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September Drives: 3 Late Summer Road Trips

Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

The end of summer is perhaps the best time to take a tour of the amazing region around Seattle. Not only are rains less likely to dampen your day, September in Seattle means it’s time for Bumbershoot, which is the unlikely name for what may be the country’s coolest Labor Day Weekend festival of live music, art, and poetry.

A blast for more than 35 years, Bumbershoot is held at the Seattle Center, where the landmark Space Needle stands near the voluptuous curves of the Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture, which has galleries dedicated to everything from comic books to local guitar god Jimi Hendrix.

Seattle itself is a fantastically fun place to visit, and makes a great base for exploring the mountains, islands, and volcanoes that surround the Puget Sound. Heading east, take our US-2 “Great Northern” road trip route over the Cascade Mountains to Lake Chelan, the Ohme Gardens, or Grand Coulee Dam.

Heading west, hop a ferry past the magical San Juan Islands to the historic towns of Port Gamble and Port Townsend, then loop around the rugged peaks of Olympic National Park, where glaciers and mountain lakes rise high above the mossy green foothill jungles of the Hoh River Rainforest.

Road Trip Travel Map of Highway 101 on Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Hikers will have a field day–or longer–here, but you can also relax along the shores of fjord-like Lake Crescent or wander along the driftwood-strewn sands of Kalaloch Beach.

For more on following the Washington coast, check out The Pacific Coast Road Trip.

Other Late Summer Road Trips

Fall color comes first to the North, and by the middle of the month, leaves in northern Maine have usually started to turn. Though there are many great local roads, it’s hard to beat a tour along the Appalachian Trail, which starts atop Mount Katahdin and makes its way across the rugged North Woods. Some of the best spots are found north of US-2, between the prep school town of Bethel and the mill town of Rumford: Try Hwy-26 through Grafton Notch, Hwy-17 along the Swift River toward Rangeley Lakes, or Hwy-113 up to Evans Notch.

Before the snows start to fall, enjoy a last taste of a Wild West summer by driving the section of our Border to Border route which follows scenic US-93 in the footsteps of Native American Nez Perce Chief Joseph and explorers Lewis and Clark. Crossing the rugged Rocky Mountains between Montana and Idaho, this astounding road trip runs south from the college town of Missoula into the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, climbing over the forested crest then dropping down into the Salmon River Gorge on the way to the legendary ski and fishing resort of Sun Valley.

While you’re here, carnivores might like to time the trip so you can enjoy a unique taste of western hospitality: every year for more 70 years, on the third Saturday in September (September 18th in 2018), the town of Mackay has a massive “Free BBQ,” with all the beef you can eat. “Tons of Meat — Mackay’s Treat”, say the signs.

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