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When the cool breezes start to sweep through the northeast, it brings sweater-weather, apple picking and hayrides to the pumpkin patch. It also brings a vibrant change of foliage as leaves go from bright green to shades of red, purple, orange and yellow. The result is beautiful and picturesque. Find out where to see the best of the fall colors in the Northeast states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Fall Colors in the Northeast USA
As a child growing up, my family frequently traveled from our home in New York to Connecticut along Interstate 84. On those trips, I would gaze out the window while we drove on the highway, counting the colors I could spot on the hills.
It was a stunning introduction to leaf peeping and one I remember fondly. Since then, I’ve lived in Connecticut and now Maine and have visited all the New England states in autumn. This has allowed me to witness first-hand how stunning the northeast can be during late September and October.
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If you’re interested in experiencing autumn in the Northeast this year through a day trip or weekend getaway, these picture-perfect spots to see fall colors from New York to Maine are great destinations and trips.
TravelingMom Tip: In this year of social distancing,planning a road trip to see the fall leaves is usually a safe bet. But, if you plan to stop anywhere along the way, check the website or call before you head out for the day. Rules for visiting (masks, limited capacities, etc.) and opening dates and times are subject to change without warning.
Fall Colors in Maine
During the first autumn that my kids and I lived in Maine, I was traveling down Route 1A to the coast to Damariscotta, when I gazed out the window and realized what a stunning state I was living in. The leaves were prime colors. It happened to be the same weekend as the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest, held annually in mid-October. (The Pumpkinfest, which features exquisite carved pumpkins, a pumpkin regatta and more, is worth a trip!)
I was smitten.
Now, I might be biased, but I do believe that Maine has some of the best fall foliage in New England. And I do recommend that wanna-be leaf peepers take a drive down either Route 1 or Route 1A for some prime leaf colors viewing. It’s amazing. And while you are on the drive, stop at a lobster shack or small restaurant for a bite. You won’t be disappointed.
Beyond those roads, there are so many other places to see leaves in Maine.
Acadia National Park
Perhaps one of the best-known places to see leaves in Maine is Acadia National Park, where you can do a little hiking and enjoy the scenery. As you drive along Park Loop Road, for instance, stop at one of the many vistas to gaze out (and snap a picture) of the fall colors.
Acadia also has many, many options for hiking from easy trails like Wonderland and Ship’s Harbor to challenging mountain hikes with awesome views. When you’re done hiking, take a short drive to Bar Harbor for a bite to eat. My go-to is Geddy’s, but there are many great restaurants there.
Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
Further north in Maine, Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument also offer stunning views for daring hikers.
With several hiking trails available in both areas, there are plenty of options (and difficulty levels) to choose from. If biking is more your thing, the Katahdin region also has new bike trails on nearby Hammond Ridge, just north of Millinocket.
Fall Colors in New York
In a normal year, most of New York hits peak foliage season in early October.
Before you go, check the Fall Foliage Report for New York from the Department of Economic Development to find the ideal spots and timing for your trips. Although peak season can be estimated, fall foliage reports will have more current information accounting for the weather and other factors.
Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain
As you drive down the Palisades Parkway, take time to see the rusty colors outside your car window. Then take a hike or bike ride through the park. Bring a picnic while you’re at it.
Overlook Mountain Wild Forest, Woodstock
This is the place for a lovely fall hike. There are several trails to choose from including the Overlook Mountain Spur Trail, where you can enjoy stunning views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River Valley at the summit. If you have younger kids, the easier and shorter Meads Meadow Trail and Overloop Trail might be a better choice.
When you’re done with your hike, head into town. Woodstock isn’t actually where the famed 1969 music festival was held. But it is a fun, artsy town with good food and cute shops. I loved visiting Woodstock as a child because the fanciful stores offered something different and whimsical.
Letchworth State Park
Fall is magical here with its dramatic 600-foot cliffs and waterfalls in their foliage glory.
Voted the No. 1 State Park in the United States in 2015, Letchworth is called the Grand Canyon of the East. Fall is peak season at the park, so plan to visit early to get a parking spot near one of the gorgeous overlooks. Read more about Letchworth State Park.
Mount Utsayantha, Stamford
Another hiking spot, Mount Utsayantha offers sweeping views at its summit. While you’re there, take a moment to check out the old building that was once a tourist center and the fire tower (but don’t climb it — that’s not allowed). This is located southwest from Albany.
Connecticut hits peak foliage season in mid-October. This is the best time for a day trip or getaway through the Nutmeg State. Connecticut’s tourism department maintains a Fall Foliage Report as well. It’s worth a look before you go.
When I was fresh out of college and working in Connecticut, an assignment sent a photographer and I driving around on backroads in the Litchfield Hills. It was there that I learned how fun and fulfilling a scenic drive can be. The northwest corridor of Connecticut remains one of my favorite places to experience autumn. Encompassing towns including Litchfield, Torrington, Canaan, Kent and more, there are so many opportunities to take in the fall colors — and have some fun too.
