Top Ten Best Fall Foliage Driving Routes in New England

by on October 17, 2011

The Best Fall Foliage Driving Routes New England Has to Offer

The fall foliage in the United States is often said to be most brilliant in New England, and they’re probably right. The colors are more vibrant and bright, and contrast against the darks browns, granite, and greens like nowhere else. Vermont, New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts rank amongst the top destinations, however, there are equally scenic leaf peeping opportunities in Maine, eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and throughout Connecticut.

If you’re looking for the best places to see during the autumn months, then keep reading for the top ten fall foliage driving routes in New England. Note these are in no particular order, but all have tremendous autumn foliage views. If you have an additional place you think people should check out, add your comment at the bottom of this page!

Stowe VermontVermont Route 100

Route 100 in Vermont is one of the most scenic areas of New England, and the perfect place to head to during the fall. Even when fall foliage isn’t present, there’s covered bridges, old churches, babbling brooks, waterfalls, and mountains along this road that make it a beautiful scenic drive. The route starts near the town of North Adams, in Massachusetts, and winds up a meandering path close to the Canadian border, near Lake Memphremagog. If you can only drive one road in Vermont, this is the one.

Vermont Route 100Fall foliage peak times along the road vary because of the great distance, but usually wind up being between the last week of September to the third week of October. There are many pullovers, general stores, and small towns to explore along the route like Waterbury, Hancock, Mt. Snow, Ludlow, and Dover. Much of the state can be easily accessed through this north-south running road.

Mount Monadnock

Mount Monadnock

The sweeping views offered at the top of scenic Mount Monadnock.

There are no major highways or roads that lead to Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire. What you will find along the way is the peaceful town of Hancock, New Hampshire close by, and some of the most backcountry parts of the state that exist. Located in the southwest corner of the state, the town of Hancock is just a tiny town with no real attractions except its New England style quaintness. The town green and church provide some beautiful shots, with the mountain backdrops behind it. This town can be accessed via Route 123, which is also a gorgeous drive.

Looping around Mount Monadnock, you can find great views of the mountain and surrounding ponds and lakes that encompass the area. Mountain Road, Route 124, leads just behind the mountain. Route 137 leads to the beautiful Mount Monadnock State Park, via Lower Jaffrey Road. The fall foliage here is stunning against the lakes with the mountain backdrop, and also a memorable view from the heights of the mountain.

fall foliage berkshiresMohawk Trail

The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts runs through much of the Berkshires, ending near the town of North Adams. The Mohawk Trail provides a glimpse into the beauty of the small towns that are nestled into the foothills and mountains of this section of the Adirondacks. The Mohawk Trail follows Route 2, which begins in the Boston area, but the scenic region does not begin until you reach west of Springfield.

The Mohawk Trail can be reached by taking I-91 north from Springfield, MA, and is a quintessential part of any New England road trip. This will lead north to the towns of Hatfield, Deerfield, and Greenfield. Route 2, the Mohawk Trail, is accessible by taking the exit off of I-91 west towards the Berkshires. After the town of Charlmont, you’ll ascend into the Berkshire region through towns like Drury, Florida, and North Adams. After your trip through the Mohawk Trail, be sure to take a scenic drive through beautiful Williamstown, MA, which leads directly to both New York and Vermont.

Connecticut Wine Trail

Located mostly in the Litchfield Hills region of Connecticut, the Connecticut Wine Trail is the perfect place to experience the fall foliage, since it coincides with harvest time. Split across two separate trails, there are 20 wineries between the two trails. Part of the appeal of the wine trail isn’t just the wine, but also the spectacular scenery that can be found between the wineries. The foliage peak time in the state varies, but is usually between the last week of September and the last week of October. Different elevations have different peak times because of the colder temperatures.

Kancamagus Highway

kancamagus highwayOf all of the scenic highways in New England, Kangamagus Highway in New Hampshire might be the most spectacular. It winds through the White Mountains of the Granite State, with clear running streams, pine covered mountains, and outstanding views of the White Mountain range. For the best views, try to beat the weekend traffic, when it can be particularly busy on the highway. There are many pullovers on the highway, as well as hiking trails.

