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Autumn is a favorite season in the northeast. The crisp weather, brilliant fall foliage, and popular annual activities like apple picking and pumpkin patch visits make it especially delightful. The prime reason so many people come from across the globe is to see the colors. There’s nothing like it with hues that range from scarlet red to burnt oranges and golden yellows, creating scenes that look as if they were painted with Mother Nature’s brush. To enjoy the very best, consider a trip to one of these top destinations.
Killington is famous for its ski resort, but it also happens to be one of the best places in the northeast to marvel at striking autumn hues. By riding the gondola, you can take in a panoramic view of the landscape blanketed in fiery reds, brilliant oranges, and golden yellows from above. On a clear day, the view stretches across five states and even into Canada. For a big thrill, hitch a ride on the Beast Mountain Coaster at Snowshed Lodge, which twists and turns through the woods. If you’re looking for a way to get more active, consider hiking up to Killington Peak instead, a 3.6-mile trek via the Bucklin Trail.
The Lakes Region of New Hampshire, which includes Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, Lake Ossipee, Mirror Lake, Newfound Lake, and Lake Winnisquam, is one of the world’s best destinations for viewing the vibrant golds and reds of autumn thanks to its high elevation. It’s also protected from the harsh coastal winds, providing the best chance for a long leaf-peeping season, typically running from late September through late October. Your days can be spent paddling in a canoe or kayak while surrounded by some of the most magnificent views with red maples along the water’s edge reflected into the water.
A stroll through the tree-lined streets of Providence brings the opportunity for leaf-peeping in historic neighborhoods and parks. The 435 acres in Roger Williams Park is home to more than 5,000 trees, while the College Hill neighborhood is full of cultural attractions like the famous RISD Museum and Greek Revival-style Providence Atheneum. There are miles of winding roads for a scenic drive and multiple attractions to enjoy, too, including a Japanese garden, a botanical garden, ten lakes, and the Roger Williams Park Zoo. You can pick the perfect pumpkin at Jaswell’s Farm, a fall favorite loved for its baked goods and apple cider. For perfect fall foliage views of the city, head to Prospect Terrace Park or sip cocktails on the Bellini Rooftop when staying at The Beatrice, a luxury boutique hotel set in the iconic 1887 Exchange Building.
One of the best family destinations in the northeast, fall foliage views can be enjoyed right from downtown Lake Placid. Tucked into the Adirondacks, it is the largest natural wilderness region in the eastern U.S. The beech, birch, maple, and oak trees around the lake will be bursting into fiery red, vivid yellow and orange hues dotted among the green of the dense forest. Mirror Lake Drive encircles Mirror Lake and brings even more stunning beauty. From here, you’ll enjoy a panoramic vista of the village and the mountains behind it. You might want to plan your trip around one of the fall festivals, with the Flaming Leaves Festival in early October featuring a variety of vendors, mouthwatering BBQ, lawn games, and chairlift rides to the top of the ski jump.
Nestled in the heart of the Berkshires, Stockbridge is one of the top destinations to base yourself for leaf-peeping in New England. Soak up the views while hiking, biking, and birdwatching, and then come back to enjoy the many delights in town. The charming streets are lined with antique shops and museums, including the Norman Rockwell Museum. This is the birthplace of the 20th-century American author, painter, and illustrator, and the museum boasts an extensive collection of his original works and personal memorabilia along with his study. You can also find out which area landmark inspired author Herman Melville to write his classic Moby Dick.
The small town of Bar Harbor on the northeastern side of Mount Desert Island is part of Acadia National Park, offering the opportunity to enjoy the mountains and the sea along with a spectacular array of fall colors. It’s frequently ranked among the best destinations in the U.S. for autumn foliage, with some of the most stunning colors seen along the 40-mile stretch of the Acadia Byway, making it ideal for a scenic drive. There’s lots to see and do here, as you can always hit the trails on foot or two wheels to enjoy the scenery while getting active. One of the top treks to take for a panorama of color is from the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Just about any town in Vermont will put you close to brilliant foliage, but if you visit Woodstock in late September, you’ll not only enjoy all the color, but you can take part in the Harvest Celebration at the Billings Farm & Museum. Take part in all of those fun, old-fashioned seasonal activities, including taste-testing apples, trying your hand at the cider press, wagon rides, making apple and pumpkin ice cream, and more. If you miss it, the color can usually be enjoyed all the way through the third week of October.
