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 hop in the car, here are the best places to see the New England foliage.
Coastal Route 1, Maine
If you want the classic 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 awe-inspiring scenery. Some of the more spectacular stops along the route include Acadia National Park, which is nothing short of stunning in the autumn. Consider a quick stop in the town of Camden as well, known for offering glorious views from atop Mount Battie.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Bretton Woods is one of New Hampshire’s most beloved ski areas during the winter. But before the first snowfall, it’s an ideal location for avid leaf peepers as temperatures begin to dip. Located along U.S. Route 302, Bretton Woods is home to the historic Mount Washington Hotel, a legendary venue that, come autumn, is surrounded by brilliant fall foliage. Leaf peepers who visit the town should also take a light trek along the 3.1-mile-long Mount Willard Trail. This moderately challenging route cuts through the scenic White Mountain National Forest, with vibrant fall color tones as far as the eye can see.
Route 100, Vermont
The Route 100 byway offers 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 is made all the more special by the surrounding scenery, which combines golden fall light and blazing swaths of red maples. As you meander through charming Vermont towns and acres of bucolic farmland, you’ll experience one of the more memorable leaf peeping trips imaginable. The 67 miles of road between Killington and Stowe is a particularly gorgeous section that includes the stunning Green Mountain Byway towards the end. Consider a stay at the historic Trapp Family Lodge, which offers stunning views of the Vermont countryside plus decadent Austrian-style craft beers on tap.
Bash Bish Falls, Massachusetts
Bash Bish Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the state of Massachusetts, but beyond that, it’s a prime location for leaf peeping. The 2.1-mile-long Bash Bish Falls Trail offers a light trek through the state park, though if you’re in for more of a challenge then consider parking atop the falls and carefully traversing down to the bottom. Watch your step along the slippery terrain, but also keep your eyes glancing upward at the lovely collection of red, orange, and yellow leaves looming overhead.
Ocean Drive, Rhode Island
Autumn in Newport, Rhode Island, offers up an equal mixture of manmade and natural beauty. While it may be hard to turn your eyes away from the staggering mansions on Bellevue Avenue and the expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s well worth setting out along the 10-mile-long Ocean Drive for incredible leaf peeping opportunities. Consider leaving your car at Fort Adams State Park and biking south along Ridge Road to feel more at one with nature, stopping at picnic-worthy autumnal spots along the way such as Gooseberry Beach and Brenton Point State Park.
Talcott Mountain State Park, Connecticut
Talcott Mountain State Park is a picturesque leaf peeping spot in itself. But what makes this location so special is the historic Heublein Tower, which offers panoramic views of the astounding fall foliage for as far as the eye can see. This 165-foot-tall mountaintop lookout is among the more desirable viewpoints in the entire state, and is accessible by a quick 1.25-mile-long trail. Once you reach the peak, you’ll understand why so many leaf peepers flock here in the fall.
Rangeley Lakes, Maine
As September weather sets in, Maine's Rangeley Lakes region transforms into a leaf peeping haven spreading across nearly 900 acres of land. Rangeley Lake State Park contains a multitude of serene hiking trails, plus a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail. No matter what trail you set out upon, you’re bound to encounter rich golden and crimson colors at every turn. Be sure to visit earlier in the autumn season, as Rangeley Lakes is known for heavy winter snowfall in excess of 200 inches, and often cuts leaf peeping season off a little early.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Affectionately called “the Kanc” by locals, the Kancamagus Highway is a New Hampshire treasure — particularly during the autumn months when leaves are at their brightest. This 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. 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, and be prepared for plenty of other leaf peepers and hairpin turns along the way. For some added natural beauty, consider the short hike over to Sabbaday Falls, where the sound of rushing waters only adds to the serenity to any leaf peeping trip.
Smuggler’s Notch Pass, Vermont
Smuggler’s Notch Pass is a winding, narrow road connecting the towns of Jeffersonville and Stowe. Given the tight turns, the pass is actually closed during the winter months due to potential hazards. But before the snowfall comes, Smuggler’s Notch Pass is a must-visit for curious leaf peepers in northern Vermont. The roadway is lined with maple trees that transform to boast a rich shade of red each autumn. Visitors can also park their cars and set out along the Sterling Pond Trail, a 2.3-mile-long hike to the nearby Sterling Pond. There you can sit along the shore and bask in the autumnal beauty of this majestic location.
Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
Originally a trade route for Native Americans, Massachusetts’ historic Mohawk Trail encapsulates what makes leaf peeping in New England a special experience. 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. Start in the picturesque town of 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. If you find yourself there in September or October, consider a stop in Shelburne Falls, a town famous for its Bridge of Flowers, which features 500 varieties of flowers that perfectly complement the beauty of the autumnal leaves hanging overhead.
Olney Pond, Rhode Island
Olney Pond is a 128-acre reservoir centered at the heart of Lincoln Woods State Park. From September to October, the pond is lined with some of the most stunning fall foliage that the region has to offer. Consider getting off the highway, parking your car, and renting a boat to get a view of the leaves from the water itself. There’s no better way to enjoy the fall foliage here than by quietly oaring by, where the only sounds you hear are the rustling autumn leaves mixed with light drips of water.
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. The scenic byway crosses over the Quinebaug River, a quiet waterway perfect for paddlers and bird-watchers alike. Thoroughfares such as Route 169 are only 32-miles-long, allowing for plenty of time to stop, stretch your legs, and get up close to the beautiful leaves along the way.