When summer fades and the days grow shorter, the crisp air of autumn brings new scenery. Some leaves are splashed with waves of orange and red, while others parade shades of golden yellows, plum purples or deep browns. And though the spectacular color change can be seen in different locations around the world, there’s something special about New England fall foliage. Locals and tourists from near and far journey to the northeast for a chance to see the stunning views.
So where are some of the best places to view New England fall foliage? Read on and discover some of the most scenic drives and locations.
Acadia All-American Road
Duration: 3+ hours
Distance: 40 miles
Highlights: Hiking trails, bicycling, mountain and ocean views, lakes, ponds, beaches, tidal pools, wildlife
Best time to visit: August-September
This two-lane road winds through Maine’s rich woodlands and along its rocky shores, promising a journey of beauty, whim and wonder. Following route 3, the 40-mile scenic byway begins in Trenton, heads south onto Mount Desert Island and then to Bar Harbor, a quaint seaside village buzzing with history and beautiful coastal views.
Lined with the colorful hues of New England fall foliage, the drive continues into Acadia National Park, where the 27-mile-long Park Loop Road leads to Cadillac Mountain. Turn off the main road and hike to the top. At 1,530 feet, visitors can expect a 360-degree view of Maine’s coast, enchanted with color-changing leaves and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
More top foliage spots in Maine: Take a trip to Camden Hills State Park for fall foliage views with a backdrop of docked boats at Penobscot Bay. Or cruise the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway for another winding drive through dense forests, mountains, farm fields, lakes, ponds and more. Moosehead Lake and Mount Kineo are also wonderful spots for stunning New England fall foliage. Fort Kent offers the charm of an old logging town speckled with passionate color. And in Baxter Sate Park, moose can often be spotted at Sandy Stream Pond.
Green Mountain Byway and Route 108
Duration: 3+ hours
Distance: Over 40 miles
Highlights: State parks, meadows, rivers and mountain views, waterfalls, outdoor recreation, hiking
Best time to visit: Mid-late September
Along Vermont’s scenic route 100, a 14.5-mile stretch of road known as the Green Mountain Byway travels through the towns of Waterbury and Stowe. The drive offers views of picturesque meadows, vast farmlands and forests, along with a beautiful backdrop of the northern Green Mountains and Worcester Range.
At the junction of route 108 (Mountain Road), drive towards Mount Mansfield – the highest peak in Vermont. Visitors can leisurely ascend the mountain’s slope with a scenic gondola sky ride and witness the flaming treetops from high above. Continue on route 108 for a dramatic journey through Smuggler’s Notch, where a bold and rugged landscape awaits. Then loop back towards the charming town of Stowe.
More top foliage spots in Maine: Tucked away in central Vermont, the town of Woodstock offers quaint shops and galleries in the setting of stunning fall foliage. Take a stroll through the neighborhood or view the changing leaves on a hike up Mount Tom’s Faulkner Trail. Surrounded by mountains and valleys, Manchester is another spot perfect for viewing Vermont’s blanket of fall colors. A drive on Mount Snow Loop, located in the southern region, begins and ends in the charming town of Brattleboro; the road travels on and around the Molly Stark Byway (route 9) and passes through the gorgeous Mount Snow ski area.
Lakes Region Tour
Duration: All day
Distance: 97 miles
Highlights: Village, lake and mountain views, hiking, biking, beaches, outdoor recreation
Best time to visit: Late September
Traveling along Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake, this 97-mile road begins in the coastal town of Alton and heads northwest on route 11. A scenic pull-off provides miles of sweeping shoreline views, shimmering with autumn color, while a hike up Mount Major rewards with brilliant New England fall foliage contrasted against Lake Winnipesaukee and the neighboring Ossipee and White Mountains.
Passing by Ellacoya State Park in Gilford, the drive heads onto route 3 towards Squam Lake. Then, winding through the towns of Meredith and Center Harbor, the drive loops back towards Lake Winnipesaukee on route 109. Many quaint and old-fashioned towns will appear along the way, with unique shops and stores.
More top foliage spots in New Hampshire: Nestled in the White Mountains region, Mount Washington is home to the highest peak in the Northeast. Kancamagus Highway (route 112) offers a long and scenic autumn drive filled with bright foliage. Then heading up to northern New Hampshire, Dixville Notch has an abundance of unspoiled scenery and outdoor recreation. Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch state parks are also fall foliage paradises, with incredible and inspiring vistas. For a moose sighting, head to the Great North Woods.
