With some 80% of the region blanketed in verdant forest – including rare, old growth woodland – you can bet that New England puts on a pretty fantastic display in the fall. Dramatic and unforgettable, the blaze of rich colours in autumn transforms the countryside into a palette of vivid hues, peppered with New England’s iconic white barns and church steeples. There are golds courtesy of the birches, poplars and ginkgos; oranges thanks to the maples, hickories and mountain ash; and scarlets borne by the red maples, red oaks, sassafras and dogwoods. Unlike the browns and yellows you may be used to in autumn, the colours in this climate are so much richer and more varied, ranging from burnished bronze to deep purple to startling vermillion. Simply put, there is no display of nature quite like it anywhere in the world.
New England enjoys an Indian summer with crisp, clear, sunny days and pleasant temperatures late into autumn. The leaves begin to turn in the northern states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire around mid-September, and continue to change into late-October in the southern states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. However, the first two weeks of October are often the most reliable time to see the finest colours across New England. By now you’ll realise that visiting New England in the fall is a must, so all that’s left is to find the best places to view the spectacular colours. We’re here to help with our round-up of the best hotspots where you can find that fiery foliage.
Acadia National Park is without a doubt the jewel in the already glittering crown of the stunning Maine coast. 55 square miles of unspoiled paradise, this wooded wonderland covers much of Mount Desert Island and the scenic loop road is a fantastic way to see it. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast and offers some spectacular hiking trails – not to mention breath-taking views of the surrounding forest from the summit.
Heading to the Maine coast also provides the opportunity to see the foliage in a number of different ways. Not only by car but by a scenic boat tour off the coast, by kayak on a leisurely paddle around Long Lake, or by air on a seaplane flight from Naples. Make sure you take the time to indulge in some of Maine’s legendary and delicious lobster while you are there. There are plenty of fine dining options in cities like Portland, while towns like the Kennebunks are great spots for lobster shacks serving authentic lobster rolls.
New Hampshire is home to the spectacular forest gem, the White Mountains National Forest. Hop in the car and follow scenic Route 3 to this sprawling wilderness area which houses an abundance of wildlife – and of course, the stunning fall foliage New England is famous for. Take a trip on the Cannon Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch State Park as it rises 4,200ft to the summit of Canon Mountain for some of the most mind-blowing panoramic views of the flame-coloured forests.
The White Mountains are also the perfect adventure playground for families and thrill-seekers. Gorham makes a great base for activities from hiking to mountain biking and even zip lining. From here you can take a drive on the Kancamagus Highway, oft heralded as the most scenic drive in the whole of New England, as it climbs 3000ft through the Kancamagus Pass.
From the White Mountains to the Green Mountains, Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest forms a spine running for 550 square miles – almost the entire length of the state. Home to the famous Long and Appalachian Trails, the opportunities to see blazing autumn colours in this area are endless. Hike a section of the trail to get in amongst the leaves and stop off for a picnic by a lake; take the lift to the top of the 300ft tall Bennington Battle Monument for bird’s eye views; or drive the steep Skyline Drive to the heady vistas of Mount Equinox, south of Manchester.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see some of the region’s iconic wooden covered bridges while you’re here. Three superbly preserved, 19th century bridges herald the approach to Bennington just off Route 67.
The western corner of Massachusetts has long attracted visitors to its wooded hills, lush valleys, rippling rivers and tumbling waterfalls. Known as The Berkshires, this area is rich in outdoor activities including hiking and biking routes. The Mowhawk Trail was America’s first officially designated “scenic road” and it runs up and over the Berkshire Hills and past the picturesque small towns and villages which speckle the region, offering the perfect route for viewing the trees.
For nature lovers, including “leaf-peepers”, the Mount Washington State Forest and nearby Bash Bish State Park are a haven for wildlife and those wild autumn colours. Another park, Natural Bridge State Park, is home to an additional marvel – North America’s only naturally-formed white marble arch.
These are just a few of our top spots for leaf-peeping, but New England is so rich in autumnal splendour that you’ll find opportunities everywhere. If you fancy touring New England’s six states to see its fall foliage then you can begin and end your tour in Boston. By doing Coastal Maine first and exploring from north to south anticlockwise, you can follow the foliage as the leaves turn. If you’d prefer to have an expert lead the way, we’ve got the perfect escorted tour of New England’s spectacular fall foliage on offer.