The Best Places to Go Leaf Peeping in New England
Every year, leaf peepers flock to the Northeast from September to November for a fleeting glimpse of the region’s spectacular foliage. If you’re planning a leaf peeping trip this year, make sure to consult a foliage map first. Peak foliage varies from year to year and the farther north you travel, the earlier you’ll need to plan your trip. Before you go, take note of the best places to see the New England foliage along with everything you need to know while you’re there.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Affectionately called “the Kanc” by locals, the Kancamagus Highway is a New Hampshire treasure — particularly during the fall. The alpine road winds through the White Mountains and climbs nearly 3,000 feet to provide arresting views of fall colors as far as the eye can see.
Directions: The Kanc connects the towns of North Conway and Lincoln via Route 112. If you start in North Conway, pick up trail maps at the Saco Ranger Station near Route 16. Be prepared for plenty of other leaf peepers and hairpin turns along the way.
When to Pull Over: Sabbaday Falls is a short hike to waterfalls and an excellent spot for a picnic. Pemigewasset and Hancock overlooks make for great photo ops with the fall scenery.
Coastal Route 1, Maine
If you want the quintessential fall foliage tour of Maine, a road trip up Coastal Route 1 is in order. The scenic route hugs miles of Maine coastline, providing the perfect backdrop for the brilliant hues of autumn in New England. There’s plenty of opportunities to stop along the way — be it for a lobster roll, a robust hike, or to take in the scenery.
Directions: Start in Portland and make sure to go as far as the coastal city of Camden. If you have the time, continue up the coast to Mount Desert Island. The drive keeps getting better and Acadia National Park is nothing short of stunning in the autumn.
When to Pull Over: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset serves up fresh lobster rolls doused in butter, but be prepared for a line around the corner. The small town of Camden offers up the best of Maine culture, with restaurants, art galleries, and stellar views from Mount Battie.
Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
Originally a trade route for Native Americans, Massachusetts’ historic Mohawk Trail encapsulates the charm of New England. Traversing through the Berkshire mountains and over the Deerfield River, this scenic route covers miles of woodlands and meadows that come alive during the fall. The picturesque towns along the way are perfect for stretching your legs or grabbing lunch.
Directions: Start in Greenfield and follow Route 2 west until you reach the town of North Adams. From there you can continue on to Williamstown or drive south to enjoy the walking trails at Mount Greylock State Reservation.
When to Pull Over: The town of Shelburne Falls is famous for its Bridge of Flowers, which contains 500 varieties of flowers and is open from May to October.
Where to Stay: The Porches Inn, North Adams, Massachusetts
Route 100, Vermont
Route 100 is 216 scenic miles of pure Vermont goodness that runs nearly the length of the entire state. Skimming the edge of the Green Mountains, this billboard-free drive meanders through charming Vermont towns and acres of bucolic farmland. The scenery, when combined with the golden fall light and blazing swaths of red maples, is sure to capture your heart.
Directions: If you have the time, driving the entire length of Route 100 will result in an epic leaf-peeping road trip. For a weekend getaway, the 67 miles between Killington and Stowe is a gorgeous portion and includes the stunning Green Mountain Byway towards the end.
When to Pull Over: No trip to Vermont is complete without a sweet stop at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury. Nearby, the Trapp Family Lodge offers stunning views of the Vermont countryside and has Austrian-style beers on tap.
Where to Stay: Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, Stowe, Vermont
Last Green Valley Scenic Byway, Connecticut
A National Heritage Corridor, the Last Green Valley Scenic Byway ventures through farmland and forest, making it an ideal drive for Connecticut leaf peepers. On a sunny fall day, visitors should plan on getting out of the car and into nature. The scenic byway crosses over the Quinebaug River, a quiet waterway perfect for paddlers and birdwatchers. The byway also offers access to wildlife preserves and state parks for roadside picnics and mid-day hikes.
When to Pull Over: The Benedict Arnold Trail in Norwich is the birthplace of America’s most famous traitor and a must-see for Revolutionary War buffs. The two-mile historic walking tour has 22 stops including the homestead and graves of the Arnold family.
Where to Stay: The Inn at Woodstock Hill, Woodstock, Connecticut
Ocean Drive, Rhode Island
Autumn in Newport offers up an equal mixture of manmade and natural beauty. From the staggering mansions on Bellevue Avenue to the expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s no place on Aquidneck Island that doesn’t benefit from the colors of fall. For an alternative leaf-peeping experience, ditch the car and rent a bike. Ocean Drive Loop passes by Gilded Age mansions, beaches, and parks and is the best way way to see Newport in its autumnal glory.
Directions: Leave your car at Fort Adams State Park and bike south along Ridge Road to Ocean Drive. Go left on Bellevue Avenue and take another left on Ruggles Avenue. Follow this main road all the way back to Fort Adams.
When to Pull Over: The 11-mile loop offers plenty of picnic-worthy spots including Gooseberry Beach and Brenton Point State Park.
Where to Stay: William’s Grant Inn, Bristol, Rhode Island