Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Fall in New England: When & Where to Go in 2024

New England is a popular destination for fall vacations, with its crisp, cool weather; the pick-your-own produce and fresh-pressed cider at family-owned farms; some of the country’s best harvest festivals; and – the main attraction – stunning foliage.

Perhaps the only challenge of visiting New England (or any destination known for its fall foliage) this time of year is figuring out exactly when to go for prime leaf peeping. Visit too soon and the fall colors may not have peaked; visit too late and the trees may be bare. So when (and where) should you go?

The Best Time to Visit New England in the Fall

Camden and Penobscot Bay viewed from Mount Battie, Maine, in the fall.

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For peak (or close to peak) fall foliage in 2024, plan to visit New England the first week of October.

“We are looking at a ‘normal’ slow-burn year, where we should not expect any early peak color,” explains Jeff “Foliage” Folger, a New England resident, photographer and former fall foliage blogger for Yankee Magazine. “Meaningful colors should begin to show around Oct. 1 to 3.”

He also notes that prime leaf-peeping times vary by location. “Two valleys on different sides of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, can have much different levels of fall colors. It all depends on the temps in those valleys and how much sun they get, etc.”

10 Scenic Places to See New England Fall Foliage

Folger, other New England natives and our editorial staff recommend the following New England destinations for a fall visit.

Cabot, Vermont

Yes, this is the town where the famous cheese company got its start, and you can tour the processing plant (for free) before shopping at the Cabot Creamery co-op. You can also explore downtown Cabot, pick your own apples at Burtt’s Apple Orchard and, just outside of town, visit the historic AM Foster Covered Bridge.

Montgomery, Vermont

Waterville, Vermont, Montgomery Covered Bridge with fall foliage.

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Folger prefers going off the beaten path in Vermont. “A drive on Route 58 in Hazen’s Notch near Montgomery means you will almost be alone (usually),” he says. You’ll also spot as many as seven covered bridges – the perfect backdrop for fall foliage photos – as Montgomery is considered the “Covered Bridge Capital” of Vermont.

Stowe, Vermont

The community church of Stowe, Vermont, among the autumn landscape.

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Before the first snowfall descends upon this famous ski town, Stowe touts another reason to visit: the stunning fall foliage. Nicknamed “Fall’s Color Capital,” Stowe offers a plethora of outdoor activities, from biking and zip lining amid the changing leaves to strolling through downtown Stowe, a quintessential Vermont experience.

There’s no shortage of scenic drives, either. Folger recommends heading north on state Route 108 (also known as the Smugglers’ Notch Pass Scenic Highway) toward Smugglers’ Notch. For the ultimate experience, book a stay at the dog-friendly Topnotch Resort, located in the foothills of Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont.

Lakes Region of New Hampshire

Shore of lake in New Hampshire in the fall.

Courtesy of New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism

“There are many little towns like Meredith and Wolfeboro to visit, shop, and grab a bite to eat,” says Folger. “Also on the East side of Lake Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough, you will find the Castle in the Clouds.” For optimal leaf-peeping conditions in the lakes region, he recommends visiting between Oct. 10 and 17.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Aerial of Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire, surrounded by trees in the fall.

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One of the most scenic drives in New England, the Kancamagus Highway bursts with color in the fall. The roughly 35-mile remote route takes travelers through White Mountain National Forest, with views of the White Mountains in the distance and the smell of fresh pine up close.

“The Kanc” is also convenient for another epic experience in New Hampshire: the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Opened in 1869, it is the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway.

The state tourism board recommends starting your journey in Lincoln. Drive along the Kancamagus Highway (state Route 112) to Conway, then take state Route 16 north through North Conway. From there, you’ll carry on along U.S. Route 302 through Crawford Notch to the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Then, from the Cog, you can take U.S. Route 3 to Interstate 93 through Franconia Notch State Park back to Lincoln. Or, you might consider spending the night at the famous Omni Mount Washington Resort – the perfect spot for a romantic New Hampshire getaway.

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Camden, Maine

Camden Harbor, Maine, on a fall morning.

Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism

While Acadia National Park and the neighboring town of Bar Harbor are undeniably stunning (and particularly popular) in the fall, don’t overlook the charming town of Camden, about 80 miles southwest.

One of the best places to visit in Maine, this coastal village offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails – including plenty of easy-to-moderate paths – at Camden Hills State Park. If you’re up for a challenge, take the famous Mount Battie Trail, which rewards hikers with stunning views of Penobscot Bay. Afterward, head into town for a bite to eat by the water and some shopping.

Deerfield, Massachusetts

“I love the Pioneer Valley, which follows Route 91 and Route 5 south from Vermont into Massachusetts,” says Folger. He recommends Deerfield, in particular. “Historic Deerfield is full of old-period homes and many are open for tours. You can visit the shops and wander the streets. Then you can head over to the Yankee Candle Factory, which as most people know is a feast for your nose.” He also recommends exploring state conservation areas like Mount Tom and Sunderland. “You can either drive up or hike up and get great panoramic views.”

Lenox, Massachusetts

Autumn in the small village of Lenox, Massachusetts.

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A stunning rural region in the mountains of western Massachusetts, the Berkshires are known for breathtaking scenery, especially in the fall. Leaf-peeping experiences include hiking, scenic drives, hot air balloon rides and the Hoosac Valley Train Rides in Adams.

Travel editor and New England native Ashley Rossi particularly likes the town of Lenox. “Lenox is home to historic museums, world-class spas, farms, and of course, incredible mountainous landscapes come fall,” she says. After you see the foliage up close on foot at October Mountain State Forest, Rossi recommends heading to Edith Wharton’s estate (The Mount) or the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum for a history lesson. You can also tour the grounds of Tanglewood (for free), the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. For unique, luxury accommodations, check into the Life House, Berkshires.

Essex, Connecticut

For a later fall getaway (Oct. 15 to Nov. 5), Folger recommends Essex, Connecticut, for a scenic ride along the Essex Steam Train. Downtown Essex is downright adorable in the fall as well.

Narragansett, Rhode Island

Point Judith Lighthouse in the fall at sunset.

Courtesy of Visit Rhode Island

Folger also likes Narragansett, where you can visit the Point Judith Lighthouse, enjoy a quiet stroll on one of the local beaches and visit the iconic Narraganssett Brewery, which hosts seasonal events. While you’re in the area, you can also visit Newport, Rhode Island, and its historic mansions, about 15 miles away.

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Looking up through aspen trees in the fall.

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