The Best Places to See New England Fall Foliage

Looking to see a kaleidoscope of glorious fall colors? Head to New England to watch Mother Nature paint the region in amazing shades of gold, crimson, and purple.

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Nothing says fall quite like seeing the leaves change color from bright green to brilliant shades of crimson, scarlet, gold, and purple. It’s just one of the many reasons fall just may be our favorite season. Of course, New England is a prime place to see this, with the first few weeks in October the ideal time to peek at the peak. “New England is the world’s quintessential fall foliage destination, and for good reason. From the mountains and forests of Maine and New Hampshire to the coastlines of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, there is a wide range of opportunities to view the colorful change of seasons,” says Chris Jennings, executive director of Discover New England. “The colors change for several weeks from north to south, so our wide, open spaces, scenic beauty, and the ability for visitors to escape crowds make fall in New England especially appealing.”

So, where should you go? We curated a list of the best spots to get a front-row seat to see New England’s stunning fall foliage. If you’re not in the area, check out the other amazing places in America to leaf-peep this fall.

Rhode Island’s Blackstone River Valley

There are myriad ways to discover New England fall foliage in Rhode Island’s beautiful Blackstone River Valley. Whether you take a bike ride through one of the hundreds of trails in the national park, pop by Albion Canoe Launch, or simply meander along the Blackstone River, you will be surrounded by the beauty of New England fall foliage here.

Where to stay: Looking to indulge and have the ultimate New England experience? Head to the Inn at Valley Farms. There, you can stay in your own private cottage, or in the Colonial-style inn, where you’ll be treated to a three-course, candlelight, farm-to-table, organic breakfast. (Yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds!) If you like the idea of having a place all to yourself, try these great Airbnbs to book for fall foliage views.

Maine’s Lakes and Mountains Region

Scenic View Of Lake Against Sky During AutumnSkyler Ewing / EyeEm/Getty Images“Maine is truly a special place in the fall,” says Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “Moving from north to south, our season of color can last up to six weeks, and seeing the foliage reflected in the water from one of our 6,000 lakes or ponds, or along the shores of Maine’s 3,500 miles of coastline just adds to the magic.” To experience some of Maine’s most brilliant foliage against dramatic water- and peak-filled backdrops, visit Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region, which historically sees peak New England fall foliage from the beginning to the middle of October.

Travel on the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway via Routes 17 and 4 for incredible vistas. The 52-mile drive wraps around Rangeley Lake and dots the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains before descending into rolling hills and valleys. Schedule an Instagram photo stop at the Height of Land, a scenic lookout on Route 17 with views of Mooselookmeguntic and Upper Richardson lakes, Toothaker Island, and the surrounding mountains.

Where to stay: Consider the historic Rangeley Inn, a landmark property right in the town of Rangeley that dates back to the 19th century and offers comfortable rooms and waterfront units with decks, as well as a cozy bar and lounge.

Boston’s Emerald Necklace

The Emerald Necklace, a ring of open green space created by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 19th century, is a splendid way to enjoy New England fall foliage in the heart of the city of Boston. Highlights include Franklin Park in Dorchester, the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond, Olmsted Park, the Riverway, and Back Bay Fens. Complete the Necklace by taking the Commonwealth Avenue Mall into the Public Garden and then to Boston Common.

Where to stay: You can’t go wrong with a stay right across the street at the upscale and beautifully appointed Revere Hotel Boston Common. Make sure to check out the hotel’s roof deck to enjoy views of Back Bay while enjoying a cocktail and some munchies. Visiting Boston definitely ranks among the East coast vacations you need to take at least once.

New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Franconia notch state park during fallPraveen P.N/Getty ImagesTake Route 302 from Twin Mountain to Bartlett to admire the dazzling display of New England foliage in Crawford Notch State Park in Hart’s Location, the smallest town in New Hampshire with just 43 residents. Be sure to explore the stunning views of the highest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington, and consider seeing the sights from the summit. Take a ride up on the oldest mountain climbing train in the world, Mount Washington Cog Railway, or drive yourself up via the Mount Washington Auto Road. Enjoy the scenic route through Crawford Notch State Park, and stop to enjoy any of the 10 waterfalls along the way.

Where to stay: Spend a night or two in luxury at the grand Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, which is just two and a half hours from Boston and where you’ll get to enjoy even more gorgeous scenery. Don’t miss these other stunning mountain towns in America, including another one in New Hampshire.

