The Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the Northeast

Oct 7, 2019

When that fall color-viewing urge kicks in (we refuse to call it “leaf-peeping"), the Northeast is kind of hard to beat. Maybe it’s the first-to-market aspect, letting us get a jump on our Insta likes. Or maybe it's the Rockwellian nostalgia factor (Norman actually lived in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts, so yes, those colonial New England homes backed by a wall of color do look familiar to you). But whatever the case, here’s the good news: Trees need cold to do their presto-chango, and because the warmer weather has held out longer than usual this year, you're not too late to enjoy the show. Here are some can’t-miss routes that take you through the heart of the action, complete with stopovers—because, well, cider donuts.

Maine: Acadia & the Coast

How do you up the ante on Maine’s dramatic coastal scenery? (Mountains, meet sea!) Add splashes of fiery orange and red, of course. Get off the highway in MidCoast Maine and hit U.S. Route 1—Main Street to the seasonal show. Stop in at Acadia National Park, where you should hike or bike the leaf-strewn carriage roads, then climb to the top of 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain for views that blend the multi-color spectacle of fall with the brilliant blues of the Gulf of Maine.

And because we promised you some quintessential New England, here’s where to find a classic scene: Two hours south along Route 1 is the coastal town of Camden. 800-foot Mount Battle in Camden Hills State Park looms above, and this is where you can look out onto the all-quaintness-all-the-time downtown Penebscot Bay. Put yourself up at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, where you'll get panoramic views of the fall-tinged shoreline, complete with the lighthouse in Rockland Harbor. And for those who want to stick around, there's a three-night October fall foliage package that starts at $219 per night.

New Hampshire: White Mountains

In the Northeast, you can't go any higher than Mount Washington's 6,288 feet, where the foliage views (and everything else views) are epic. The most charming way to get there? The historic Cog Railway, which click-clacks its way to the top throughout the fall (cable-knit sweaters are optional). The perfect accompaniment: a stay at the 1902-era Omni Mount Washington Resort where the veranda comes with views for days. Don't miss the chairlift ride to the summit of Bretton Woods ski resort for a leafy lunch at the Latitude 44º restaurant. 

Coming from the Boston area? Skip Interstate 93. Route 16 is more scenic. Also, it leads to North Conway, where you can take foliage excursions on the Conway Scenic Railroad into early November (yes, we do love a train tour). No matter which way you go, be sure to drive the scenic Kangamanus Highway that traverses the White Mountain National Forest between Lincoln and Conway and offers ample selfie stops along the Pemigewasset River, plus trailheads that lead into the green-, orange- and red-dappled forest. And when a toast to all this gorgeousness seems in order, head to either the on-site winery at Loon Mountain Resort on the west end of the Kangamangus or the Woodstock Inn Brewery—one of the best places to grab a bite and a beer in northern New Hampshire.

New York: Long Island and Upstate

Venturing out to the North Fork of Long Island from New York City is like passing through a magic portal—one where commuter traffic thins, farms proliferate and winery after winery beckons. And as stunning as the foliage may be on its own, we won't deny that it looks even better through wine goggles, as you'll find at the South Harbor Inn, an 1897 farmhouse turned boutique hotel that's less than a mile from five wineries.

If you're on more of a mission, opt instead for the 100-mile Taconic Parkway that connects New York City to upstate. Remember, this is a parkway, not a highway: Rolling hills and leafy trees are practically all you’ll see as you cruise through the eastern Hudson Valley. Continue toward Lake George, in the Adirondack region, where the historic Minne Ha Ha steamboat and others cruise the 32-mile-long lake for foliage views in October. Get a lake view with your color fix at the historic Sagamore Resort, where fall means 20 percent off room rates, with breakfast included.

Vermont: Route 100

The Scenic Route 100 Byway meanders 146 miles from the Massachusetts border north through the Green Mountains National Forest to the lakefront town of Newport (at which point, you're practically in Canada). Along the way, various mountainsides, lakefronts and river valleys burst with fall color. But this drive is also for anyone who likes a little bit of everything: Check out the Long Trail Brewery (beer!), the Ben & Jerry’s factory (ice cream!), Cold Hollow Cider Mill (cider donuts!) and Calvin Coolidge’s historic home (not a disaster president!).  Then hide out amidst the local foliage: The Treehouse at Moose Meadow is a lodge that comes with an actual treehouse, where you'll definitely want to stay.

Connecticut: Litchfield Hills

Covered bridge fans, we haven’t forgotten about you. And we're not sending you to Madison County to get your fix. Just follow Route 7 along Connecticut's western edge through 19th-century towns like Falls Village, where you can walk a bit of the Appalachian Trail right from downtown. Then get your phone ready: The West Cornwall Covered Bridge is up next—172 wooden feet of romance over the Housatonic River. You’ll end up in the town of Kent, with art galleries, a brewery, restaurants and Kent Falls a 250-foot cascade framed by fall foliage.

Or follow Old Route 202 to New Preston, another popular Insta-stop thanks to the autumn colors reflected on Lake Waramaug (do the eight-mile hike if you’re feeling ambitious). Hole up at the nearby Hopkins Inn (note: it’s convenient to Hopkins Vineyard), then continue to Litchfield, where Lee’s Riding Stables will let you gallop (or just trot; no judgment) through the changing seasons—and Bunnell Farm will send you home with the requisite pumpkin. Or 20. (Again, no judgment.)

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