Kent Falls State Park, Kent
For hiking, picnicking and enjoying fall foliage, I love to travel to Kent Falls. The falls are lovely, but the park offers so much more — a classic covered footbridge, a majestic hike and plenty of space to run around. The hike is steep, but short, just a quarter mile up. My kids were able to do this hike with ease at ages 4 and 6 — and they loved it, too. While you’re there, relax, read and picnic at one of the tables as well. Entrance is free for state residents, but out-of-staters pay a fee ($15/car) that goes to support the park. While in Kent, also check out Bull’s Bridge, a 19th Century covered bridge.
Also in the northwestern part of Connecticut, a trip to Cornwall is a lovely drive through scenic hills. When you get there, head to the Cornwall Bridge, a covered bridge that crosses the Housatonic River. It’s a great spot for a photo. Records indicate that a bridge may have been in place in this location as early as 1762. While it’s not the original one, this covered bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still in operation, carrying traffic on Route 128 over the river.
Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor
Looking for a scenic drive? Try the Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, which travels through 35 small towns in northeastern Connecticut and southcentral Massachusetts. Although it spans a greater area, you could take a drive down Route 169 from Norwich to Woodstock (both in the Connecticut portion of the Last Green Valley), stopping in the towns as you go. Perhaps you’ll find one of Connecticut’s ubiquitous country stores for lunch.
The best time for peak color in Massachusetts is in early October through the middle of the month. Plan your road trip through Massachusetts then for the ultimate in fall colors.
Route 2 in Massachusetts
This is a historic road that winds its ways through the Berkshires, Lexington and Concord. It takes about three hours to drive the entire road, but you can do shorter trips to take in the foliage — and the history.
Route 1A Near Boston
If you’re near Boston, try heading up 1A between Beverly and the quaint town of Newburyport. Once in Newburyport, park downtown and walk around. There are lovely stores including indie toy and book stores. My favorite is the Salt Cellar, with its flavored and interesting sea salts. My kids and I have a blast there choosing salts to bring home.
The crowds are gone and some Cape Cod restaurants and attractions close in the fall. But there’s still plenty to see, do and eat. And the fall colors cannot be beat. While you’re there try one of the many family-friendly Cape Cod restaurants.
Rhode Island also hits peak colors in early to mid-October. Plan a trip to this tiny East Coast state then.
Roger Williams Park, Providence
Located on more than 435 acres, Roger Williams Park is a great place to visit for leaf-peeping. Stroll through the park, have a picnic, go boating and enjoy the fall colors. There’s much to do in this park that was established in the 1870s.
Cliff Walk, Newport
If you haven’t done the Newport Cliff Walk, that’s another good possibility for seeing fall colors — and taking a good stroll. It’s about 3.5 miles long and winds past the ocean and breathtaking estates. You can also tour the mansions while you’re at it. This area is pretty any time of year, but with fall foliage, it has an extra-special view.
Fall Colors Northeast: New Hampshire
The foliage hits prime colors in New Hampshire in late September through early October. That’s the best time to plan a trip through this New England state.
For good colors and good fun, head to the White Mountains region for a scenic drive on Route 112 between Lincoln and North Conway. The drive itself is beautiful, and you’ll end up in an area known for its tourist-friendly offerings. In North Conway, consider taking the Cog Railway up Mount Washington to see the stunning views at the top. You can hike it if you’re adventuresome, but read these tips first. Or just head to the outlets for tax-free shopping.
This is the state’s largest lake and a favorite spot for summer vacationers. Some businesses may be closed for the season by the time fall arrives, so phone ahead if there are any you particularly want to visit.
But mostly, enjoy the fall foliage reflected in the beautiful lake. This is perfect for a weekend trip to relax and enjoy autumn.
Is there a bad place in Vermont to see fall colors? Perhaps not. In this state, peak foliage colors can be found in late September and early October, with some good coloring found later in the month too.
Head to the Mountains for Fall Colors in the Northeast
Head to the mountains to take it all in. At Stowe Ski Resort, for instance, you can take the Gondola Skyride — used in-season to transport skiers up the mountain — to see the colors from above. At Mount Snow, take a ride on the chair lift to take in the views. Killington Ski Area has an Oktoberfest event that happens in October, so you can combine leaf peeping with enjoying good food and beer.
While in Vermont, you can also tour the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury and see how the famed ice cream is made.
Fall Colors in the Northeast USA
Where will you go? Wherever you head in the northeast this autumn, take time to enjoy the drive. And encourage your kids to do the same.
From simple family activities like visiting pumpkin patches and picking apples to road trip games like the counting colors game I played as a little girl, there are so many ways for families to enjoy autumn colors together. There are so many areas perfect for enjoying fall colors in the northeast from September through late October.