Summer is great and winter has its charms, but not much can beat the technicolor magic that is fall foliage in New England. Vibrant hues, crisp blue skies, balmy sunshine, and an endless array of small towns to visit along the way. What more could you want? Well, maybe some apple cider donuts and a cozy spot by the fire, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
If you haven’t been able to go on an official “leaf-peeping” excursion, now’s your chance! Your eyes will be filled with awe as you admire the evolving shades and tones that sweep across New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Let’s dive in to our 10 best spots to see fall foliage in New England.
10 Best Spots in New England for Fall Foliage
1. Kancamagus Highway — New Hampshire
Spanning nearly 35 miles, this picturesque and tree-lined drive is one of the region’s absolute best. Start off in Lincoln and head through the White Mountain National Forest, taking in the numerous overlooks and scenic stops along the way. You won’t want to rush it, so just sit back and take it at a laid-back pace. Fan favorites include the C.L. Graham Overlook, Sabbaday Falls for a picnic, and Bretton Woods for the killer views of Mount Washington.
2. Lake Winnipesaukee Loop — New Hampshire
The only way to dial up the beauty on fall foliage is to add a nice body of water to the mix. Hop in the car and take a drive around New Hampshire’s biggest lake; the waterfront views contrasting with the fiery leaves will leave you in awe. This loop is nearly 100 miles around, so you’ll be getting more than enough bang for your buck. Take your time, hop out for lunch and a walk around one of the small towns you encounter along the way. If you need a bit more adrenaline, you can take an extended break for some hiking or fishing.
3. Route 100 — Vermont
If you’re looking for the quintessential New England autumnal experience, Vermont hits the nail right on the head. Route 100 is like taking a trip back in time and will take you through some of the state’s most charming towns and villages. If you’re looking to stretch out your legs, take a hike to the top of Mount Killington (the views!). Make a weekend out of it and stay in Stowe or Mad River Valley for some delicious local cuisine, craft breweries, and all the gorgeous leaves you can handle.
4. Montgomery — Vermont
You’re in for a treat if you come to Montgomery. Not only are the fall leaves to die for, but this town is also known as Vermont’s Covered Bridge Capital, so your camera roll is going to be in overdrive. There are six covered bridges in town, all of them perfect spots for a quiet stroll with hot cider and engaging conversation. If you’re keen to keep going, you can take a stab at the 15 miles of trails in the surrounding area.
5. Coastal Route 1 — Maine
One of New England’s most scenic coastal drives, Route 1 is jam-packed with beautiful views, charming towns, and delicious treats to keep you going. Get things started in Portland and head north toward Brunswick, Bath, or Rockport where you’ll see luxe seaside mansions, lighthouses, and of course lobster rolls. An added bonus is that you can stock up on classic outdoor gear at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. Wind things down in Camden, which will serve as the cherry on top of what’s surely to be an unforgettable road trip experience.
6. Acadia National Park — Maine
Nature lovers, rejoice. Northeast of Camden, Acadia National Park (located on Mount Desert Island) is perhaps the most sublimely superlative leaf-peeping destination. Nearly 30 miles long, Park Loop Road has dozens of spots to observe and photograph the changing leaves. Cadillac Mountain also provides some dramatic and sweeping views, too. You could plan to stay the night in a nearby town and get day passes to visit the park; if you’re feeling more adventurous there’s also the option to camp inside the park itself.
7. Route 7 — Connecticut
The northwestern part of Connecticut around Litchfield Hills is chock full of rolling green hills, charming villages, and lovely river views. Start things off in Norwalk along the coast, head through Kent Falls State Park (hello, waterfalls!), and then visit Woodbury, aka the antiques capital of Connecticut. Wind down in Litchfield Hills for a quintessential New England moment: leisurely walks, horseback rides, even hot air balloon excursions!
8. Route 9 — Connecticut
Connecticut may be small but it’s packed with beautiful fall foliage. The Lower Connecticut River Valley is a perfect basecamp for fall fun and foliage. Did you know that the town of Essex was named “the perfect small American town” by 1,000 Places to See Before You Die? You can also visit Old Lyme, which is home to a museum full of work by iconic Impressionists Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, and more. If you’re looking for a healthy dose of culture and aesthetics after you check out the leaves, this is the spot for you.
9. Route 6A — Massachusetts
Cape Cod isn’t just a summer destination: it offers beauty and fun year-round. Its postcard-worthy towns are just as charming and abuzz with activity throughout the fall, and taking a trip along route 6A is a fantastic idea. Kick things off at the Sagamore Bridge and ride through Sandwich (the oldest town on the Cape). Moving on, pass through Yarmouth Port, Dennis, and eventually onto Brewster. Once you arrive, the 22 miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Nickerson State Park will give you plenty of reasons to keep going.
10. Ocean Drive — Rhode Island
Rhode Island may be petite, but it surely packs a punch. You might find the best views-per-square-mile ratio in all of New England, in fact. Its stunning 11-mile Ocean Drive loop offers a unique chance to be appreciated by bike, so you might want to think about leaving your car parked at the hotel. Your adventure starts off on the Bellevue Avenue side of the Loop, where you’ll pass through colorful yellowwoods, beech trees, and the stately mansions that will give you serious house envy. You’ll appreciate dual views of the Rhode Island Sound on one side, and contrasting colorful leaves on your right. Treat yourself to a drink in Newport Harbor when you’re done and call it a day.