Special Report

Best Weekend Trips on the West Coast This Fall

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Yosemite Valley, California

The crowds thin out as fall comes to Yosemite Valley, but the sights are still spectacular. Enjoy walking, photography, birdwatching, stargazing, camping, fishing and other activities, as well as scenic drives through the glories of nature. Though most of the trees are evergreen, there’s some fall color likely because of maples, oaks and dogwoods. All areas of the park stay open through October or into November, though there may be occasional short closures at high elevations because of snow. Tire chains may be required on some roads in October or November.

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Anza-Borrego State Park, California

Located in eastern San Diego County, Anza-Borrego State Park contains 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and miles of hiking trails. The desert terrain at California’s largest state park is home to wildlife like golden eagles, mule deer, big-horn sheep, iguanas and rattlesnakes. The temperatures drop come fall, making it an ideal time for hiking and exploring. The park should be the perfect spot for celebrating International Observe the Moon Night on October 5 under the clear desert sky, or stargazing at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campfire Center on October 19. Early risers may enjoy the 7:30 a.m. bird walk, offered October 6 and October 20.

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Napa Valley, California

Harvest season lasts through October in California’s Napa Valley, with numerous events scheduled throughout the fall. Even kids and dogs are invited to the Harvest BBQ at Rutherford Ranch Winery in St. Helena on September 28; there’ll be games and live entertainment in addition to the food and wine. On October 3 Fantesca Estate & Winery, also in St. Helena, starts the day with Champagne and breakfast, the ideal meal to get you in the mood to pick grapes, learn about winemaking, enjoy a poolside luncheon and indulge in wines and desserts in the tasting room. Bell Wine Cellar offers adults the chance to try their hand…uh, feet…at winemaking at a Stomp Party, where you can eat, drink and stomp grapes to your heart’s content on October 5.

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Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

There’s never a bad time of year to visit Lake Tahoe, the natural beauty and year-round outdoor activities are strong attractions. Straddling the California-Nevada border at an elevation above 6,000 feet, the lake is surrounded by evergreen forests, which will be punctuated this time of year with the bright hues of changing leaves. Fall brings a number of special events and celebrations to the area, such as Fall Fish Fest, marking the salmon migration at South Lake Tahoe’s Taylor Creek on October 5-6. Expect costumes, family fun and educational presentations. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out Oktoberfest on the same dates at nearby Camp Richardson, where you can linger in the beer garden, chow down on traditional foods, watch — or enter — a “peeps and pups” costume contest, or take a turn on the climbing wall.

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Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California

There’s a lot to like in California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods. Huge, ancient trees, waterfalls, bobcats and birds, and 80 miles of hiking trails nestled in the Santa Cruz that meander through a variety of habitats from dense woods to the beach are among the wonders. Enjoy them at your own pace or check out the fall schedule’s full lineup of activities. Meet for coffee and crafts at a free October 6 event, or take one of the 90-minute redwood grove walks offered on weekends through October 27. Hearty souls can volunteer to work with a trail crew October 12 (BYO work gloves!) or sign up for the 11-mile Berry Creek Falls Hike set for October 13. You’ll have firm footing on two-hour dog-friendly walks along a traffic-free paved road to see the old-growth redwoods along Opal Creek, October 13, 20 and 27.

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