If you’re looking for a stunning fall road trip, you won’t find anything more stunning than a New England road trip!
Winding through country roads under a canopy of rustic fall colors, visiting quaint towns, staying in an elegant B&B or a lodge with a roaring fire and a glass of your favorite drop. Hiking, driving, stopping for photos…
This post covers all six New England states (no, there is no New England state – seriously, people ask!), with tips for great places to take photos, hike and gaze at the views, plus some recommendations for where to stay.
New England covered in fall foliage is the most colorful destination in the United States.
Whether you are looking for weekend break ideas or a much longer vacation, taking a New England road trip to see the incredible fall colors is breathtaking.
If you don’t have the time to explore all of New England, this Cape Cod road trip is an easy drive from Boston, or about five hours from New York and has more than 100 beaches to choose from.
Or if you’ve always wanted to do an East Coast road trip, try this itinerary from New York to Florida passing through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
When is the best time to see New England’s fall colors?
You need to time it just right for peak fall foliage! And therein lies the difficulty with knowing just when to book.
Pro tip: If you’re arriving here in late September to mid October, drive through the Northern states and Western MA for better odds of seeing vibrant colors. For those who are arriving in mid October to the end of the season, stick to the more southern parts of the region.
Disclaimer! It is hard to gauge the best time for fall color because historic patterns are changing now with warmer and dryer weather so, assuming you have a car, you might need to improvise on the fly.
It pays to be flexible, if you can be, between early October and early November. The colors are totally dependant on the weather, so each year they will turn at slightly different times.
Another pro tip: try and plan your visit mid-week to avoid weekend crowds (and rates)!
(Of course being too flexible and not booking your accommodation well in advance means the prices will be higher. Or booked out! Yikes, it’s a fine balance.)
Here’s a cheeky tip: use sites like booking.com with a cancelation policy, and book a couple of different weeks, then cancel one nearer the time.
This detailed New England fall foliage guide should go a long way to helping you get the best views in the best places at the right time. It is filled with links so you can check on the latest updates and covers everything you need to know to have a blast during your road trip.
Enjoy your vacation as the trees change color and slip from summer into autumn while taking pictures like a pro! And if you are taking photos on your phone, I put together this easy guide for how to take great pics on an iPhone.
The six states of New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island) edged by the Atlantic coastline and dotted with snow-capped mountains, are full of history and hidden gems, not to mention bathed in stunning color from late September, so if it’s not already on your road trip bucket list, you might want to add a fall road trip it after reading this!
If you need some fun road trip games to play, I’ve got 52 in this post to get you started!
New England is a hugely popular region for a USA road trip, and every fall the thick canopy of trees become a party changing from green into bright yellows, reds, oranges and every shade in between, starting in the north and blazing south across hills and valleys.
Roads are carpeted with vibrant leaves, parks gleam with the colorful promise of winter, small towns celebrate the changing season and mountainous landscapes take on a whole new character. The leaf peeping season has begun!
Best places to see the fall colors in every NE state
Below are my best tips for where leaf peepers need to go to see the best of fall in New England, as well as the best hiking trails, best viewpoints for photos, best things to do and best places to stay for fall fans.
For the latest info on when peak foliage will occur, visit the New England Fall Foliage forecast.
VERMONT IN FALL
One of the most famous places to see New England’s fall colors is Vermont.
Vermont in fall is a great place for first-time leaf-peepers to get a real taste of the beauty that this time of year brings to the region. Pack your favorite cosy sweaters for a surreal getaway full of autumn fever.
You’ll come across pumpkin patches and apple orchards to stock up on cider – and even apple cider donuts! At Shelburne Orchards in northern Vermont, you can pick your own apples and try their cask-aged Apple Brandy made on the premises.
Vermont boasts some of the most incredibly scenic parks, historic covered bridges, lakes and dams, making it a must-see during autumn.
The Green Mountains are a long chain of 657 named peaks that run the length of the state, about 250 miles and are part of the Appalachian Mountains. The most prominent is Mount Mansfield. A small portion of the range (the Berkshires) also exists in Massachusetts, and technically it also extends into Connecticut where it’s known as Litchfield Hills.
Taking a drive through the southern region of Vermont is something you (and your camera) will never forget.
You can even visit Manchester Vermont for the weekend from NYC for fly fishing, hiking, kayaking or golf. Or just hit the shops and restaurants here and soak up a little history.
