If there’s one month that is often idyllic, it’s September. The nights are cooling off and the days remain nice and warm. Tree colors start changing and it’s the front end of fall with just enough summer vibes left to give us the best of both worlds. This is true around the country with western/northern states seeing dark, starry nights and southern states feeling the relief and heat and humidity subside.
With September being so nice across a large geographical area, it means the van destination options are endless. Buckle up and keep reading because these are some of the most exciting places vanlifers can visit this september.
While much of Arizona is still on the hot side, Flagstaff has plenty of elevation and shade. You might see this destination surface on more than one top destination list and for good reason. It’s a mountain reprieve in a largely desert landscape.
Flagstaff has great mountain biking trails, hiking through beautiful pine forests and it’s a short drive down to the stunning Arizona Desert (including the Grand Canyon). Town is also the perfect basecamp for adventurers who want to set up in a relaxed culture center.
Pickin’ in the Pines music festival draws some great bluegrass bands during this month. Catch a few shows in the evening and still spend your days adventuring. You can expect temperatures in the low 80’s during the day with night temps dropping to the 50’s. No need for air conditioning or heat during this ideal month.
The fall months turn cool in a hurry around Stanley and the high peaks of the Sawtooth mountains. Hailey and the Sun Valley region remain far more temperate however. The sun is almost always shining and temperatures in the 70’s are common. Vanlifers have excellent camping options in the national forest areas and around Silver Creek.
Speaking of Silver Creek, the meandering river is world class for trout fishing. During the fall, you might also run into some very large moose along the creek. Keep your distance and enjoy seeing the rarity of big bulls as they move closer to the rut. The Wood and Big Lost Rivers add to the options for fishing and enjoying local rivers.
Another unique side-trip from Hailey is Craters of the Moon National Monument. Volcanic lava flows created this interesting landscape of hard basalt rock and lava tubes. The basalt was an important resource for Native American flintknapping.
In general, outdoor enthusiasts will fall in love with Idaho’s Sun Valley. From Magic Reservoir to the Sawtooth National Forest, it’s a paradise of mountains, wildlife and water.
Asheville, North Carolina
If finding perfect weather is a high priority this September, take a trip to Asheville. Daily highs hover just under 80-degrees and night temperatures stay in the high 50’s. It’s a very comfortable climate with a ton of outdoor and city experiences to enjoy. The Blue Ridge Mountains make Asheville a hikers paradise while the rivers pouring off the mountains are perfect for whitewater rafting and paddling.
Moore Cove Falls is a great trail for an easy and scenic hike. For something more difficult, the Mount Mitchell Trail is 11-miles with big elevation climbs and very difficult terrain. If you prefer mountain biking, there are plenty of single track trails close to town.
Vanlifers will enjoy the lively music and art scene in town. The ability to hit the cultural centers while still having access to mountain campgrounds within 10-20 minutes of town is perfect.
Grants Pass, Oregon
Drive to Rogue River country and the charming town of Grants Pass. It’s an excellent gateway into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The Rogue River itself is the centerpiece for recreational activities near town as well. You can go whitewater rafting, fishing for steelhead and salmon or opt to hike and bike in the surrounding mountains. Grants Pass is located at a junction with highways branching off in several directions. You can shoot southeast towards Ashland, southwest to Cave Junction or north towards Roseburg and the Umpqua River region. Public lands are abundant and vanlifers will find an exceptional number of amazing developed and dispersed camping options.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Want to really get away this September? You can always road trip around the Upper Peninsula but Isle Royale is far removed from anything. The Lake Superior Islands are accessed by ferry and they sit along the Canada border. Remote hiking trails, several unique lighthouses and forests filled with wildlife make for a unique experience. The opportunities to paddle, explore shipwrecks and navigate a place without roads is very unique. The only downside here is that your van will need to stay at the ferry port or seaplane parking area. Pack your tent and plan on using one of the 30+ campgrounds that are boat-in or hike-in only. The nice thing about having a great camper van is the ability to reset and get comfortable after journeying through a remote park like Isle Royale.
Spring Creek, Nevada
Nevada flies under the radar for van travelers but it’s worth the long drives between destinations. When you arrive in Spring Creek, the mountains just might surprise you. Head to Lamoille Canyon and take a hike in theRuby Mountains. The canyon is stunning and the aspen trees are vibrant shades of yellow and green during September.
There is plenty of camping here with South Fork Reservoir being a favorite place to stop. The state park around the reservoir has hiking, boating and great fishing for trout and bass. When you travel through the general region, camping options are almost unlimited. A majority of the state is BLM lands with endless backroads, hidden hot springs and more mountain ranges than any other state.
Vermont Leaf Tour
Around mid-September, the trees transition and Vermont turns into a vibrant, colorful forest. Visitors flock to the region for the leaf event throughout September and October. You can take a driving tour and camp along the way or hit the trails and hikes through the orange and red landscape.
Mount Mansfield is a great stop for hikers who want to test their skills. With more than seven miles of climbing to the top and descending back down again, it’s an amazing hike. If you prefer watersports, head south to Somerset Reservoir to paddle. The entire reservoir is surrounded by dense forests and it makes for an unforgettable scene.
Lastly, no leaf watching trip to Vermont is complete without a drive over Smuggler’s Notch. The pass winds through scenic forests with several short hiking options along the route. Take your time and enjoy the route.
September is that last opportunity to enjoy nice weather in the north country. By October, the temperatures are rapidly deteriorating and winter is on the way. In Bagor, 70-degrees is the average high for this month and you will have plenty of recreation to chase before the cold arrives. The statue of lumberjack Paul Bunyan is a testament to the outdoor culture here.
While the woods are always close, so is the coast. Bar Harbor is a short drive if you want to go boating and immerse yourself in the coastal culture. In Bangor, the Penobscot River cuts through town. Rafting, paddling and fishing are all convenient to the city. This is perfect for combining outdoor activities with city entertainment on the same day.
Where Will You Travel this September?
September is wide open for travel. If you have the luxury, take some vacation time from work and really dig into this month. You won’t need to hide from extreme heat or cold and nearly every corner of the country is fair game. Extend those options into Canada and Mexico and it really becomes difficult to narrow down the options. You can take big, sweeping road-trips or hunker down and explore every inch of a favorite region.