The Fall Road Trip Is the New Summer Road Trip

The great American road trip is back, baby! People are taking to the roads all over the country as isolation and cabin fever mounts in an increasing heap. Even in the teaming metropolises where personal vehicles aren’t that common, people have been buying up cars, trucks, and motorcycles to get out of town and isolate on the move. While Summer is the most popular road trip season, the wisest among us have long been hitting the northeast US every Fall to see the changing of the leaves. If this part of the country is unfamiliar to you, fear not; we have some suggestions. 

Before embarking on any sort of driving adventure, the sat nav needs to be set up with a few important parameters. First and foremost, if time allows, I always set the satnav to avoid highways. This setting will add a lot of time to your trip, but in the northeast, if you want to see the prettiest back roads and really get into the changing leaves, you have to stick to the back roads. Trust me, its worth it.

Secondly, the northeast is rife with toll bridges. Typically if you input “avoid highways,” that should take care of most of the tolls, but if not, make sure to hit “avoid tolls” on your sat nav app. They can get expensive and force a more crowded and ugly route. 

 The Jersey Shore (not THAT one)

After seven years of living in NYC, I have been taught to abhor anything New Jersey. This is an unfair and ridiculous prejudice that plagues New Yorkers, but a drive to the long and perfectly manicured beaches of the Jersey shore will start to melt even the iciest New Yorker heart. The shoreline is long, beautiful, and an absolutely perfect drive. 

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The shore has a long stretch of a lengthy barrier island/peninsula thing that offers an ocean view on one side and bay views on the other. To reach the shore from NYC, it’s only about an hour and a half or so if you take the back roads. The coast is sprinkled with super cute little beach towns that, in the summer, stay packed with vacationers and tourists, but the Fall is a different story. Asbury Park, Point Pleasant, and Mantoloking turn sleepy and calm. Don’t sleep on the Jersey shore. 

Pro Tip: If you decide to park and take a walk on the beach, bring cash. New Jersey beaches are private, and you must pay a small fee to get on them. Paying to access a beach is pretty lame, but these beaches might be worth it.

Hudson Valley

This is hardly a secret at this point but a northeast road trip list would be silly to not include one of the most beautiful places in the country. The Hudson Valley begins as soon as you leave NYC. Follow the Hudson River past the Bronx and Westchester and boom, you find yourself upon the Green, Green Rocky Road, as Dave Van Ronk might call it. 

Perfect northeast road trip scene. Mountain road through Storm King State Park.
Outside of Storm King State Park | John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

The “avoid highway” function is an absolute necessity here. There are many old, one-street towns all along the river. Cold Spring, Beacon, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and many more, offer lovely restaurants, antique malls, hiking trails, art museums, and other such cuteness.

Even if you never stopped at any of the towns, the roads are incredible. The leaves changing in the Fall is a treat not to be missed, and the Twisty roads of Bear Mountain can make any driver feel like a racing driver. 

The Poconos  

This ancient mountain range gives the otherwise flat Pennsylvania a crown of peaks and valleys. The roads out here can undulate between beautiful tarmac and gravel/dirt roads, but that should in no way deter any road trippers. There are endless stretches of postcard farms and tree-covered foothills that shine their brightest in the Fall when their leaves change. Hiking, camping, and long drives are what defines this area. A drive through the Poconos is one of the best ways to spend time in a car, period. 

The Pool Forge Covered Bridge at Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Perfect road trip scenery
Covered Bridge in Pennsylvania. | Getty images

Road trips are one of the most American things I can think of. They can be some of the most fun, exciting, and adventurous ways to keep sane in these times, but they require planning and attention to detail to stay safe. Make sure always to pack the necessary equipment and have your vehicle checked out before you leave. Explore, take risks, but stay safe out there.