Vermont is the covered bridge capital with over 100 covered bridges, boasting more per square mile than any other state. (And they’re proud of it!) Vermont’s covered bridges, built in the 1800s, have been used as settings for ghost stories, wedding photo shoots, and peaceful drives.
You see the bridges on a map here if you’re after a picturesque moment.
Best road trips in Vermont are:
- Edson Hill and West Hill (10.9 miles)
- Brush Hill (8.4 miles)
- Craftsbury Common and Hazen’s Notch (107 miles)
- Jeffersonville, Johnson and Hyde Park (41.3 miles)
- Stowe Hollow and Little River Dam (30.9 miles)
Where to stay in Vermont
Choosing where to stay in Vermont in the fall is all about finding a hotel that caters for your fall foliage needs. One of the best hotels to enjoy an easy escape is the Grafton Inn.
This hotel is charming, with everything you need to be comfortable, whilst also offering beautiful leaf-peeping opportunities.
Best hikes to see Vermont fall foliage
Hiking during fall is an ideal way to marvel at the beauty – and take plenty of pics. Some of the best hikes for nature lovers and photographers are:
Each of these trails has its own unique tone, and they’re all suitable for beginner hikers.
Best fall viewpoints in Vermont
Vermont has so many gorgeous landscapes that become even more beautiful during the fall. The best places to go to soak in the sights of the fall colors in Vermont are found on:
- Equinox Mountain
- Bromley Mountain
- Emerald Lake State Park
Perfect photo opp in Vermont
Vermont is known for having stunning apple orchards, and your road trip here would not be complete without stopping to enjoy one.
If you’re looking for the perfect photo op (and to pick up a couple of bottles of their delicious apple cider), look no further than Champlain Orchards. This apple orchard captures the historic feel of Vermont, whilst also providing sweeping views over the surrounding mountain range’s foliage.
NEW HAMPSHIRE IN FALL
This dreamy location is a haven to go to with your loved ones to revel in the scenery of autumn, with mountainous backdrops galore.
Mount Washington, located in the White Mountains, is the highest peak in the Northeast, (Blue Ridge and Smokey peaks are taller) but of course every mountain wants to claim a title, so let’s go with the tallest north of North Carolina and East of the Mississippi River!
It held the world record for strongest windspeed ever recorded (231mph/372kph) from 1934-1996 outside of a tornado or hurricane – so hold on to your hat!
In fact they’re quite proud of it and if you visit the Mount Washington Observatory, you’ll be able to visit the “home of the world’s worst weather”!
This laid-back and old-country destination provides so many gorgeous pit stops, with plenty of sightseeing opportunities. Here are some beautiful driving routes for fall sightseeing:
- Currier & Ives Scenic Byway (30 miles)
- Moose Alley (12 miles )
- The Kancamagus Highway (56.39 miles)
- The Lakes Loop (134 miles)
- The Sunapee Loop (140 miles)
Where to stay in New Hampshire
New Hampshire is overflowing with chic, cosy and picturesque accommodation spots dotted throughout. However, not all of these options have unforgettable foliage views of New England.
The best option is to stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. This luxury hotel has unbeatable views over the surrounding forest during fall that will keep you captivated and elegant rooms to luxuriate in when you’ve come back from yet another photo walk.
Best hikes in New Hampshire
Hiking in New Hampshire is sure to be a rewarding experience for everyone wanting to enjoy priceless views of New England in the fall.
Here are some excellent scenic drives and hiking trails that will take you on exquisite journeys through the wilderness.
- The White Mountain Trail – is a scenic 100-mile loop drive that includes the Kancamagus Highway. The majority of the family attractions are located off this loop.
- Moose Path Trail – is also a drive. It’s basically Moose alley see here: Moose Path Trail | North Country Byways
- Willard Mountain
- Red Hill Fire Tower
- Mount Major Loop
Best viewpoints in New Hampshire
If you’re looking for the pinnacle viewpoints, then you’re in luck. Here are the best places to go to indulge in marvellous sightseeing during the fall.
- Mount Monadnock
- Foss Mountain
- Franconia Notch State Park
- Jericho Mountain State Park
By the way, Mount Monadnock, in the southwest part of the state, also referred to as the Currier & Ives part of NH is the second most hiked mountain in the world behind Mt Fuji! Arethusa Falls is another hike in the White Mountain National Forest that has a stunning waterfall and is also very popular.
Perfect photo opp in New Hampshire
Capturing the New Hampshire fall foliage is best done at Franconia Notch State Park. Here you have the Flume Gorge waterfalls, Cannon Aerial Tramway and a beautiful accessible hike around Echo Lake all in a glacial carved mountain pass.
