Short Drives

It's not the destination, it's the road trip

A Fall Road Trip Through Flagstaff and Valle, Arizona

A road trip from Phoenix through Flagstaff and north-west to Valle, the southern gateway to the Grand Canyon, winds through stunning forests of tall ponderosa pine and aspen. It’s a favorite tourist drive during the unbearably hot summer months when visitors can escape from the heat and find shelter among the aspen and pine forests at the higher and cooler elevations of the national park.

But the fall is a magical time of year for an Arizona road trip. The aspen tree leaves have turned a vibrant shade of gold as far as the eye can see.

Besides the golden shade of aspen trees, the San Francisco Peaks, which are the remainder of ancient volcanoes dominate the view. Depending on how many stops you make during this 380-mile round trip drive, you may find yourself driving home during magical sunset hour when animals are starting their evening activities. You will most likely see deer or enormous elk at dusk, moving through the woods by the road.

If you have a car but run out of gas, there’s a Scottsdale title loan lender so you can complete your trip.

Itinerary

MartAnne’s Burrito Palace: Stop for a late breakfast in Flagstaff at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace. It’s a tiny place with hordes of fans who wait patiently on the sidewalk for a table early. Order the chilaquiles made with scrambled eggs, corn tortillas, enchilada sauce, cheese and onions. But don’t forget to bring cash – credit cards not accepted.

Humphrey’s Peak: Humphreys Peak is the highest natural point in Arizona, with an elevation of 12,637 feet. Located within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness in the Coconino National Forest and part of the San Francisco Peaks, it’s about 11 miles north of Flagstaff en route to Valle. The hiking varies in difficulty from a short trail walk to more than a six-hour hike to the peak. Wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water.

Bedrock City: If you have a taste for quirky roadside attractions with a nod to cinema, check out Bedrock City in Valle, at the junction of US 180 and State Route 64. Bedrock City is inspired by the Flinstones, complete with prehistoric camping and a dinosaur slide. Just past Fred and Barney’s homes you’ll find a pterodactyl flying over Mount St. Wilma. Admission is $5.

Planes of Fame Air Museum: Located in Valle, the museum houses over 40 aircraft, many of which still fly. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation, perpetuation and exhibition of historical aircraft, and to the men and women, both famous and unknown, who devoted their lives to flight. Admission is $6.95.

Museum of Northern Arizona: Founded in 1928, the Museum of Northern Arizona has been the destination to view items related to biology, fine art, anthropology, and geology. Coming November first, “You Are On Indian Land.” Leading American Indian artists challenge how contemporary Native American art is presented and understood. Admission: $12 for adults, $8 for youth.

Total road trip miles: Approximately 380 miles, round trip. From central Phoenix, take Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff. From Flagstaff, take the US 180 about 50 miles northwest to Valle.

 

5 Best Fall Foliage Short Drives in the US

Fall is the special time of the year when a short drive proves to be a delight of colorful landscapes of fall foliage. While the northeast is legendary for the color show it puts on from September to November,  beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow can we had nationwide. Here are five of the best fall foliage road trips around the country where you can see the leaves in all their colorful splendor by car. A convertible, open sunroof or windows down adds to the show as you take in Fall’s crisp, fresh air.

Maple and Mountains Tour, Maine

Mother Nature never skimps in Maine. Fall foliage beauty is everywhere statewide and one of the prettiest drives for fall leaf aficionados is the Maples and Mountains tour. The loop begins in the historic town of Naples featuring 19th century architecture and passes through Bridgton, South Paris where locally mined gems like amethyst and topaz are for sale, and Stow, before ending in charming Fryeburg.

Along the way, road trippers can stop and visit Sebago Lake State Park and explore Grafton Notch State Park for many outdoor activities. The drive takes you through covered bridges and the White Mountain National Forest into Evans Notch, where you can enjoy stunning views of the White Mountains, framed by pom poms of colorful fall bushes.

For peak foliage times, visit mainefoliage.com foliage index for current conditions.

White Mountain Majesty, New Hampshire

The sugarcone-laden peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains sound winter-like, but they are worth visiting year round, especially in fall. Most colorful from mid-September to mid-October, when fall foliage is at its most spectacular peak. But even after leaves reach their peak in a certain area, the colors can hang on for a week or two.

The 125 mile drive includes brilliant foliage displays, restaurants and gourmet shops galore, quaint country villages and traditional country fairs on weekends. A pond at the 6,500-acre Franconia Notch State Park that is built around a spectacular mountain pass is worth a cruise on crisp, fall day.

The State of New Hampshire updates a real-time, regional foliage peak report for those needing a short drive and maximum fall foliage fix.

The Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. More than 100 species of native trees, including scarlet oaks, maples, and hickories, put on a kaleidoscopic autumn display of golds, crimsons, and purples.

