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18 Great California Fall Trips

With Autumn approaching quickly, new opportunities are revealing themselves. Autumn is a perfect time to explore the coast towns, tasting rooms, foodie havens, and natural wonders. Here are 18 great California fall trips!

1. Monterey’s Wine Trailmonterey-picnic-0910-l

The harvest is on at under-the-radar vineyards tucked against the mountains south of Salinas.

Follow Monterey Country’s Wine Trail to the 20 or so wineries along River Road. Along the way, pick up organic broccoli and tomatoes at the Farm, stop for a lunch with a view, and even visit a ranch where lions and lynxes roam.




2. SoCal’s Anza-Borrego Desert anza-borrego-stars-1010-l

Most people visit Anza-Borrego in the spring when desert wildflowers blossom, but fall is an  experience unlike any other. Think constellations, fall’s cool evening air, and moonrises over the badlands.

The night sky covering this desert 90 miles from San Diego is perfect for star gazing all by your lonesome, or book an adventure tour to share s’mores over a campfire with friends or family.




3. Santa Ana Artists Village santa-ana-fountain-1010-l

Artists started moving into the landmark Santora Building about 15 years ago, and the Village has since grown into a funky fusion of galleries, artist studios, folk art shops, and some seriously good (and cheap) eats.

The Artists Village’s 40-plus galleries open their doors along the Second Street Promenade for the First Saturday Art Walk. Peek inside local design workshops as you stroll through Santa Ana’s changing fall leaves.




4. Roam through Ukiah’s redwoods ukiah-woods-1010-l

Mendocino County’s largest city is best known for its soothing, small-town feel. And autumn explodes with foliage that rivals Vermont’s.

Spending the morning hiking through Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve, then soak the afternoon away in a mineral bath at Vichy Springs Resort.




5. Eastern Sierra fall colors eastern-sierra-fall-1008-l

Autumn’s chill in the air offers the perfect excuse to explore Eastern Sierra’s hot springs, where you’ll be sure to warm up in no time.






6. Gold Country autumn autumn-colors-l

In the folded foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California’s Gold Country, autumn lingers long into October, offering blue skies, tawny hills, and grapevines tinged fierce red

Good new restaurants are popping up in unexpected places. Even more strikingly, an influx of creative new winemakers has made the Gold Country one of the most fascinating wine regions in the West.




7. Catch the golden season at Yosemiteyosemite-valley-l

Quiet hikes and lazy picnics are yours for the taking in autumn. Before winter comes, take a long weekend to see the best of what the park has to offer.

Three days are a perfect chunk of time to explore the park’s three main areas: Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, and Wawona. Plan to stay in the valley?it’s central to everything, and reservations are easier to come by at this time of year.




8. Fall under the Sonoma Coast spell sonoma-shoreline-l

The rugged stretch of land that runs along Sonoma County’s coast inspires grand passions. From the pocket coves of Bodega Bay and windswept bluffs of Sea Ranch to inland pine-covered peaks and ocean-carved sea stacks, the area is marked by layers of fog, gulls, sweetgrass, and wildness.

It’s a place where you can tidepool for hours in precious solitude or ride thrilling, frigid waves; a place where delicious wine and cheese are made carefully, lovingly, by hand.




9. Laguna Beach in the off-season palm-trees-l

Now that summer crowds have cleared out of this coastal town 50 miles south of L.A., it’s time for a romantic fall getaway.

Here’s how to get there, 3 romantic stays, where to eat, and what to do.





10. Taste your way through Anderson Valley taste-vine-m-l

For farm-fresh food and sublime wine, spend an autumn weekend in California’s least known, most beautiful wine country.






11. Hit the beach at Cardiff-by-the-Sea beach-l

Whether you come to catch the surf scene or to retreat into nature along the lagoon’s trails, Cardiff is a perfect place to visit as the area’s lingering summer finally begins to surrender to fall.






12. Edna Valley harvest paragon-vineyard-l

Wander through this quirky, unassuming wine region just south of San Luis Obispo. The nascent wine region is located in a triangle bordered by Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, and San Luis Obispo, and it still retains a distinctive, backroad California charm.
Today it’s home to more than 3,000 acres of vineyards and 30 wine labels, including 17 tasting rooms that run the gamut from a former one-room schoolhouse to the stylish Jack Niven Hospitality Center at Edna Valley Vineyard.

At the latter, you can sample Chardonnays in front of picture windows with views of the valley’s most distinctive icon, Islay Peak, an ancient volcanic plug that rose from the ocean floor.




13. Island-style fun in San Diego san-diego-beach-l

Hawaii may seem a world away, but there are plenty of big waves, tiny bubbles, and tiki-style spots closer to home.

See where you can make your own lei, savor a luau, have an ocean adventure and more, right on the mainland.





14. Soak up a Santa Rita wine getaway valley-l

For beautiful back roads and even better wines, head to these hills in California’s Santa Barbara County.

Until receiving designation as an appellation in 2001, this compact region was largely overshadowed by the neighboring Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys. But no more.

Easily explored via a 34-mile loop linking Santa Rosa Road and State 246, the Santa Rita Hills have become a destination for visitors looking for distinctive Pinot Noirs or a lazy drive through the unspoiled country of western Santa Barbara County.




15. Savor oysters and fall at Tomales Bay bay-water-m-l

You can find good local food in any number of beautiful places, but in Tomales Bay, on California’s North Coast, there’s a special kind of seamlessness between the act of eating and just being in nature.

Savor the local bounty as well as the golden beauty of autumn on the coast.




16. Journey through Death Valley desert-l

In autumn, the fabled desert park is at its most hauntingly beautiful. Hike, explore, and experience a world unlike any other.






17. Vintage California in La Jolla torrey-pines-reserve-l

Fall’s a great time to take in this graceful, vintage version of Southern California. Crowds are down, the theater season at the beloved La Jolla Playhouse is in full swing, and there are still plenty of days that carry the last hints of summer’s warmth.

And with its rare trees and isolated beaches, La Jolla’s Torrey Pines State Reserve offers miles of hiking trails and an unspoiled stretch of coastline.




18. Soak up the sea in Pescadero lighthouse-l

The stretch of shoreline between Pescadero and San Gregorio seems like the land that time forgot ? until you step into a gas station for an outstanding taco or gather heirloom seeds at an updated country store.

Fall’s clear days are the perfect reason to take a meandering drive connecting ocean views and small towns.


Compliments of sunset.com


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