MAINE IN THE FALL
Maine in fall combines the timeless treasure of autumn colours with the seaside charm of the coast – and the last of the season’s lobster rolls!
Fall in New England is just not complete without a rendezvous here. Be sure to bring your journal, as the picturesque surroundings and the rich atmosphere of Maine are bound to inspire some thoughts.
Here are some of the most scenic routes to take:
- Acadia Byway (40 miles)
- Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway (15 miles)
- Million Dollar View Byway (8 miles)
- Grafton Notch Byway (21 miles)
- State Route 11 – Fish River Scenic Byway (38 miles)
Where to stay in Maine
Maine gives travellers a true paradise, with accommodation options that each have their own unique character and that encompass different facets of the state. The best place to stay to enjoy a New England autumn is the Bethel Inn Resort.
Come here to relax and marvel at the beauty. You can also take time out to partake in outdoor activities like tennis, swimming and golfing. These activities allow you to get active whilst taking in the dramatic fall colors.
Best hikes in Maine
Acadia National Park is a must-see for the riot of fall color you’re looking for. There are 150 miles of trails covering forests, rocky coastal trails, and mountain tops.
Whatever level of hike you want (from the challenge of a mountain to the stroll of the coastline), you can find it in Acadia National Park.
But there is more! Maine will delight and surprise you with the amount of hidden gems it has, all just waiting to be discovered. The best way to get up close to the colors is to take a hike! Some of the best fall hiking trails are:
- Tumbledown Mountain Trail loop
- Cadillac Mountain
- Little Jackson
- North Peak Trail
- South Peak Trail to Quaggy Jo
And Bar Harbor is the first place to see the sunrise in the USA!
Best viewpoints in Maine
Get ready to be awestruck as you enjoy the fall colors from these majestic vantage points. Pack your lobster roll and head to these treasure troves of picturesque views over New England in Maine:
- Bradbury Mountain State Park
- Mount Battie
- Mount Kineo
- Baxter State Park
Perfect photo opp in Maine
Found in the scenic Grafton Notch State Park, the Screw Auger Falls makes for a fantastic photo spot. Whether you want to get a romantic selfie with your partner, a triumphant picture of you during your vacay, or a scenic image of the foliage – you will get it right here.
MASSACHUSETTS IN FALL
Leaf watching is one of the most exciting activities to partake in while venturing Massachusetts.
You’ll probably want to add Salem to your itinerary. Famous for the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 where several locals were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft, this spooky coastal town is filled with witch-themed museums, haunted houses, ghost tours, souvenir shops, and landmarks of note.
In early October, just when the fall colors reach their peak, Salem is gearing up for Halloween to add even more spook!
There are ample routes to take to get a full experience of the magical fall colors. Some of the best for you to drive along are:
- Battle Road Scenic Byway (14 miles)
- Mohawk Trail Scenic Byway (69 miles)
- Old King’s Highway, Route 6A (62 miles)
- Essex Coastal Scenic Byway (90 miles)
- Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway (35 miles)
Where to stay in Massachusetts
Fall in Massachusetts can be done so beautifully at some of the stunning accommodation spots. A fantastic option for your adventures is to say at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Great Barrington.
You can wake up with a hot cup of coffee and enjoy sprawling views of the trees changing color right before you.
If it’s the coast you want to visit while you’re over this way, I have a post on the 10 best Cape Cod beaches to visit – although you might not choose to go swimming!
Best hikes in Massachusetts
Get your blood pumping and your body moving on an enchanting hike as you leaf peep on some of the most famous trails. Here are the best hiking trails to enjoy the fall colours:
Best viewpoints in Massachusetts
Your breath will be taken away as you soak in the glory of the fall colors from these viewpoints. Some of the must-see peaks are:
- Tully Mountain
- Mount Watatic
- Hermit Mountain
Perfect photo opp in Massachusetts
The entire Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary provides elegant, yet vibrant and scenic views. You will be submerged in a wonderland of leaves and tranquil surroundings as you enjoy the many picture-perfect spots found throughout the sanctuary.
No matter where you go, the perfect photo opportunity will be waiting for you!
RHODE ISLAND IN FALL
Your New England road trip will take a turn for the ocean as you head to the ever-beautiful Rhode Island for some premium fall colors.
This popular destination will give you the perfect escape. Enjoy central, colonial towns and golden, sandy shorelines and classic fall activities like corn mazes and pumpkin patches.
