New England Fall Foliage Road Trips
Leaf-Peeping Adventures in the Northeast
Leaf peepers flock to New England each year for nature's display of brightly colored trees. Here are some suggestions for the best spots around New England to view this glorious show, beginning in late September and continuing through mid-October. One thing to keep in mind as you map out your fall foliage road trip: The leaves follow a pattern as they change, moving from north to south and higher elevations to lower ones, so plan accordingly.
Vermont has the highest percentage of maple trees in New England, with mountains awash in vibrant oranges and yellows. The autumn colors generally peak during the second week of October. Take the Green Mountain Byway (Vermont Route 100) through the funky small towns of Stowe and Waterbury, past farms and mountains before connecting to scenic Route 125, or the Middlebury Gap Road, through Green Mountain National Forest.
Stay: The Green Mountain Inn is a certified green hotel in Stowe, a great home base for fall mountain adventures such as foliage hikes and gondola rides.
Do: Check out the scenery from above on a hot-air balloon ride in Stowe. Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides offers panoramic views of the region, including nearby Lake Champlain. Fuel your ride with samples and scoops from the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury.
Eat: Crop Bistro & Brewery in Stowe is a casual spot with tasty pub food and house specialties, along with a great selection of microbrews.
Though it may vary from year to year, the fall foliage usually peaks in the White Mountains in the beginning of October. Take the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) from Lincoln to Conway to see some of New Hampshire's legendary leaves.
Stay: The White Mountain Hotel and Resort in North Conway has 80 luxurious rooms with great mountain and cliff views.
Do: The Kanc, as it's known to locals, runs for 37 miles through the White Mountains, an area known for its covered bridges and mountain fun. Soar through the trees hooked on a zip line on the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour. When you're back on solid ground, head to Franconia Notch State Park, where you can take in the view from the sky during a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and stroll through covered bridges and past waterfalls along the hiking trail at the Flume Gorge.
Eat: Ledges Restaurant at the White Mountain Hotel has fine dining in the mountains. Its Friday-night Seafood Fest serves up New England specialties such as seafood chowder and littleneck clams, and the over-the-top Sunday brunch buffet is stocked with endless chafing dishes of breakfast favorites, carving stations and more.
Follow the Mohawk Trail through the Berkshires and marvel at the brightly colored fall leaves and artsy small towns. Starting in Williamstown, take the trail (Route 2) east through North Adams. In Charlemont, take a short, picturesque detour on Route 8A to cross the 160-foot-long Bissell Covered Bridge.
Stay: North Adams has a charm all its own, with a focus on cutting-edge art and hip style. Porches is a fashionable lodging choice that beckons city folk and artists to enjoy the renovated Victorian row homes with 47 comfy and retro rooms.
Do: The artsy town of North Adams alights with fall fever each year during the Fall Foliage Festival in early October, a celebration of the leaves with a parade and family fun. While driving along the Mohawk Trail, stop at scenic vantage points for photos before continuing on to historic Greenfield to check out the foliage from the 3-story lookout at Poet's Seat Tower.
Eat: The creation of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MoCA, in 1999 put North Adams on the cultural map for cutting-edge exhibits and performing arts. Likewise, the museum's on-site restaurant, the Gramercy Bistro, tempts the palate with a modern spin on classic cuisine for dinner and Sunday brunch.
Take Route 9 to explore the lower Connecticut River Valley.
Stay: The Bee & Thistle Inn in Old Lyme was built in 1756 but was moved to its current location in the early 20th century. Its 10 rooms are stately and elegant, with 4-poster beds, luscious linens and private bathrooms.
Do: Ride the rails on the historic Essex Steam Train, which has an authentic steam locamotive and vintage railcars. It sets off from Essex for a scenic journey past the area's prettiest leaves. If you prefer sailing the seas, take in similar foliage views aboard the RiverQuest with Connecticut River Expeditions.
Eat: Pick up a fancy box lunch with creative sandwiches such as the Rusty Scupper, which has smoked turkey breast, brie and fresh mango chutney, at Olive Oyl's Carry Out Cuisine in Essex.