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The sweet spot between the delirium of summer and the looming chill of winter, fall is a time to be cherished–a time where coziness is of the utmost importance, and gratitude is cause for celebration. One of the most wonderful marks of autumn is the sight of leaves changing color. This season, take the time to appreciate the brilliant fall foliage by “leaf-peeping,” and maybe by munching on freshly baked apple cider donuts (is there anything better?).
Here are 15 scenic routes to drive, hike, and experience across New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway
This scenic, tree-lined drive spans 34.5-miles and allows travelers to tour some of the most picturesque spots the region has to offer. Beginning in Lincoln and ascending through the White Mountain National Forest, there’s no shortage of stunning overlooks and stops along “the Kanc,” so be prepared to put it in park. Be sure to stop at the C.L. Graham Overlook just below the summit of Kancamagus Pass, then picnic at Sabbaday Falls in Conway, a half-mile walk from the trail head, before heading north to Bretton Woods on 302. There, you’ll be treated to blazing views of Mount Washington.
Lake Winnipesaukee Loop in New Hampshire
Road trip around New Hampshire’s biggest lake and take in the waterfront views and bright autumn foliage. Seriously though, it’s a big lake–the loop amounts to 97 miles of premium New England sights. Stop for lunch and a stroll in any one of the quaint towns along the route, like Meredith, or even stop for some outdoor activities (think boating, fishing, and hiking).
Vermont’s Route 100
Vermont in the fall is like something straight out of a picture book. The billboard-free Route 100 winds through some of Vermont’s most quintessential villages, with all the cider donuts and country stores your heart desires. Hike to the top of Mount Killington for some seriously impressive views before continuing to the 11-mile Green Mountain Byway. Spend a weekend in Stowe or Mad River Valley and indulge in farm-to-table dining, craft beer, and maybe even a trip through those beautiful autumn trees on Stowe’s ZipTour, a nearly two-mile zipline.
The Shires of Vermont Byway
This historic route 7A runs through the southwest corner of the state, known as the Shires of Vermont. It includes seventeen charming towns that line the route, including Bennington and Manchester. In Bennington, climb to the top of the 306-foot-tall monument built in 1891 to commemorate the Battle of Bennington; it offers an unparalleled bird's eye view of the surroundings.
Some of the northeast’s prettiest foliage views can be found in this tiny town in northern Vermont. Montgomery also happens to be "Vermont's Covered Bridge Capital," so you can supplement your foliage pics with some bridge content for the Instagram feed. There are six of these covered bridges in the town, and each one is just waiting for you to take a leisurely stroll across it, warm beverage in hand. After touring the bridges, consider hiking through the 15 miles of trails preserved by the Hazen's Notch Association. Maybe not all 15 miles…
Sure, you hear “Woodstock,” and fall foliage isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. That’s understandable. But this is a different Woodstock in different state. This Woodstock is actually one of the best destinations to see foliage and has been called the "quintessential New England village." Expect classic American charm; colorful, lush foliage; and a quaint town bustling with shops and restaurants. Go for a hike through the woodlands of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park to take in the foliage firsthand. Then, after working up an appetite, sample fresh local cheese from the Billings Farm & Museum.
Maine’s Coastal Route 1
Start in Portland and head north on “Old Route 1” for one of New England’s most scenic coastal drives. Stop along the way in Brunswick, Bath, or Rockport (you can’t go wrong with any) for seaside mansions, lighthouses, and late-season lobster rolls. Need new boots or to stock up on flannel for the season? Hit up Freeport for the L.L. Bean flagship store. End your trip in the quaint town of Camden, where you can capitalize on prime leaf-peeping spots like Merryspring, a 66-acre park and nature center.
Maine's Acadia National Park
Northeast of Camden, the 47,000-acre Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island is a nature lover's paradise and truly the epitome of foliage destinations. Its 27-mile Park Loop Road is filled with spots to observe and photograph the foliage. Take in the sweeping views from Cadillac Mountain. Stay in a nearby town (charming all on their own) and get day passes into the park or gear up and plan to camp inside the park. Mid-October is the best time to leaf-peep, but the surroundings are beautiful year-round.
In this mountain village, the best way to see the changing leaves is on foot. Bethel offers hiking access to multiple well-known trails situated in some standout conservation lands, including the White Mountain National Forest, Grafton Notch State Park, and the Appalachian Trail. Be sure to check out the Androscoggin River Recreation Trail, home to some unique wildlife and gorgeous foliage.
Connecticut’s Route 7
Northwestern Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills region is filled with village greens, rolling hills, and Housatonic river views. Begin in the coastal town of Norwalk, trail through Kent Falls State Park (there are waterfalls!), and pass through Woodbury, the “antiques capital of Connecticut.” End in Litchfield Hills for a classic New England aesthetic explorable on foot, horseback–or hot air balloon. While you're in the area, treat yourself to a lavish meal at what OpenTable named one of the 100 best restaurants in America: Arethusa al tavolo in Bantam.
Connecticut's Route 9
The Lower Connecticut River Valley has more than enough activities to keep anyone busy in the charming region. Essex, for example, was named "The Perfect Small American Town" in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Located just across the Connecticut River, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme is a boarding house-turned-museum where American Impressionist painters like Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and Henry Ward Ranger once lived and worked. Today it's a National Historic Landmark with a separate 9,500-square-foot gallery building.
Massachusetts’s Mohawk Trail
The 63-mile-long Mohawk Trail follows what was once a Native American trade route. Located in northwest Massachusetts, it straddles the Berkshire Mountains between the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys. There are mountain streams and plenty of pit stops along the way, like the Golden Eagle restaurant on the trail’s famous Hairpin Turn (the food is decent, the view unbeatable). End in North Adams and visit MassMoCA, the Massachusetts Musuem of Contemporary Art––one of the biggest museums in the country.
Massachusetts’s Route 6A
Luckily, the beauty and charm of Cape Cod villages persevere passed the summer, making the postcard-perfect towns along route 6A a fantastic fall destination. Start just after the Sagamore Bridge and follow the road through scenic Sandwich, the Cape’s oldest town. From there, roll on to Yarmouth Port, through Dennis and finally Brewster. There, find Nickerson State Park, where the 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail offers no shortage of views to be seen on foot. Peak season hits late here, so it’s perfect if you find yourself looking for leaves come mid-October or even later.
If small towns or rural hikes aren’t your cup of tea, Boston offers easily accessible views from the bustling historic city. Stroll through the trees in Boston Common and the Public Garden. Walk or bike along the Charles River Esplanade. And head to the Arnold Arboretum, an outdoor museum of trees and the oldest public arboretum in North America. Rent a car and drive to Walden Pond, where you'll see Henry David Thoreau's (surprisingly tiny) cabin, along with beautiful fall foliage reflected in the pond. After you’ve gotten your share of sights, explore the city’s incredible cultural scene, dining and shopping options. You won’t be disappointed.
Rhode Island’s Ocean Drive
It may be the smallest state in the country, but every square mile of Rhode Island offers a beautiful sight to take in. Ideally, enjoy Ocean Drive by bike. Start out on the Bellevue Avenue side of the Ocean Drive Loop, an 11-mile waterfront route passing through the colorful American yellowwoods, European beeches, and stately mansions of Bellevue before opening onto Ocean Drive. Its offers dual views of the Rhode Island Sound on your left and jaw-dropping colors on your right. End at the equally scenic Newport Harbor, where you might pull up to Belle’s Café in the Shipyard for coffee and yacht views.
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