11 Scenic West Coast Destinations For Fall Getaways

The West Coast is a unique destination that offers visitors an exquisite blend of beauty and entertainment. From the painted mountains and valleys to the small towns brimming with fun fall activities, there is something for everyone here. Much of the West Coast experiences mild, crisp temperatures during the fall, with the autumn foliage at its peak throughout October in most regions, making it an ideal time to visit. 

Popular fall destinations to explore on the West Coast include the Bavarian-styled city of Leavenworth, where you can experience authentic German cuisine and culture, and the various trails around Mount Hood that offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Alternatively, you can visit the haunted locations in Salem (Oregon) or rediscover cultural gems like the Japanese Tea Garden and San Francisco Botanical Garden as the leaves change. 

Our list of destinations includes both popular and lesser-known locations that provide a perfect balance of natural beauty and engaging activities. To curate this list, we conducted extensive research on travel forums such as Reddit and Quora, gaining insights from frequent visitors. From peaceful walks along tranquil rivers and crisp coastal beaches to autumn hikes that offer breathtaking mountain views, consider these destinations for your next West Coast fall getaway. 

Ashland, Oregon

Ashland, Oregon treats visitors to a visual feast from the end of September to the end of October. Tree-lined pathways on the Southern Oregon University Campus transform this college town into a canvas of vibrant colors, offering a picturesque experience as you walk through downtown Ashland. The crowning jewel of Ashland, Lithia Park, displays incredible pops of colors with different hues of yellow, orange, red, and purple. This 93-acre sanctuary offers miles of hiking trails and gardens, including the breathtaking Japanese Garden and Rose Garden, duck ponds, and fountains. However, visitors should be prepared for potentially damp and rainy days while exploring the town's exquisite outdoor landscapes.

If you enjoy fine arts, immerse yourself in world-class theatrical performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Theatre or stop by the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. With a diverse repertoire of plays and performances, these cultural gems add a special touch to the fall experience in Ashland. Nature lovers can explore the surrounding hills and hiking trails, such as Oredson-Todd Woods, or enjoy the incredible views from Mount Ashland. Ashland's downtown scene offers a delightful blend of activities for the whole family, including the ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum and Ashland Library. Explore the streets lined with unique shops, savor culinary delights and local wine, and immerse yourself in the town's rich artistic scene.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco unveils its most colorful and enchanting side during October and the beginning of November. Venture to the top of Twin Peaks for a mesmerizing panorama that stretches across the entire city, or visit the Marin Headlands for postcard-worthy scenes of the Golden Gate Bridge against the Pacific Ocean backdrop. As the temperatures mellow and the crowds subside, fall becomes the perfect season to immerse yourself in iconic San Francisco activities. Catch the vibrant yellow, orange, and red colors as you explore the Golden Gate Park, where you will find gardens, lakes, and cultural highlights like the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Embark on a ferry journey to Alcatraz Island, where the historic prison provides a fascinating glimpse into the past with captivating views of the city skyline and the bay. Take a trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley for incredible views of fall foliage against the rolling hills and vineyards of wine country, or venture out to Yosemite National Park, a top-ranked West Coast destination for incredible views of vibrant golden fall foliage. Though the weather is more mellow, you can typically expect sunny days with an enjoyable breeze. Enjoy fall activities such as picking out pumpkins and finding your way through an intricate maze at Arata's Pumpkin Patch or enjoying fall treats from a variety of shops in the shopping center downtown.

Big Sur, California

The stunning coastal beauty of Big Sur truly comes to life during October and November, when the area is awash with breathtaking golden hues and scenic vistas. This iconic drive along Highway 1 offers incredible coastal views, with plenty of pull-over spots where you can get out and explore. Notable destinations that you won't want to miss include Nepenthe, a cliffside restaurant that boasts panoramic views, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve with its diverse ecosystems and scenic hiking trails, and McWay Falls, where a stunning waterfall cascades onto a pristine beach. You can also immerse yourself in the vibrant autumn colors by hiking through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Another must-see attraction is the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, which provides a perfect vantage point to capture the coastal scenery and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. With fewer crowds to contend with during this time of year, you can enjoy a relaxing day at Pfeiffer Beach, known for its purple sand and stunning rock formations, or hike down some trails to Partington Cove. To complement the incredible views from Highway 1, you'll find plenty of restaurants, bakeries, shops, and art galleries along the way. When it comes to accommodations, Big Sur offers a wide range of options, from luxury hotels to more unique experiences like a cozy room at Post Ranch Inn or a comfy yurt at Treebones Resort.