There are over 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails to explore the stunning forests in the fall, which means you can visit a new portion for leaf gazing every year without ever repeating the same drive. The best part is that the fall display goes on as late as November, when other forests nationwide have dropped all their leaves.

Smokymountains.com offers the best Fall Foliage prediction map for not only the local area but nationwide as well. A simple slider helps predict color intensity by weekly period.

Upper Peninsula Panoramas, Michigan

Michigan’s state forest system is the largest one in the eastern United States consisting of nearly 4 million acres.There are more than twenty forested state parks in the Upper Peninsula to enjoy in fall. Local species of ash, aspen, beech, birch, maple, oak, sycamore, and tamarac reign over of the densely forested peninsula located between three Great Lakes. The still, mirror-like waters are more startling in colors ranging from azure to navy due to the tree’s vibrant, fall colors.

The Fall Colors blog reports weekly on changes to the area’s fall foliage.

Columbia River Gorge Gorgeousness, Oregon

Forming a natural border between southern Washington and northern Oregon, the eighty-mile-long Columbia River Gorge is an outdoorsman’s paradise. But in fall the big-leaf maples, Oregon ash, and firs start their color displays creating a gorgeous landscape with waterfalls in the backdrop.

This is the first scenic drive in the U.S. to earn National Historic Landmark status. While driving along the Columbia River is a relaxing and soul-satisfying journey, the active and adventure seeking prefer to hike, kayak or river raft down the Columbia river.

The blog, Oregon Fall Foliage offers a weekly update of what sections are popping each week in Fall.

Chicago to Wisconsin’s North Woods

When you live in the Chicagoland area, it is not uncommon to travel to the state of Wisconsin. Depending on where you live, it can take you just an hour to cross into the Wisconsin border where you will find awesome outlet malls, a beautiful view of Lake Michigan, and plenty of places to purchase famous Wisconsin cheese. Although many Chicagoans travel just past the border of Wisconsin, a trip to the North Woods can offer an amazing outdoor getaway. The best time to travel to Northern Wisconsin is in the summer, but can also be a perfect fall getaway if you want to see the brilliant fall foliage. There are plenty of great locations along the way, but our final destination is Minocqua, Wisconsin.

First Stop: Milwaukee

Travel a little bit further past the Wisconsin border and you will find yourself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the Brewers and a city Chicagoans call, “small scale Chicago.” You still get a great city life with a variety of things to do, but it is just not as busy as downtown Chicago. One of the best festivals takes places in Milwaukee in the summer, which attracts a huge number of people from around the area. Summerfest, the World’s Largest Music Festival, is host to over 800 bands over a span of 11 days. Bands play throughout different times of the day, making it easy for those in the Chicagoland area to take a quick road trip to see one of their favorite bands!

If you are looking for something to do in the winter, the city of Milwaukee will deliver some amazing outdoor activities. Ice fishing and cross country skiing are just some of the most popular outdoor activities during this time of year. The state of Wisconsin tends to get a bit more snow, which makes Milwaukee a great place for a quick winter getaway.

Second Stop: Madison

Make your way about two and a half hours north of Chicago and you will find yourself in the city of Madison, which is the capital of Wisconsin. There are a ton of great events, and nightlife in the area, especially since the University of Wisconsin is located in Madison. Every weekend, around the capital building known as “the square” you can indulge in a farmers market. The market offers local vegetables, bakery items, and more. If you are a cheese lover, than this farmers market is the perfect place for you. Sellers of cheese come up with great combinations of cheese blocks and curds, and all at great prices. A favorite item by many, which always causes a line, is the Jalapeño Cheesy bread, which will make your taste buds explode!

The square is also a great spot in the winter, because the city blocks the sidewalks off around the square, making a section for individuals to ski. There are also plenty of places nearby for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Make sure to bundle up, because it does get quite cold if you are walking around downtown.

Third Stop: Tomahawk

Although our first two stops in Wisconsin are great places to visit, they are cities with a large number of people. If you travel about five to six hours north, you will come to a place known as Tomahawk, Wisconsin. This is a very small town, which I have only been to because it is where my grandparents moved. Even though Tomahawk is a small town, it offers a ton of outdoor activities. Certain days throughout the summer, you can head to the small downtown area to see a water ski show. Tons of people from around the area visit to watch amazing tricks performed on the water. Speaking of water, Tomahawk is surrounded by several bodies of water, which are perfect for the fishing enthusiast.

Many local eateries actually have a boat launch outside their property. You can rent a boat and take it out for the day to fish, swim, and stop for a bite to eat. The best place you can visit in Tomahawk is an ice cream shop called the Windmill. This small ice cream shop is actually shaped like a windmill and offers huge scoops of ice cream for cheap prices. Ice cream flavor selections change daily, and you will usually find a line out the door. There is outdoor seating, along with a bridge path and boat launch making it a great place to stop if you are in Wisconsin.