The Mohawk Trail
Duration: 4+ hours
Distance: 69 miles
Highlights: River, waterfall & mountain views, old bridges, outdoor recreation, museums, historic towns
Best time to visit: Early to mid-October
Beginning in Athol and ending in Williamstown, this 69-mile scenic drive winds through beautiful landscapes and forests, past flowing rivers and into charming towns. Following The Mohawk Trail (route 2) into historic Greenfield, stop by the Rocky Mountain Park. Biking and walking trails provide a quiet place for reflection and the popular Poet’s Seat Tower rewards with views of the Connecticut River and Turners Falls.
A bit farther west, the town of Shelburne is home to the famous Bridge of Flowers, where in October the chrysanthemums are in full bloom. Then continuing into the rustic setting of Mohawk Trail State Forest, the drive cuts through over 6,000 acres of wilderness. Before reaching the next major town, North Adams, be sure to take a detour south towards Mount Greylock. At 3,491 feet, it overlooks the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Taconic Range, both blazing with New England fall foliage.
More top foliage spots in Massachusetts: Take a bike ride on the Battle Road at Minute Man National Park to enjoy history in a serene fall setting. Or visit Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau. In Boston, areas like the Public Garden and the Charles River Esplanade offer autumn color right in the heart of the city. Once a wealthy family estate, Maudslay State Park is another perfect place to go leaf peeping. And Appleton Farms in Hamilton and Ipswich is surrounded by bold and golden yellows.
Duration: 1+ hours
Distance: 10 miles
Highlights: Coastal, bay and island views, sailing, state parks, outdoor recreation, historic landmarks
Best time to visit: October
While only 10 miles long, the winding route along Newport’s coastline is laden with fantastic views, towering trees and historic landmarks. Starting at Bellevue Avenue, drive towards the Newport Mansions, where beautiful and extravagant exteriors meld with fall foliage to create incredible scenery.
A little farther south, a detour on the Cliff Walk promises rocky shoreline and ocean views. Doris Duke’s Rough Point offers more incredible sights, along with the historic echoes of an unconventional heiress. Take a tour and then head for Brenton Point State Park, where autumn color, a constant sea breeze and the rumbling Atlantic provide a laid-back feel. The journey ends near Fort Adams State Park, where the Narragansett Bay and docked sailboats beckon seafarers and the young at heart.
More top foliage spots in Rhode Island: Traveling along Rhode Island’s coastline in South County, route 1A is another short drive with scenic ocean views and a quaint country side. For more autumn bliss, visit the Blackstone Valley region where you’ll find miles and miles of historic homes, mills, taverns and more – including the national landmark Slater Mill. You can explore the region on foot or enjoy a mid-October river boat cruise. In Providence, Goddard Memorial State Park is a great spot for a fall picnic or a horseback ride through bold autumn color. Roger Williams Park and Zoo will also have beautiful foliage on display.
Last Green Valley Scenic Byway
Duration: 3+ hours
Distance: 32 miles
Highlights: Nature views, wildlife, hiking trails, waterways, historical museums and homesteads, orchards, farms
Best time to visit: Early to mid-October
In the northeastern “quiet corner” of Connecticut, a 32-mile stretch of road has been designated a National Scenic Byway. Starting in Lisbon and ending just shy of the Massachusetts border, route 169 offers a sense of tranquility as it travels through rolling hills and quiet valleys, past old red barns on sprawling farm land and under the shadow of fiery maple trees.
Heading north towards Canterbury, roads lined with rugged stone walls lead to the Prudence Crandall Hall Museum. And a little further, the charming town of Brooklyn and its historic Brooklyn Green are brimming with unique buildings and architecture from the 1700s and 1800s. Take a side-trip in the Natchaug State Forest for river views and beautiful New Egland fall foliage. Then head back to route 169 towards Pomfret, where The Vanilla Bean awaits with music, delicious meals and a quirky ambiance. The winding asphalt road in Connecticut ends shortly after reaching Woodstock Hill, where the Roseland Cottage stands proud with its raspberry-colored exterior.
More top foliage spots in Connecticut: The heavily wooded areas in Litchfield and the northwest region of Connecticut offer more small towns with gorgeous scenery, covered bridges and towering trees. Nearby, the stone lookout tower in Mount Tom State Park stands 325 feet above sea level and offers brilliant foliage views. Explore more trails and beautiful scenery in places like Giuffrida Park and the White Memorial Conservation Center. Or, take the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat on a 12-mile journey through the Connecticut River Valley. And in Bloomfield, the Heublein Tower yields views of rolling autumn hills.
There are few sights more soul-satisfying than the sea of orange, red and yellow trees during fall in New England. Embark on one of our AAA fall foliage tours or head out on a journey of your own.
Where will you go to see the fall foliage in New England this season? Tell us below.
For more fall foliage destinations and adventures, visit AAA.com/NortheastFoliage.