Bainbridge Island, Washington

Nestled in the heart of Washington, Bainbridge Island is a stunning location that boasts a tapestry of vibrant foliage and serene landscapes from October to November. Take a moment to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Bloedel Reserve, a public garden that unfolds diverse landscapes, including Japanese gardens, woodlands, and meadows. The peaceful Fay Bainbridge Park is another must-visit location that offers breathtaking waterfront views, picturesque beachcombing opportunities, and scenic picnic spots. If you want to explore the island's charm, there are plenty of activities to engage in. You can hop on a bike and take a leisurely ride through picturesque neighborhoods, farmlands, and the scenic coastline of Bainbridge Island. 

The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art offers contemporary art exhibits and cultural installations that showcase the island's rich history and cultural heritage and are free to the public. You can also explore Fort Ward State Park, the Suquamish Museum, and the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial to experience the island's diverse history, innovation, and military structures. You may also consider visiting the downtown area of Winslow, known for its charming shops, galleries, and cafes that create an artsy atmosphere. During the fall season, expect mildly chilly weather and the island adorned in a palette of autumn colors that enhance its already scenic landscapes.

Anchorage, Alaska

As autumn sets in September and October, the Alaskan wilderness surrounding Anchorage undergoes a breathtaking transformation of vibrant golden hues dotting its rich green landscapes. If you do not only want to visit Anchorage for its stunning fall foliage, then visit it for the incredible wildlife experiences that happen during this time of year. In preparation for winter, wildlife starts moving closer to the city. This makes fall an ideal time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit. Explore the breathtaking Chugach State Park, offering mountain views and opportunities to spot Alaska's native species, or hike Flattop Mountain for a panoramic perspective of the city and the picturesque Cook Inlet.

Popular activities in autumnal Anchorage include Oktoberfest, biking and hiking, and enjoying the scenic coastal, mountain, and wildlife views along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Immerse yourself in Alaska's indigenous cultures at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, featuring informative exhibits, captivating performances, and traditional crafts. Ride the Alaskan rail or embark on a day cruise to see glaciers and wildlife, adding a touch of adventure to your Anchorage experience. 

Additional popular destinations include the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and the Anchorage Museum, offering exhibits on Alaskan history, art, and science for a comprehensive cultural exploration. Longer days and clearer nights during this time of year typically mean more breathtaking views of the aurora borealis, adding a unique and unforgettable touch to the fall experience in Anchorage.  

Salem, Oregon

Enjoy Salem's fall foliage from September to October, with moderately chilly temperatures and fall-inspired activities. What makes Salem unique is its variety of parks nearby bursting with fall colors. Some popular parks include Bush's Pasture Park, Orchard Heights Park, Brush College Park, and Riverfront Park. Head to Silver Falls State Park to experience the Trail of Ten Falls, offering lush foliage and cascading waterfalls, or stop by the Deepwood Museum and Gardens for picture-perfect fall backdrops. Enjoy popular activities like exploring the vineyards and wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, or visit local pumpkin patches for a family-friendly experience.

Discover the museums, shops, and cultural sites in Salem's historic district, and explore the state capitol building and its scenic grounds. Seasonal activities include apple picking, corn mazes, and harvest festivals, and local farms and orchards typically serve fall treats like donuts and apple cider. When the fall harvest season is in full swing in the Willamette Valley, don't miss visiting Salem's nearby vineyards and wineries. Or, if you're looking for a more spooky Halloween experience, visit some of Salem's haunted landmarks and buildings.

Mount Hood, Oregon

Mount Hood is an inactive volcano that transforms into a breathtaking display of orange, yellow, and red colors from late September until the end of October. For those who love winter sports, Mount Hood offers exceptional skiing and snowboarding experiences, though the season typically starts in early November. For a more leisurely experience, take the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway, a picturesque drive that offers stunning views of the mountain foliage and its surroundings. The Hood River Valley is also a must-visit destination, with its local farmers' markets, orchards, and renowned wineries that offer freshly harvested apples and pears, pumpkin picking, and wine tastings.

If you're looking for other ways to experience the fall beauty of Mount Hood, there are plenty of options. Trillium Lake offers a stunning reflection of the mountain and its colorful foliage, while the Gallery Without Walls art walk is a unique outdoor experience that combines nature and art. For those who enjoy hiking, the Mt. Hood National Forest, Hunchback Mountain, Hidden Falls Nature Park, and Old Salmon River Trail offer some of the best trails and locations to experience the fall foliage up close. You can stay in unique cabin rentals or find accommodations in nearby towns to make the most of your Mount Hood experience.