Final Stop: Minocqua

Minocqua, Wisconsin is about a 45 minute drive from Tomahawk, making it about a 7 hour trip if you are in the Chicagoland area. This is the start of the area in the state called the North Woods. There are so many fun things to do for individuals and families. Wildwood Wildlife Park offers a hands on experience with many animals. Deer, goats, and pigs run around freely, while guests can feed them crackers, purchased at the entrance. There is also a fun option to feed a black bear! Anyone can feed the bears, you just pay $1 for an old looking bottle of “bear juice” and stand by the cage to pour into the bear’s mouth. There are also plenty of caged animals for viewing and trout fishing for an additional fee.

Holiday Acres is another great place to visit in the summer. They offer horseback riding and pony rides, go karting, and a miniature golf course. This is a great place for the entire family because there is something for everybody.

Our final destination is downtown Minocqua. There are many great places to shop, including a huge antique mall with millions of antique items. Minocqua is also home to Otto’s a German beer and brat garden with the best cheese curds in the state! Torpy Park is a great beach for swimming, and also has a huge playground for children and sand courts for volleyball games.

There are so many other amazing places to visit in the state of Wisconsin, but these locations are some of my favorites! Even though there are a lot of outdoor activities in the winter, summers in Wisconsin are simply the best. For those of us who hate the cold, we endure the freezing temperatures and snow, just to have an amazing outdoor summer in the state of Wisconsin.

Pacific Coast Highway

Less than 95 miles and a two-hour drive separates Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Although the distance is short, the cities are a dichotomy of California living.

If you’re in the mood for a scenic, day-long or weekend road trip, driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara is a memorable experience. The PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) hugs the California coastline most of the way and meanders through some interesting locations worth a stop.

A recommended road trip itinerary starts off in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles or Hollywood, where you can catch the Interstate 10 westbound towards to the beach town of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica is where the 10 merges into the PCH. The famous Santa Monica Pier has a vintage vibe with fried seafood, carnival rides, and a Ferris wheel. The PCH heads northbound along several miles of oceanfront homes on the left and canyon-top estates on the right. About 20 minutes into the drive, you will find yourself near Malibu and Topanga Canyon, marked by The Reel Inn Seafood Restaurant, a casual, local hangout serving fresh grilled and fried seafood.

Topanga Canyon is a favorite weekend highway for Hollywood stars since the 1920s, but locals know it best as the bohemian enclave where artists and musicians hide out. Charles Manson established his notorious ‘Manson Family’ in a nearby ranch while Neil Young recorded most of his After The Gold Rush album in his Topanga basement studio in 1970.

Just north of Topanga, the PCH gets hilly as Malibu gets more populated. Malibu is home to multimillion dollar beachfront mansions and the movie stars that occupy them. To cater to the movie star locals, the Malibu Country Mart recently renovated its outdoor mall into a high-end, shopping and dining experience. The famed, paparazzi-flocked sushi restaurant, Nobu, is nearby.

Less than 15 miles northbound on the Pacific Coast Highway you’ll find yourself in the Point Dume area. Make a left turn on Westward Beach Road and follow the signs for Point Dume. The beach is a popular film and photo-shoot location, thanks to the wide, beaches, rocky coves and cliffs. During the whale-watching season of December to March, the beach is the perfect place to spot migrating California gray whales.

Back on the PCH, the hillsides become less populated and you exiting Los Angeles County and enter Ventura County. Soon after you enter Ventura County you’ll find a giant rock named Point Mugu on your left and a sand dune on the right. Pull over for scenic views of the ocean from Mugu Rock and try hiking up the sand dune. The mysteriously high sand dune is the result of winds blowing sand up the steep hill. The steep hill is a challenging hike but offers beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and Mugu Rock.

Northbound again on the PCH leads you past a military base and into the agricultural town of Oxnard. The PCH heads inland here and merges with the Ventura Freeway (US 101). But in another 8-10 miles, the view of the ocean on the left calls you to take exit 70 California Street, where you’ll end in the town of Ventura, in front of the pier.

Ventura has some of the best surfing in California and the pier at Surfer’s Point Park offers beautiful views of the hillsides of the town. If you arrive earlier in the day, wander around historic downtown Ventura, home of a mix of vintage boutiques, thrift stores, galleries, gift shops and cafes.

When leaving Ventura, continue north on the 101. Twenty miles north is the small beach town, Carpinteria. The Carpinteria Harbor Seal Rookery, home to nearly 100 adult seals who give birth to their pups on the local shoreline is worth a stop.

The final ten-mile stretch of the journey leads to Santa Barbara, with its gorgeous tree-lined streets, missions and red-tiled roofs typical of California’s Spanish architecture. Downtown Santa Barbara is connected to the scenic harbor and pier, offering a variety of restaurants, bars, art galleries and museums all within walking or bicycle distance.

The town is worth a weekend of discovery in itself, offering a variety of hotels and motels for every price range. The best part is you can always get back to Los Angeles in a couple of hours.