Whether you’re retired and looking for an epic road trip or you just want to take a scenic vacation for the weekend, the US has some amazing RV vacations that are best experienced in the fall. From New England to California, check out these great fall RV destinations along with tips and advice for first-time RV road trippers.
When you think about fall destinations, New England is probably the first place that comes to mind. Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont all have fantastic foliage road trips that will take your RV through the beautiful colors of fall.
For example, the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire takes you on a nearly 35 mile trip through the White Mountain National Forest which is known as one of the most beautiful fall drives in the country.
If you’re looking for something longer, you may try Vermont’s Scenic Highway 100, that stretches over 146 miles along the edge of the Green Mountains. Also known as “Vermont’s Main Street,” Highway 100 is peppered with fine dining, breweries, art galleries, and more, so you can pull the RV over and explore the local area from time to time.
Maine also boasts a wonderful scenic route through a national park—the Acadia All-American Road that runs through Acadia National Park. The park is one of the most popular destinations in Maine and includes both mountain and sea-side views.
The Catskills and the Berkshires are also popular fall destinations in New England. The Catskill Mountains, in Southeastern New York, are rife with rivers and creeks as well as mountain peaks over 3,500 feet above sea level—all thickly covered in autumn colors. Likewise, the Berkshires, running through the western sides of Massachusetts and Connecticut, are rolling with hills painted by the cooler weather.
Although you could stay in one of the many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and inns that are plentiful along the scenic byways, you can also find plenty of RV camping sites close to these recreation areas too.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers a large area on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina and is one of the most-visited National Parks in the country. The park is home to over 100 species of trees that are eager to show off every year in October and November. Since there are over 800 miles of roads and trails, you won’t run out of destinations and scenic views with just one visit. The park also hosts campers at six campgrounds throughout the park, so you can stay for days, weeks, or the entire fall season in a well-stocked RV.
As a bonus trip, extend your vacation by driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway into Virginia and into Shenandoah National Park to experience more fall beauty along an additional 496 miles of highway.
Once school is back in session in the fall, Glacier National Park in Montana quiets down and lays its beauty bare for those who stick around to see it. The foliage throughout the park turns bright yellow and orange, and you can enjoy it all while hiking on over 700 miles of trails in the park.
Be advised, if you’re bringing your RV into the park, the many drive-in campgrounds don’t have water, electricity, or sewer hookups. Additionally, big horn sheep, elk, mountain goat, and bear sightings are not uncommon in the fall. So if you are looking for a more rugged yet quiet RV experience, Glacier might just be the best destination for you.
Start your RV tour in Harbor Springs, Michigan, in the lower peninsula, then take a drive up Michigan highway 119 along the coast of Lake Michigan before joining Interstate 75 and crossing the Straits of Mackinac into the U.P. to enjoy the full range of wilderness and fall foliage Michigan has to offer. Michigan has over four million acres of state forest populated by a wide range of native tree species that each display their colors differently as winter approaches. There are a plethora of campgrounds and RV parks in and around the Michigan state forests to accommodate you during your travels.
You can also use Michigan’s upper peninsula as a jumping off point to tour the Lake Superior Circle. The circle takes you north into Canada then west into Minnesota and south to Wisconsin before coming back around to Michigan again.
If you’re on the west coast, take a fall RV trip through Northern California. Start your vacation driving along the 16-mile June Lake Look (Highway 158) on the eastern side of Yosemite National Park in the middle of October to see the Aspen trees turn golden yellow.
Then make your way north along the Sierras through Sanislaus, Eldorado, and Plumas National Forests. Go west through the Mendocino and Shasta-Trinity forests before ending up at the coast in Shelter Cove, California, where you can enjoy a quiet, scenic vacation by the beach.
If you’re an experienced RV traveler, you already know how to plan your trip to get the most out of it. But if you’re new to RV vacations, here are a few things to keep in mind to make your first trip successful.
Heading out on a cross-country RV trip without ever having driven an RV before is a bad idea. Although it doesn’t sound as exciting, try taking a few weekend trips in different RVs first. Rent or borrow different sized RVs and try driving and living in them for a weekend at a time so you can get a feel for what a long vacation might be like. Additionally, when you try out different RVs, you get a lot of practice driving them and getting a feel for how each one handles on highways, surface streets, and winding roads, which may affect your decision buying or renting one for a longer trip—depending on your destination.
Although this may go without saying, driving an RV is different than driving a car. Most roads are built for average-sized cars, vans, and trucks. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself in a tight pinch around hairpin curves or stuck under a low-clearance bridge. Sites like RV.net can help you map RV-friendly routes. You may even consider purchasing an RV-specific GPS navigation app, like CoPilot, which will only give you RV-safe routes for anywhere you’d like to go. As well as planning a safe route, it’s also a good idea to plan where you will stay along your way. RV parks near popular destinations fill up quickly during peak vacation times, so reserve your spot early.
Whether you own an RV or you’re renting for the season, plan for some light to moderate repair. Things break or come loose, and you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere unable to use your faucet or unlock your door. If you have a major failure in a rented RV, call the company you rented it from, and they’ll be able to help you fix or replace your RV quickly.
If you’ve purchased an RV, protect your investment with RV insurance. Basic RV insurance will cover you in case of a major accident, but you may also consider a policy that covers the cost of roadside assistance, a tow, or even minor and major body work. If you’re renting, talk to the renting agency about an insurance package for your trip. And if you’re renting from a private party, you may consider adding temporary RV insurance to your regular policy for peace of mind.
If you’re brand new to RV-ing, and you’re looking for a rental to start out, here are some places to start looking and a few things to keep in mind before you sign a rental agreement.
Local RV dealers and rental companies can be found in most major cities and towns. A quick internet search will help you find the closest RV rental company near you. The advantage of going with an established company is that they likely have a number of different models and styles you can choose from, offer insurance, and may even offer roadside assistance packages. Inquire about how they will protect you in the event of a breakdown when you’re comparing rental companies.
Similar to local companies, national RV rental companies like Cruise America have many locations nationwide. Their prices are clear and transparent on their website, and you have the peace of mind knowing that you’re renting from a company with a large support system across the country.
Thanks to the internet, today you can easily find private RV owners willing to rent their RV to you. Just like VRBO or AirBnB, sites like Outdoorsy.com and RVshare.com will connect you with people in your area and across the country from whom you can rent RVs. Although renting RVs from a private party may involve less hassle and be cheaper, keep in mind that you’ll generally have to purchase your own insurance and won’t have the advantage of a large company to help you if something goes wrong.
Whether you decide to rent from a company or a private party, here are few things you want to think about when deciding which RV to rent and from whom.
Although the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it’s not nearly as interesting as taking the scenic route. An RV trip this fall will allow you to turn your travel time into part of the vacation and watch the beauty of America’s fall weather unfold before your eyes.
Copyright © 2019 James C. Gunter