As a kid, I measured my summers in corn. Each year, at the beginning of June, my friends and I would ride our bikes to the neighborhood farm in my small New England town and watch the tractor methodically place the seedlings into the ground. By July, those seedlings would be hip-high, and by late August, they’d tower over us. That’s how we knew it was once again time for school. Though the thought of heading back to geometry class wasn’t exactly exciting, there was one natural phenomenon worth looking forward to: the leaves changing color.
By October, the trees looming in my backyard in Rhode Island were a picturesque mix of burnt orange, red, brown, magenta, and yellow. And while the years have gone by, those trees still turn the same rainbow hues each fall. I never knew how lucky I was to have this view until I came to learn about leaf peepers.
Every year, millions of people flock to New England to see the fall foliage. With a bit of planning and some good luck with the weather, you can experience it, too. Here are the best New England fall foliage destinations to visit. Just make sure to have an ear of corn for me on the way.
The optimal time to visit the northernmost state in New England is the second week in October, according to MaineFoliage.com. And one of the best spots to take it all in is the town of Camden. Here, leaf peepers can head to Camden Hills State Park, home of Mount Battie. Not only is the hike up beautiful, but the summit offers an unprecedented view of the colorful treetops. While there, book a stay at the charming Hartstone Inn, a bed-and-breakfast located in the heart of town.
The best time to visit Vermont to see the leaves change colors is the first week of October, according to NewEngland.com. And no trip would be complete without spending some time in the gorgeous mountain town of Stowe. Though the town was made famous by its world-class skiing, it’s still worth a visit in the fall to see the gorgeous foliage. Visitors can hike, mountain bike, or horseback bike through the multicolored forest. While in Stowe, stay at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, which offers special fall packages and is home to an extensive spa that’s sure to warm you up on a cool autumn day.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Tucked away along New Hampshire’s shoreline is Portsmouth, a city so charming that it could easily double as a Norman Rockwell painting. Take a stroll down Portsmouth’s Market Square as the tree-lined street changes color in mid-October. That, NewEngland.com notes, is the optimal fall foliage time in the region. In town, book a night at The Hotel Portsmouth, a charming bed-and-breakfast that perfectly mixes New England’s old-world style with modern amenities.
Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
Most of Massachusetts makes for excellent fall foliage viewing, but there’s perhaps nowhere better than the Mohawk Trail. The 60-plus-mile road runs from the New York border to the Connecticut River. Travelers can drive, hike, or mosey their way through the route and visit more than 100 attractions along the way. Come fall, don’t miss the Bridge of Flowers, an old trolley bridge in the town of Shelburne Falls, which comes to life with vibrant orange, yellow, and red maple leaves. In Shelburne, book a stay at the Cavalier Cottage, a pet-friendly bed-and-breakfast, for the ultimate New England getaway.
Newport, Rhode Island
There’s no wrong time to visit Newport. But perhaps the best time is those magical few weeks at the end of October when the leaves change colors and the Newport Mansions put on their spookiest Halloween shows. While visiting, drive down Ocean Road, a glorious coastal stretch that will leave you in awe. Arrive at dawn or dusk to avoid the crowds. In Newport, plan your stay at Gurney’s, which sits on the end of a peninsula overlooking Newport Bay.
Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Get behind the wheel and make your way to the Kancamagus Highway for a drive-thru leaf-peeping experience. The drive, which bookends the towns of Lincoln and Conway, snakes through White Mountain National Forest, stretching for more than 34 miles. Whether or not you pause along the way, you’ll feel as if you’re in a kaleidoscope of fall foliage. Must-see stops include the Sabbaday Falls in Conway, with sweeping forest views and a snapshot of Mount Washington. A drive like this calls for equally idyllic accommodations, which is what you’ll find at Kancamagus Swift River Inn, complete with its own hiking trails so you can admire the views at your leisure.
Old Lyme, Connecticut
The best time to check out the fall foliage in most of Connecticut is the second and third week of October, though its season can extend into the first week of November. If you’re planning a visit, book early as accommodations throughout the state sell out fast. One of the best places to visit is Old Lyme, a small town located along Connecticut’s coast. Though it’s a trendy summer vacation destination, its larger-than-life trees make it a top spot for foliage fans. In Old Lyme, stay at the nearby Copper Beech Inn, home to a delicious restaurant serving New England classics.
Montgomery offers two reasons to visit in the fall: foliage and covered bridges. Make your way to the tiny town for an autumn escape to remember. Its geography called for several covered bridges, which used to number above a dozen. Now, six covered bridges remain, making excellent photography stops in the fall as each is surrounded by a muted rainbow hue of leaves floating to the ground. In Montgomery, choose to stay at The Inn, a boutique hotel resembling a quintessential Vermont mountain chalet.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is another excellent Maine destination with glorious foliage views. Here, the fall colors generally peak between Oct. 13 and 22, but Mother Nature can be fickle, so make sure to be flexible. Come to the park for a lengthy hike or camp overnight and see just how much the leaves change day by day. For a little more luxury, book a stay at the nearby Claremont, a hotel with a glistening swimming pool for warmer days and a spa for those wanting to soothe their muscles following a hike in the national park.
Not all fall foliage escapes require getting out into nature — leaf peepers can also head to Boston for a city getaway. The city experiences its peak foliage throughout the month of October, with its best colors appearing around Halloween, according to Boston.gov. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to where they can see the changing seasons, including Boston Common, Back Bay Fens, and tree-lined neighborhoods like the North End and Beacon Hill. There are plenty of hotels in the city, too, though the Four Seasons is a top-notch choice that often offers fall foliage packages to help guests make the most of their stay.