BOISE – As Idahoans look for weekend activities to kick off the fall, AAA Idaho has prepared a list of some of the best places to view fall colors.

“Year-round, Idaho is an outdoor wonderland, but autumn is a really special time,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.  “The pandemic’s been really hard on everyone, and we’re all looking for a little adventure and a chance to feed the soul.  Viewing fall foliage checks the boxes.”

Here are some of the best places for a weekend trip to see autumn’s color palette on full display:

  • Payette River Scenic Byway – Traveling north from Boise on Highway 55, enjoy bursts of color along the roadside and rivers.  Head to the Rainbow Bridge overlook for the perfect photo opp.
  • Selkirk Loop (North Idaho) – Running through Priest River, Sandpoint, and Bonners Ferry, the loop leads to spectacular views of the Selkirk, Cabinet, and Purcell Mountain Ranges.  While in the area, you can also spend some time exploring the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Grand Teton National Park – Yellowstone’s less-crowded neighbor is worth a closer look.  The park offers aspen, willow and cottonwood trees in abundance.
  • Highway 89 between Bear Lake and Brigham City, UT – One of the most popular places in Utah to view fall colors, the area features dozens of hiking trails for all ages and skill levels.
  • Sun Valley – If you take part in the annual Trailing of the Sheep, you’ll quickly discover the valley’s beautiful vistas of orange, red, and gold.
  • Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT – This time of year, the canyon country of Utah is alive with color.
  • Columbia River Gorge, OR – One of the best places in the West to view the changing seasons, the gorge features cottonwood, Oregon ash, and twisted pine in all their fall glory.
  • Sunriver/Bend, OR – Miles of paved paths are perfect for hiking or biking, and visitors can also bask in the beauty of aspens along the Deschutes River.  Early October is a great time to go.
  • Mt. Rainier National Park – If you have a little more time for the trip, Mt. Rainier could quickly become a favorite fall destination.  Hiking trails offer plenty of opportunities to spot vine maple, larch, and huckleberry bushes.

“If you prefer to stay closer to home, chances are good that there are plenty of places to enjoy fall colors in your own community,” Conde said.  “Check out local college campuses, historic districts and older residential neighborhoods.  A short walk through the mature trees and beautiful landscaping will be a welcome break from the challenges of everyday life.”

AAA recommends extra precautions while enjoying nature.  If you find yourself near other groups at trailheads, rest stops and popular viewpoints, please wear a face covering and keep your distance.

As always, travelers should research their destinations online to check the availability of services before they go, including hotels, campsites, restaurants, and possible road closures due to weather.  AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map is another resource for the latest health and safety guidance.

“If you’re heading into a remote area, make sure you throw some snacks, water, an emergency kit, and some warm clothes or blankets in the car, just in case,” Conde said.  “This is also the time of year to start letting friends and family members know where you’re going so that they can act on your behalf if you need help.”