Litchfield Hills, Quiet Corner, and the Lower Connecticut River Valley

Connecticut has the longest—and one of the most colorful—fall foliage seasons in New England, so there’s really no wrong time to visit. But early to mid-October is a prime time to venture into Northwestern Connecticut or Litchfield Hills, says Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism. There, you’ll find scenic Route 7 and more than 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail, dotted with waterfalls and other natural wonders. It’s also a good time to travel to Northeastern Connecticut, sometimes called the “Quiet Corner,” home to Bigelow Hollow State Park and the Last Green Valley. Come mid- to late October, continues Fiveash, you’ll want to head south to the Lower Connecticut River Valley, where you can check out Gillette Castle State Park, Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, and more.

Where to stay: For an intimate and surprisingly affordable experience, stay at the Litchfield Inn, a charming boutique hotel that has just 20 guest rooms. While there, make sure to grab a bite at the hotel’s Tavern Off the Green for upscale pub food in a lovely setting. Here are another 16 of the best boutique hotels in America.

The Mohawk Trail, Boston to the Berkshires

Autumn leaf color along the Mohawk TrailHal Beral/Getty Images

The Mohawk Trail historic and scenic drive between the Boston area and Northern Berkshires is one of the most beautiful New England fall foliage drives. The 60-plus-mile trail, which follows a Native American trade route, runs east to west through the northwest part of the state (Route 2 and 2A between Westminster, near the Boston area, and Williamstown), straddling the Berkshire Mountains between the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys. A portion of the historic route is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and as you explore, you’ll find plenty of fall foliage and mountain streams, plus scenic viewpoints, historic spots, roadside attractions, and gift shops. Surrounded by state forest, the Berkshire Mountains are clearly visible along the route, and a variety of outdoor recreation is available, including whitewater rafting, ziplining, riding mountain coasters, and hiking.

Where to stay: Be one with nature at the Tourists hotel in North Adams. A modern and meticulously designed riverside retreat inspired by the classic American roadside motor lodge, it’s a perfect spot for resting your head and enjoying even more nearby trails and beautiful views.

New Hampshire’s Weeks State Park

“New Hampshire has a reputation as a destination to see stunning seasonal scenery,” notes New Hampshire Travel and Tourism Director Lori Harnois. “With more than 1,000 miles of designated scenic and cultural byways, visitors can embark on a journey through beautiful mountains, through lakeside towns, along the coast, through quintessential country villages, and off the beaten path down winding country roads.”

Head to New Hampshire’s Great North Woods from late September to early October, and make sure to stop in Weeks State Park, driving to the summit to visit the Weeks Estate, a 446-acre estate gifted to New Hampshire in the early 1940s by the children of U.S. congressman John Wingate Weeks. Here, you can enjoy a panorama view of stunning New England fall foliage, including the White Mountains Presidential Range, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Kilkenny Range, Percy Peaks, and the upper Connecticut River Valley.

Where to stay: Enjoy a slice of history at Thayers Inn, which has been in business since the mid-1800s. It’s located right in the heart of Littleton and is within walking distance to numerous restaurants.

Vermont’s Smugglers Notch

Scenic autumn drive through Smugglers Notch State Park...John Greim/Getty Images

“Vermont is primed for another great foliage season as the days shorten and sunny days with cool nights start to turn our forests of green into layers of color and vibrancy that our world-famous autumn landscape is known for,” says Nate Formalarie, communications director at the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. Smugglers Notch, in particular, is home to striking foliage, and you can get an even closer look at it all at Smugglers Notch State Park, which offers camping and hiking for all levels. There’s even a boardwalk on the Stowe side of the Notch, providing amazing foliage views for all ages and abilities.

Where to stay: Visitors rave about Smugglers Notch Resort, which offers oodles of family programming and seasonal activities (you’ll want to visit again in the winter and the summer) and boasts more than 2,200 near-perfect reviews on TripAdvisor. You can also choose from the multitude of lodging in historic downtown Stowe, home to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, the Stowe Recreation Path, and delicious local food and craft beverages. While in Vermont, you may also want to check out the state’s best-kept secret.

For more on where to go and what to see around the country, check out our Ultimate American Road Trip Guide.

Some sites listed here may not be open or may have limited hours or other restrictions due to COVID-19. Please check with them before you go.

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Stacey Marcus
Stacey Marcus is a regular contributor to RD.com where she covers subjects ranging from penguin secrets to Jeopardy! conundrums. Stacey’s work has also appeared on FamilyHandyman.com and TheHealthy.com as well as in top regional and national outlets including Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Destination I Do, Ocean Home Magazine, and Playboy.com. She earned a BA in Communications from Simmons University.