To get to the Kancamagus Highway, take I-93 to the town of North Woodstock/Lincoln in New Hampshire. Taking Route 112 is the same as taking the Kancamagus. Gas up before heading into the White Mountain National Forest, because the nearest gas station isn’t until North Conway. The highway will terminate at Route 113 in the town of Conway. Head north to the town of North Conway to find this must-see small town at the base of Mount Washington.

For more scenic driving in New Hampshire, head north to the headwaters of the Connecticut River in the town of Pittsburg, or west to the towns along the Connecticut River like Lebanon and Woodstock, VT.

Mount Washington

Mount Washington fall foliage Mount Washington is the highest peak in New England, and is where the highest winds have ever been recorded in the world. Don’t let that stop you from experiencing the beautiful views this mountain has to offer, because they truly are unforgettable. Mount Washington can be accessed through the town of North Conway, but the Auto Road is closed in inclement weather. If you’re not one much for steep roads that wind up a mountain, you can also take the Cog Railroad that heads up the mountain, or one of the buses that also drive to the top. From the top, you can see the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

The views from the top of the mountain aren’t the only thing that should make you want to visit the Observatory. The area claims to have the “worst weather in the world,” and has recorded winds up to 231 mph. 2/3 of the time, the summit has fog, rain, snow, or some sort of cloud cover. This makes for a dramatic trip, to say the least! Mount Washington’s fall foliage peaks far faster than the rest of New England, with snow starting to fall in October, and peak color striking before that.

Blackstone Valley

The Blackstone River Valley is a hidden gem in the middle of Massachusetts and through part of northern Rhode Island. The valley was once a popular Industrial era area, but has since experienced a resurgence. The area is full of hills and valleys along the Blackstone River corridor, with many backroads and scenic views available in towns like Upton, Millville, Uxbridge, Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, and Smithfield.This area experiences peak fall foliage time around mid October usually. Other spots you might be able to see foliage in Massachusetts are the South Shore and Cape Cod.

Portland Head LighthousePortland to Freeport, Maine

While the state of Maine as a whole doesn’t experience the same brilliant fall foliage as Vermont or New Hampshire, that’s because much of the state is coastal. The coast almost always experiences duller foliage, but that’s not the case in towns from Portland to Freeport. These towns have the colder temperatures combined with the ocean breeze that make for a really pleasant fall trip. Foliage here peaks in mid October. The highway that best links the two towns is Route 295, however, Route 1 is a much more scenic route. To the north of Freeport, towns like Bath, Rockland, and Bar Harbor have well known sites to see including historic villages, lighthouses, and sweeping ocean panoramas. To the south, be sure to visit Portland’s cobblestone streets and Freeport’s New England style outlet shopping.

Hudson River Valley

Hudson River ValleyYeah, we know, it’s not New England, but it’s close to it (distance wise that is, don’t worry Yankees fans). The Hudson River Valley has some of the most impressive fall foliage in the northeast, with miles of trails, scenic drives, and even highway driving that offer brilliant leaf color. Both sides of the Hudson River have roads that hug the banks, like route 9 on the east side of the river. Destinations like West Point, Storm King, and Bear Mountain are breathtaking. Further upstate past Albany, you can see more brightly colored foliage that often peaks sooner than the valley in towns like Glens Falls, Ticonderoga, and Whitehall (though these are not considered part of the valley, but part of the . To see the best foliage in the valley, head here in the middle of October (sometimes the beginning of October – check local fall foliage maps ahead of time).

Mount Killington

Mount KillingtonMount Killington is an impressive peak on Route 4 in Vermont. It is between the city of Rutland and Quechee Gorge, in the middle of the state. It is also adjacent to the quaint town of Woodstock. Killington, like most other high peaks, experiences fall foliage a little bit earlier than most other lower elevation areas. The top of the peak might be past its own peak foliage time by the last week of September. To get to the top of the peak, take the ski lift from halfway up the mountain. When you get to the top, you might want to take the Alpine Slides back down, but not before enjoying the tremendous views of Mount Washington, Montpelier, Upstate New York, the Berkshires, the White Mountains, and the Green Mountains all around. After your trip up the mountain, visit Woodstock for its unmistakable New England feel, complete with covered bridges, winding brooks alongside the road, and a historic town center.

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