If you’ve ever visited New England in the fall, then you already know it’s the region’s best time of year — especially if you love to hike. The days are cool, the bugs are gone, the trails are dry, and the vistas are unforgettable. This means the moment you notice the leaves turning to brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange, it’s time to dust off your hiking boots and head to the hills.
To witness the season’s magnificent scenery, make sure to consult a foliage map, which estimates each county’s peak foliage throughout the region. Then pack a lunch for the day, grab your trekking poles, and choose one of our favorite leaf-peeping hikes in New England.
Peak Elevation: 3,054’
Level: Moderate to Difficult
The alpine lake at the top of Tumbledown Mountain is beloved by hikers in the summer, but autumn is just as good of a time to tackle this 5.6-mile loop in Weld, Maine. Those who desire an easier journey should head up the Brook Trail, which leaves straight from the parking lot and is much more forgiving. The Loop Trail, the entrance to which is further down the road, is much more challenging, and climbing through the dreaded “Fat Man’s Misery” will be an experience to remember. Both trails lead to sweeping views of unfettered Maine wilderness, and when the colors are ablaze, it’s a sight to see.
Peak Elevation: 3,547’
Located in the White Mountain Forest on the edge of New Hampshire’s state line with Maine, Baldface Circle Trail is an epic day hike when the fall colors are bursting. The 9.5-mile loop begins with a climb up South Baldface, a section of the trail that requires traversing ledges, scrambling across rocks, and climbing up rungs. The reward for all of this hard work pays off in spades, though, as the next few miles on the ridge are above treeline, offering stunning views of Mount Washington, the Carter Range, and the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness. After rounding the ridge on North Baldface, the trail descends back towards Emerald Pool, where brave hikers can take a cold dip after a long day.
Lincoln Woods State Park
Peak Elevation: 308’
Level: Easy to Moderate
It may be diminutive in size, but the state of Rhode Island still has loads to offer in the hiking department. Just a 20-minute drive from Providence, Lincoln Woods State Park is the perfect spot to get out of the city when the colors start to turn. With three different hikes ranging from easy to moderate, there’s also plenty of offshoots to make the trails longer or shorter as needed. Regardless, hikers of all abilities will love the bursts of yellow and orange on a crisp fall day in New England.
Peak Elevation: 4,081’
The only 4,000 footer on this list, hiking to the top of Camel’s Hump during autumn is the quintessential Vermont activity. The third tallest peak in the state, the trail’s summit offers sweeping views of the surrounding Green Mountains, and on a clear day, all the way into Canada. Hikers can choose between Monroe Trail, which goes out-and-back, or Loop Trail, which covers part of the famed Long Trail. Both options are considered difficult, and since they can be treacherous, are not recommended for those afraid of heights. Nonetheless, the 360-degree views of Vermont’s phenomenal fall colors are sure to make up for your trouble.
Bear Mountain Trail
Peak Elevation: 2,323’
The tallest peak in Connecticut can be accessed from Bear Mountain Trail, located in Mount Riga State Park. With an elevation of 1,702 feet in just over six miles, the hike is steeper than you'd expect in southern New England. But with impressive views of mountains to the north, west, and south, and a lake to the east, the summit offers some of the best scenery in the state. A section of the hike follows the renowned Appalachian Trail, and it’s likely you may see overnight hikers passing through on their way to Maine’s Mount Katahdin (which is another stunning hike in the fall).
Black Cap Mountain
Peak Elevation: 2,369’
Level: Easy to Moderate
If you’re looking for incredible views of the changing colors, without a day’s worth of hiking, then head up Black Cap. The summit of this New Hampshire mountain should be voted best bang for your buck because reaching it takes less than an hour on a fairly uncomplicated trail. That’s because Hurricane Mountain Road, a paved roadway that leads vehicles directly from the popular town of North Conway to the trailhead, does most of the work for you. The result is a trek that is ideal for hikers of varied ages and abilities, with views of the Presidential Range that will knock your socks off.
Peak Elevation: 3,491’
Level: Moderate to Difficult
The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts has no shortage of beautiful hikes, with various summits providing views of the rolling countryside awash in gold and red. But as the highest peak in the state, Mount Greylock has some of the best views of the area, with a few different trails that lead to the summit. The popular Hopper Trail is a straightforward loop that has some steep inclines, and can be combined with the Haley Farm Loop or the Stony Ledge Trail for a longer, more challenging day.
Beehive Loop Trail
Peak Elevation: 520’
Witnessing Acadia National Park in the fall, with its rugged coastline and swaths of blazing colors, should be on everyone’s bucket list — especially if you love to hike. At only 1.4 miles in length, Beehive Loop Trail is short but oh-so-sweet. The trail’s summit shows off Mount Desert Island’s dramatic coastline, a vista that is accentuated by the expansive ocean scenery and the popping colors below. However, to win these views, hikers will have to climb up cliffs using rungs while braving steep drop-offs, which means it's a hike best left for those who aren’t afraid of heights.