Best Road Tips to close out Summer

Road trip-worthy travel ideas for summer’s golden hour

The weirdest summer in generations is coming to a close and while the Summer of the Road Trip will no doubt transition into the Autumn of the Road Trip, there’s still time to squeeze out a few drops of summer fun before fall shows up. So by all means, hit the beach, visit a lake town, taste the latest vintage. Head out to some of America’s most treasured outdoor spaces for warm nights and brilliant stars. Pick some apples and watch the fall colors emerge. Yeah, this summer’s weird, but it’s still out there.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you need inspiration for things to do this month, we’ve got a few ideas so you can safely sate your travel bug. Here are some of our favorite places to go this September—all are road trip-worthy. 

Take one final beach getaway

September is a severely underestimated month to hit the beach. In the before times, that was largely because of school being back in session (less crowds!) and post-Labor Day price drops (less money!). And despite jumping the gun on all this pumpkin spice “fall” nonsense, the weather out there is still great. 

Edisto Island, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s worth visiting Edisto Island just for the drive down Highway 174, a National Scenic Byway featuring live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Once on the beach, the geographical isolation maintains a lost-in-time feel. There’s an intriguing mix of family vacationers and locals here.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hurricanes have taken their toll on Edisto Beach with erosion leaving a mere strip of beachfront at high tide—the positive side of which is the boneyard beach left behind at Botany Bay Plantation where trees emerge from the surf as the ocean overtakes the maritime forest. 

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto is quiet and the rules reflect that. Parking is easy at any of the 37 public beach access points. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed from May 1 to Oct. 31. Edisto’s dining scene is mostly fried-seafood-and-beer joints like the timeless Whaley’s.

…Or visit a lake town

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best beaches aren’t always on the ocean: Michigan, for instance, offers 3,000 miles of pure coastal bliss on four Great Lakes. The case of the best Michigan beach town remains unsolved but in Wisconsin, the obvious answer is Door County. 

Patagonia Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And in Arizona, camp and swim at Patagonia Lake State Park. Nearly 80 miles south of Tucson, Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular destination where you can hike, camp, fish, boat, and bird watch. The lake has separate areas for swimming and boating. The park is limiting admission to help promote social distancing and has reached capacity as early as 9 a.m. on some busy weekend days. Mask use is required in ranger stations, restrooms, and other buildings as well as whenever you cannot maintain social distance.

Explore Central California, in and beyond Yosemite

Amador City in Gold Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that school’s back in session—whatever that means—the crowds in national parks should be dwindling. That should mean it’s easier to nab a pass into Yosemite which has been operating on a reservations-only basis to keep the usual crowds (4 million a year) at bay. But if you find yourself denied access to Half Dome, don’t fret. Just outside of the park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a historic part of California most tourists don’t even realize exists. In Gold Country, nature’s just as stunning, the Old West charm is abundant, and the options for adventure are endless.

Murphys, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome to the California wine region you didn’t even realize existed, the antithesis of Napa. The town of Murphys is overflowing with the stuff, courtesy of 25+ tasting rooms dotting Main Street—and thanks to their abundance of patios and converted parking lots, most are open..

Go apple picking

Apples along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get those picnic baskets ready: its apple picking season! Whether your favorite, Honeycrisp or Red Delicious, a day trip to an apple orchard (many of which are family-run) can be a pleasant escape from the hectic pace of the modern world. Still, most farms are operating differently this year, so expect timed entries and socially-distanced festivities. Drink some cider. Savor a fresh-baked apple pie.

Hit New England for that summer-to-fall sweet spot

Von Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apple picking is cool and all, but OMG, who’s excited to peep some leaves? While there are many places to catch fall colors, there’s nothing quite like New England, a region that’s cornered the market on that crisp, golden, late-summer, early-fall feeling. 

Fall splendor in the parks

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re thinking about visiting a national park this fall, you’re in luck. There’s a secret many travelers with flexible schedules have long known: national parks are best in autumn. Of course, that’s not true of every national park—there are more than a few that are best visited at other times of the year. But, generally speaking, fall can be a spectacular time to visit the nation’s parklands. The temperatures have dropped and the crowds have thinned, meaning you can enjoy the scenery while social distancing. Just remember, as winter draws nearer, snow can cause road closures at Glacier, Yellowstone, Lassen Volcanic, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Worth Pondering…

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.

—Henry Rollins