5 Cozy Fall Destinations in the West

Changing leaves, warm drinks, and scenic walks await.

Jordan Winery brick building against lush green grounds.
Jordan Winery's chateau.
Courtesy Jordan Vineyard & Winery

September/October 2021 Issue

Hard as it may be to believe, #SweaterWeather is nearly upon us. That means it’s time to get cozy. Here are our favorite spots around the West to embrace autumn pleasures, from apple picking and leaf peeping to sipping pumpkin spice lattes and curling up with a good book.

Sonoma County, California

Always a paradise for foodies, oenophiles, and adventurers, the laidback North Bay wine region becomes even more enticing come fall, as Sonoma County’s 62,000 acres of grapevines change color, from green to gold to brightest crimson. Take in the views on Highway 12, a two-lane road from Sonoma to Santa Rosa that’s flanked by a host of wineries—and acres and acres of colorful, geometric vines. The seasonal show is particularly dramatic at Jordan Winery, where the ivy clinging to the château-inspired buildings turns blush-pink and scarlet-red, and in Trione-Annadel State Park, where oaks glow gold against the russet hills. While you’re here, be sure to stop into Blue Beagle for a pumpkin spice latte. In true Sonoma County fashion, every ingredient is fresh: The Papua New Guinea peaberry coffee beans are roasted on-site, the whipped cream is house-made, and the PSL is made with real pumpkin puree. Perfection.

Mt. Hood peaks out over the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Take in the rolling hills and mountain views in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

Thye-Wee Gn / Shutterstock

Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

When the Columbia River Highway was built a century ago, its stunning design earned it the nickname “A Poem in Stone.” You might say the byway becomes a poem in foliage this time of year, as the cottonwood, maple, and ash trees glow gold against the surrounding evergreens. Gape at these trees towering over the road before continuing onto the Mount Hood Scenic Byway at the town of Hood River. There’s an incredible hike at almost every turn, but one merits particular attention. This summer, eight miles of new trail opened at Mount Hood Meadows. These paths lead to magnificent overlooks, and—until the snow flies and the ski resort opens—there’s ample parking at the trailhead. Mount Hood is also prime apple-picking territory, with more than two dozen fruit stands and wineries slung along the Hood River Fruit Loop. Kiyokawa Family Orchards, a Parkdale farm that offers u-pick apples and Asian pears, stuns with jaw-dropping views of the mountain. Founded in 1951 by Mamoru and Michiko Kiyokawa, a couple who met while in an internment camp during World War II, the orchard is now run by their son Randy. Here, he grows familiar favorites—Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith—alongside rare, poetically named heirloom varieties, such as Belle de Boskoop and Pink Pearl.

Tucson, Arizona

Their very name sounds ethereal: the Sky Islands. These isolated mountain ranges, which dot southeastern Arizona and northern Mexico, nurture a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna—including half of North America’s bird species. And it happens that one such “island” sits just 40 miles from Tucson. Road-trip down to the region’s showpiece, Madera Canyon, home to 250 species of birds including 15 hummingbird species. Keep your eye out for a rare sighting of migratory visitors such as the ruby-throated hummingbird and great blue heron. Then reward your efforts with a treat from Tucson chocolatier Monsoon Chocolate, which turns out bon bons that’ll warm you from inside out—from the Whiskey Del Bac Dorado (featuring caramel and dark chocolate ganache infused with mesquite-smoked whiskey) to the masala chai (built around vegan dark chocolate ganache infused with the warming beverage).

Aspens turn yellow along the Pend Oreille Bay trail that wraps around Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Evening light over the Pend Oreille Bay trail and Lake Pend Oreille in autumn.

Linda Lantzy / Idaho Stock Images

Sandpoint, Idaho

There’s something undeniably cozy about waking up on a chilly morning, your breath fogging in the air, your hands and cheeks flushing the moment you step outside. Come October and November, northern Idaho reliably delivers this weather: Daytime temps hover in the 40s and 50s, nighttime lows in the 30s and even 20s. Pack your favorite sweater (and puffer!), and make for Sandpoint, a charming town nestled amidst some of the state’s best fall foliage. Marvel at the yellows and oranges of the birches, maples, and tamaracks on the Idaho portion of the International Selkirk Loop, which runs from Priest River to Sandpoint and all the way up to the Canadian border. Want to take in the scenery at a slower pace? Stroll the 1.5-mile Pend Oreille Bay Trail, a newly opened path tracing the lake’s northwest shore, offering beautiful views of the mountain-fringed lake. End the day on a sweet note at the Pie Hut. Inside, the shop’s handwritten menu and kitschy décor belie the serious pie-craft at work. Tasting Table named the Pie Hut the top pie shop in Idaho. But don’t take our word for it: Order a slice of their famed huckleberry pie, and taste for yourself.

Washoe County, Nevada

Want to savor autumnal pleasures sans crowds? Look to northern Nevada’s Washoe County. Here, in the town of Sparks, Andelin Family Farm hosts an epic Harvest Festival (September 29–October 30 this year), complete with hay rides, a u-pick pumpkin patch, and—no joke—a corn cannon! Visitors can wander the corn maze, then pet mini Nubian goats and KuneKune pigs. After all the farm fun, refuel with a snack at Reno’s Höma’ge, where toothsome pies—classic pumpkin, walnut turtle fudge, raspberry rhubarb, and much more—sit serenely in a glass case. Treats of another sort await inside the striking, porticoed Levy Mansion. The 1906 property now houses Sundance Books and Music, which entices with a rare books room and well-placed reading chairs. Complete your getaway with a jaunt to Washoe Lake State Park, where—in October and November—the willows and cottonwoods glow gold against the deep-blue Sierra peaks behind them.