BY Andrew Collins
October 08 2009 9:00 AM ET
The Pacific Coastal
San Francisco to Cannon Beach, Ore.: The spectacular roller coaster of U.S. Route 101 winds around seal-inhabited coves, past endless sand dunes, and over craggy promontories. Sip pinot noir in Mendocino, Calif., and spend time along the northern Oregon coast biking, hiking, and seafood-snacking in Manzanita and Cannon Beach, fashionable retreats among hipsters from nearby Portland.
Length: four to seven days Overnights: Mendocino, Calif.; Arcata, Calif.; Port Orford, Ore.; Yachats, Ore.
Rocky Mountain High
Santa Fe, N.M., to Estes Park, Colo.: Climb snowcapped mountains that soar above 13,000 feet as you venture through New Mexico’s and Colorado’s majestic Rockies. The route jags slightly west to allow a visit to Colorado’s gay-trendy Aspen and cowboy-chic Steamboat Springs before turning east and ending at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Length: three to five days Overnights: Taos, N.M.; Salida, Colo.; Aspen, Colo.; Steamboat Springs, Colo.
New Orleans to Charleston, S.C.: Antebellum architecture, regional art and music, and a mix of sophisticated and down-home cuisine punctuate this circuitous journey between two of America’s bastions of Southern charm. Stop to see the birthplace of Elvis in Tupelo, Miss., and the nightclub of drag legend the Lady Chablis in Savannah, Ga.
Length: six to nine days
Overnights: Natchez, Miss.; Tupelo, Miss.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Savannah, Ga.
The New England Leaf Peeper
Bar Harbor, Maine, to Washington, Conn.: From mid September to early October, the New England countryside puts on a flashy show of autumnal splendor, as the leaves of maple, oak, and birch trees burst in shades of crimson, ocher, and orange. Progressive communities like Burlington, Vt., Lenox, Mass., and Ogunquit, Maine, abound with gay-friendly B&Bs and acclaimed bistros.
Length: seven to 10 days
Overnights: Rockland, Maine; Ogunquit, Maine; Meredith, N.H.; Franconia, N.H.; Burlington, Vt.; Manchester, Vt.; Lenox, Mass.