Explore beyond the coast in California this autumn

STORY BY Debbie 14th September 2019

With it’s dazzling display of autumn foliage, bountiful harvests and seasonal festivals, California comes to life in a unique way in autumn. The season offers the perfect opportunity to venture away from the coast and explore lesser-known destinations in the heart of the Golden State. From award-winning vineyards to scorching deserts, discover the ultimate California road trip itinerary.

Days 1-2: Tri-Valley
Start your road trip just outside of San Francisco in the Tri-Valley, is one of California’s viticultural, culinary and outdoorsy gems. Home to award-winning wineries, delightfully-diverse restaurants, charming downtowns and unspoiled hiking trails, the Tri-Valley offers sunshine, idyllic countryside and year-round California charm. Harvest time is popular in Tri-Valley’s Livermore, one of California’s best kept secrets, as one of the oldest wine regions in the US has 55 wineries to choose from. Sample some of the best vintages at the Harvest Festival(25-27 October) or follow the Tri-Valley wine trail to see the best of what the region has to offer. visittrivalley.com

Days 3-4: Sacramento
From there, head north to Sacramento, California’s bustling capital. With warm but refreshing temperatures, Sacramento welcomes outdoor adventure, from cycling to Folsom Lake to water sports on the American River. October is the time for wine harvest in the region, and with the Sacramento Valley home to 13 AVA’s, there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the event. Taking place at the scenic foothills of Amador Wine County, Big Crush Harvest Festival is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, with creative food and wine pairings, live music and harvest activities. visitsacramento.com

Days 5: Yosemite’s Tuolumne County
Journey south to see the Old West of legend at Yosemite’s Tuolumne County. The region’s Gold Country is rich and alive with thriving historic towns like Jamestown, Sonora and Columbia that bring the gold rush to life. Take a Halloween-themed ride on the ‘Movie Star locomotive’, which has appeared in more motion pictures, documentaries and television productions than any other locomotive. Train ride guests are encouraged to get in the spirit and dress up according to these weekly rides. visittuolumne.com

Day 6: Yosemite Mariposa County
Swing east to head toward America’s favourite park. Minimal traffic, milder temperatures, and gorgeous golden hues make autumn one of the best times to visit Yosemite Mariposa County. From swaying aspen trees to dogwood and black cottonwoods, Yosemite’s trees and shrubs offer an explosion of colour all over the park and surrounding forests. Cooler temperatures make hiking and rock-climbing more comfortable than in mid-summer and hotel rates plummet following peak season. Snuggle up by the fire pit for Fireside Storytelling and listen to local folklore or tuck into a Thanksgiving meal and indulge in the most delicious American tradition. yosemite.com

Hiker at Little Lakes Vallsy, Rock Creek

Days 7-8: Mammoth Lakes
Follow the Tioga Pass to Mammoth Lakes, a majestic year-round adventureland. Autumn in Mammoth Lakes is a glorious time of year when the mountains and forests are painted gold, crimson and orange. Laced with rugged canyons carved by rushing streams, Mammoth Lakes is home to some of the finest leaf-peeping in the world. Its elevation range means that leaves start to turn in September and, depending on elevation, autumn foliage can be seen as late as November. Many of the region’s most popular activities, including hiking, fishing, cycling, boating and climbing all continue well into autumn. Witness incredible feats of mountain biking at Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games or crack open a locally brewed beer and listen to emerging artists at June Lake Jam Fest.  visitmammoth.com

Days 9-10: Greater Palm Springs
Journey south and end your epic road trip in Greater Palm Springs, California’s coolest desert region. Nine different ‘cities’ make up Greater Palm Springs, including Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella, each offering an individual experience. Autumn is one of the best times to visit Great Palm Springs as the desert region offers blue skies and temperatures of up to 32 °C. There’s also plenty to see and do, from Joshua Tree Music Festival, 10-14 October, to Greater Palm Springs Pride in downtown Palm Springs from 1-3 November. Conveniently located two hours east of LAX, Greater Palm Springs is the best place to wrap up your California road trip.  visitgreaterpalmsprings.com

America As You Like It (www.americaasyoulikeit.com / 020 8742 8299) has a 10 night fly-drive to California from £1360 per person (based on two sharing), including flights from Heathrow to San Francisco, returning from Los Angeles with United, 10 days fully inclusive car hire, two nights at the Holiday Inn Dublin-Pleasanton, two nights at the Super 8 in Sacramento, one night at the Sonora Inn, one night at the Best Western Yosemite Way Station in Mariposa, two nights at the Mammoth Mountain Inn and two nights at the Palm Canyon Resort in Palm Springs.

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