The Preserve near Essex offers nearly 1,000 acres of woodlands for your fall viewing pleasure, but the main reason to come here is to take the Essex Steam Train, which offers a ride through spectacular autumn landscapes that surround the Connecticut River Valley, pulled by an authentic steam engine. There are several different options that are available on weekdays and weekends to take in the scenery. The Essex Clipper Dinner Train is offered on the weekends and includes seasonal dishes enjoyed in first-class dining cars. Or, combine a ride with an excursion on a steamboat to take in the views from the water, too.
The Catskills are another one of the most breathtaking places for immersing yourself in a kaleidoscope of color, with many small charming towns to base yourself in, such as Windham, one of the oldest towns in the region. Often referred to as the “gem of the Catskills,” the charming downtown is incredibly picturesque, with the historic main street lined with locally-owned restaurants and boutiques along with quaint inns, B&Bs, and resorts. From here, you can enjoy a leisurely drive along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, which stretches for 52 miles, showcasing gorgeous colors along the way.
In the remote Northeast Kingdom, which covers the northeast corner of Vermont, you’ll catch sight of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn blanketing the landscape. Plus, there are thousands of lakes and ponds, with the highest density of freshwater lakes and ponds in the entire state. Combined with the color reflected in the still water, it’s guaranteed to take your breath away. The area is home to numerous opportunities for outdoor adventure, too, including excellent fishing, hiking, and mountain biking, while plenty of world-class beer can be found for quenching your thirst afterward.
Conway is in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest, offering a dazzling array of colors in the fall. From here, you’ll be just a short drive from Sabbaday Falls, which is only a half-mile from the trailhead, or you can take in the breathtaking views of Mount Washington just north. Hop on the Conway Scenic Railway that departs right from town to take in some of the most scenic landscapes, including the famous Crawford Notch, with the red, yellow, and orange hues peaking from late September through mid to late October.
Nestled in the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut, Kent is one of the best spots in the state for enjoying autumn foliage and countless photo-ops. In fact, the village was once named the No. 1 Fall Foliage Town in New England by Yankee Magazine. You’ll find covered bridges, sparkling lakes, and opportunities for everything from antiquing to fishing, kayaking, and hiking. Kent Falls State Park is home to the state’s highest waterfall, with a scenic trail leading to its summit. Plus there are some unique museums and shops right in town.
There may be no better place in the northeast for those who are interested in history, ghosts, and fall foliage than Salem. The first two to three weeks of October is when the leaves on the trees will be at their peak when it comes to color, coinciding with the town’s Halloween celebration that takes place all month long. While you enjoy all the haunted happenings, the famous Salem Witch Museum, ghost tours, shopping, and dining, the streets with their magnificent historic homes and buildings will be highlighted by gorgeous foliage. For some of the best photos, head to one of the local cemeteries where the leaves blanket the ground in between old gravestones.
The Rangeley Lakes area of Maine includes soaring peaks and multiple lakes that are even more dazzling in autumn, splashed with the yellows, oranges, and reds of the season, contrasted by high-altitude evergreens. Just to the west of Rangeley Lake, 16,000-acre Mooselookmeguntic Lake has a 60-mile-long shoreline where you can test your luck at catching salmon, perch, brown and brook trout while enjoying the breathtaking view. It’s also a serene spot to paddle around in a kayak or canoe. Keep an eye out for the many moose that inhabit the area, with Route 16 East between Rangeley and Stratton one of the best places to see them.