Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
Come fall, summer crowds and peak-season prices become a thing of the past. Take a weekend getaway now and you’ll be treated to lower, off-season rates on lodging, plus empty trails, uncrowded sights, and seasonal perks like clam fishing, fall foliage, and roadside apple-cider doughnuts. You don’t have to go far, either. We found seven worthy weekend outings on a budget within a few hours of major metropolitan areas.
4 Hours from Salt Lake City
Moab can be hot and crowded in summer. But in the fall? It’s a tranquil desert oasis. Mountain bikers flock to trails like Captain Ahab and the 34-mile Whole Enchilada. Moab Cyclery leads half-day guided tours of the area’s best singletrack, starting at $105 per person, mountain bike rental included. Camp along the Colorado River and beneath red-rock slabs for $10 a night at Moonflower Canyon Recreation Area. Don’t want to sleep in a tent? Tow in a fully outfitted Escapod teardrop trailer (from $125) from outside Park City, or book this one-bedroom Airbnb (from $125) in town.
Mount Shasta, California
4.5 Hours from San Francisco
Loge Mt. Shasta opened last spring in the hippie alpine enclave beneath the 14,179-foot volcano. From the hotel, you can climb the mountain’s most popular route, Avalanche Gulch, fish for trout on the McCloud River, or hike to a waterfall in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Load up on picnic supplies at Berryvale Grocery and Café, a two-minute drive north from the hotel. Loge has campsites, hostel-style bunk rooms, and standard hotel rooms (camping from $40; bunks from $50; rooms from $110). The on-site Finlandia Café serves coffee in the morning and beer in the afternoon. Free cruiser bikes and outdoor fire pits are included, or you can rent full-suspension mountain bikes on-site for an additional fee.
Friday Harbor, Washington
3 Hours from Seattle
Visit the San Juan Islands in the fall and you’ll get shorter ferry lines and fewer crowds than in midsummer. Arrive at Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes, outside the quaint island town of Friday Harbor, via a scenic ferry ride from Anacortes ($13 for walk-on passengers; $53 to bring your car). The resort added seven high-end yurts (from $369 per night for four people) last summer to its 82-acre forested property and recently made them available for booking year-round. For a more affordable alternative, lodge rooms start at $180; camping on the property starts at $40 a night. By day, head to San Juan Island’s newly formed Mount Grant Preserve for views of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier from the park’s highest point, or pay $10 for a visit to see the lighthouse and sea lions at Lime Kiln Point State Park.
Naples, New York
5 Hours from New York City
The Finger Lakes region of New York boasts wine tasting, waterfalls, and serious leaf peeping at this time of year. Stay in a carriage house with your own outdoor hot tub or in a tepee (from $160) at Mountain Horse Farm in the town of Naples. Grimes Glen Park is known for its waterfalls—get your feet wet as you hike through the creek along the Glen floor. Or ride a chairlift with views of tinted fall foliage to the top of Bristol Mountain for $12 per person, then hike back down. Afterward, stop for a burger on the patio at Roots Café and one of Monica’s famous grape pies.
Coos Bay, Oregon
4 Hours from Portland
Stay in one of 22 sleek Scandinavian-style cabins or four modern Airstream trailers, or park your van or RV at Bay Point Landing (cabins from $149; Airstreams from $129; camping from $44), which opened in 2018 on a mile of private beachfront on Oregon’s ruggedly beautiful southern coast. The resort comes with outdoor fire pits and an indoor heated saltwater pool. Why visit in the fall? It’s crabbing and clamming season, and you can collect clams on the beach steps from your deck. Hike nine miles along the bluffs of the Oregon Coast Trail from Sunset Bay to the sea lions at Cape Arago, followed by deep-fried oysters and hoppy IPA at 7 Devils Brewing.
Under 4 Hours from Atlanta
In the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the newly revamped Little Arrow Outdoor Resort has tiny homes, Airstreams, and cabins to rent, or you can pitch a tent on the expansive forested property that borders the Little River (camping from $71; Airstreams from $135). This fall, the resort is hosting photography workshops, women’s fly-fishing clinics, and local food trucks every weekend. Head into Great Smoky Mountains National Park by day, or hike along the meandering river on the 4.5-mile out-and-back West Prong Trail, located just beside the Great Smoky Mountains Institute in Tremont.
4 Hours from Detroit; 6 Hours from Chicago
Along the shores of Lake Huron and part of Michigan’s so-called Sunrise Coast, the northern town of Alpena comes alive with fall colors at this time of year and offers access to 100 miles of trails, seven lighthouses, and excellent dark-sky stargazing. Pick up a pumpkin or a bag of apples at the Alpena Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings on Mich-e-ke-wis Park, then paddle the Thunder Bay River for views of changing maples, oaks, and birch along the shore. Alpena Adventures rents kayaks and runs your shuttle starting from $40. Don’t miss Knaebe’s Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm for homemade apple-cider doughnuts, hard cider at the bar, and wood-fired pizzas on weekends. Big Bear Lodge has rooms with views of Thunder Bay (from $70, including breakfast).