoberfest at Camp Richardson, both on October 5-6.

We love the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe and its fall offerings like mountainside yoga and the 2.3-mile hike to Sawmill Lake directly from the backyard of the resort. 

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

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: We love the vintage cabooses turned into sleeping compartments at Railroad Park in Dunsmuir. 

More area informationdiscoversiskiyou.com

—Kate Loweth

Featured image: Seth Lemmons via flickr



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