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington, lets you experience a taste of Bavaria amid Washington's breathtaking Cascade Mountains. It offers visitors incredible landscapes and diverse cultural activities, and the opportunity to experience impressive landscapes and vibrant fall foliage in popular spots like Tumwater Canyon and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness or Lake Wenatchee. Known for its lively Oktoberfest celebration, festive atmosphere, unique architecture, quaint shops, and delectable food, this charming town offers something for everyone. While downtown, enjoy the green spaces and community events at Front Street Park, a central gathering place in the heart of the village. 

If you're looking for an intriguing cultural experience, explore the fascinating world of nutcrackers and their history at the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. Relax by the water at Waterfront Park, or embark on a scenic hike along the Enchantments Trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Stop at the Leavenworth Farmer's Market for beautiful artisan goods and local produce. Plan to visit Leavenworth from the end of September to mid-October for typical peak foliage. The weather is typically crisp during the fall, but depending on the year, you might find snow hitting Leavenworth towards the end of October. 

Bend, Oregon

Fall is a great time to visit Bend, Oregon for beautiful golden and orange foliage and mild chill weather, perfect for outdoor activities and photography. While planning a trip to this stunning West Coast destination during the fall, check the weather often, as September and October tend to bring unpredictable weather. For breathtaking panoramic views, you should head to Pilot Butte. This elevated vantage point allows you to take in the beautiful city and surrounding landscapes. The Deschutes River Trail and Mirror Lake are also popular attractions with incredible landscape views. If you love outdoor activities, try hiking and biking along the Deschutes River Trail or fishing on East Lake.

You can also immerse yourself in Bend's natural and cultural history at the High Desert Museum, or plan to visit during the Bend Film Festival, Fall Festival, and Oktoberfest. Follow the Bend Ale Trail to explore the diverse breweries that contribute to Bend's renowned craft beer scene, or stop by Drake Park, found along the Deschutes River, with riverfront views that are perfect for relaxing. 

The Old Mill District is another popular spot known for its unique boutiques and restaurants that pride themselves in using seasonal and locally grown produce. You can also attend concerts and performances at the historic Tower Theatre and Hayden Homes Amphitheater, but if you want to catch more of the exciting fall festivals and concerts, like the Sisters Folk Festival, plan to visit Bend during September.

Bellingham, Washington

Fall is the perfect time to plan a getaway to Bellingham, Washington, a charming coastal town with a little bit of everything to offer. For stunning panoramic views of the city and fall foliage, take a hike through Sehome Hill Arboretum at Western Washington University. Don't forget to climb up the observation tower for breathtaking views of Bellingham Bay. Another must-do activity is to take a scenic drive along Chuckanut Drive, offering picturesque backdrops of farmland, water, and the Chuckanut Mountains.

Bellingham is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with a variety of hiking trails available, such as Lake Whatcom Hertz Trail, Bagley Lakes trailhead, and Interurban trail, and though the weather can be unpredictable at times, it's typically nice and crisp. Or, if you're in the mood to relax, head to Boulevard Park, where you can take a leisurely stroll by the bay. 

The Fairhaven Historic District is a must-visit for those interested in history and shopping. The area is known for its charming shops and galleries. You can also shop for local goods made by a variety of artists and craftsmen at Bellingham's farmers market. For family-friendly activities, consider visiting Zuanich Park or exploring the interactive science exhibits at Mindport.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park in Washington is a fantastic fall destination to add to your West Coast bucket list, offering iconic views, outdoor activities, and a rich history. The Paradise area is the perfect spot for scenic views of Mount Rainier surrounded by vibrant meadows and drastic landscapes, while Reflection Lake is a serene location that offers a stunning reflection of Mount Rainier in its calm waters, which is enhanced by the fall colors. The Skyline Trail near Paradise is an excellent option for hiking, providing panoramic views of Mount Rainier, wildflower meadows, and wildlife. The Grove of the Patriarchs trail is also popular due to its old-growth trees and suspension bridge. 

Stop by the Longmire Historic District, Longmire Museum, and the National Park Inn for a glimpse into the park's rich history. The Sunrise Visitor Center is another great spot to explore, offering information, exhibits, and stunning sunrise views of Mount Rainier. The best time to witness Mount Rainier's spectacular fall foliage is from October to the beginning of November, though plan on potential trail closures towards the end of October, depending on early snowfall. 


While exploring different West Coast fall destinations, we referred to Reddit, Quora, and Tripadvisor forums to gain insight into some of the most popular West Coast towns and parks to visit, when to go during the fall for peak foliage, and what activities you can plan to do around the area. We then dug deeper into each location, choosing area highlights to help visitors plan diverse itineraries to accommodate a range of preferences.