You’ll take in the magnificent views of the landscapes as you drive these scenic routes during fall:
- Newport and Ocean Avenue (14 miles)
- Conanicut Island (22 miles)
- Route 3 (48 miles)
- Route 1A (61 miles)
- Route 138A (77 miles)
Where to stay in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a spunky, yet old-school destination that strikes the chords of many hearts.
It’s a beautiful place to stay for a night and has a lot of accommodation options that will give you great fall color opportunities. One of the best places to stay in Newport is The Chanler at Cliff Walk.
Best hikes in Rhode Island
To treat yourself to some R’nR and some amazing views during a hike in Rhode Island, you can consider a number of trails. This island is known for having legendary hiking spots to explore during the fall. Some of these are:
These hikes are leisurely and have spectacular scenery.
Best viewpoints in Rhode Island
Rhode Island has some extraordinary viewpoints, with some allowing you to see the contrast of the fall colors against the blue ocean waters. These are some places with remarkable viewpoints:
- Arcadia Management Area
- Bridge in Roger Williams Park
- Slater Memorial Park
Perfect photo opp in Rhode Island
White Mill Park is every photographer’s dream come true. It is teeming with color, scenic trails and a serene lake that reflects back the magic of the trees. It’s the perfect place for a photo op of any kind, with many incredible backdrops and areas.
CONNECTICUT IN FALL
The spectacular fall foliage blanketing Connecticut usually reveals itself between early October and early November, with peak viewing in the northeast and northwest corners of the state around Columbus Day (the second Monday of October), then following down the state from then.
The Nutmeg State is awash with bright yellows of tulip poplars and hickory, deep red maples and purple ash, with Connecticut home to some the most diverse tree species in all of North America being ideally located in the Appalachians.
If the latter half of September provides cool overnight temperatures, peak colors will arrive on time.
You can also go apple picking in Connecticut, so check out these orchards if you even want to drop in and buy apple cider if it’s not picking season.
See the latest on CT fall foliage week by week predictions >
Here are some popular routes to drive during fall as recommended by Connecticut Tourism:
- Colchester and Salmon River
- State Route 169
- Connecticut River Loop (80 miles)
- Merritt Parkway/Scenic Fairfield County (115 miles)
- Litchfield Hills (100 miles)
- Hartford West (90 miles)
- Mystic Country and Coast (90 miles)
Where to stay in Connecticut
You could stay on the coast in the beautiful New Haven area, in the countryside or even on the grounds of Yale in elegant accommodation, so it depends on whether you’d like to walk to restaurants and shops or be far from civilisation and hunkered down.
I like the Wallingford Victorian Inn for its lush, traditional decor and no expense spared decadence! We are talking fancy, just five suites and gourmet food – and all within a few minutes from beautiful Sleeping Giant State Park.
Best hikes in Connecticut
Strap on your hiking boots, charge that camera, grab a water bottle and head out for a hike (or a stroll on some of these!)
- Bear Mountain Trail (6 miles loop)
- Ragged Mountain Blue and Red Blaze Loop (5.5 miles)
- Chauncey Creek Trail (2.2 miles)
- Sleeping Giant Tower Trail (3.2 miles)
These hikes are easy to medium, short and long.
Best viewpoints in Connecticut
If you’re looking for the best views in Connecticut for that photo memory, here are some to start with:
- Sleeping Giant at Hamden State Park
- Goodwin Conservation Center
- Mt Tom State Park, Litchfield
- Head to the coast – leaves turn later down here
Perfect photo opp in Connecticut
How about this for a stunning New England photo op! Get up bright and early (before sunrise), put on your arm clothes (and boots and socks, there’s a lot of hanging around while they get the balloons blown up and you’re standing on chilly grass!) and take a hot air balloon ride with CT Ballooning.
Phew! There you have it. Some helpful tips and loads of ideas to help you plan your New England fall foliage itinerary.
If fancy hotels are a bit beyond your budget, no worries you can always stay in an Air BnB. Here are some of the best in AirBnBs in New England to check out.
If you are planning a New England vacation in fall or any time of the year, click here for the official Discover New England website for more info.
I’ve also just started a little side business with some of my favorite photos and turned them into wall art, printables, jigsaws and journals. Have a look at this unique, spiral bound fall journal to record your gorgeous moments.
Are you a puzzle kind of person?
If you’re spending a few nights in one location, this jigsaw I created from one of my favorite fall pictures, will keep you busy on those chilly evenings and over your morning coffee before you head out to take your own pics!