Six states: Two Weeks, One Fabulous Fall
In New England’s six states, the fall foliage is Mother Nature’s annual free gift. In September and October, leaves turn to gold, scarlet, purple, and yellow. See them from a car, bus, or train. Or, from a boat or a mountain top, while peddling a bike or following a hiking trail. Click the map image below to view the tour in Google Maps.
- This route takes in all six New England states and, since the distances between our 12 stopovers are short, there is time to enjoy one of our Top Tips in each.
- Start and finish in Boston, Massachusetts.
- Spend a couple of days here to see the sights. The “T”, the public transport system, is efficient and inexpensive – and Boston is the most walkable major U.S. city. So, you don’t need to rent a car until you are setting off.
- Driving distance: About 850 miles/1,400 km.
- Allow 2 weeks.
Leave Boston, Massachusetts and follow the coast through New Hampshire to Maine and the resort town of Kennebunkport (85 miles/140 km).
The popular vacation destination known as “The Kennebunks” includes Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Arundel, and Cape Porpoise. In the fall, the fiery foliage contrasts with the blue of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Take a ride: Horse-drawn carriage rides are a fun way to see the historic district of Kennebunkport.
- Go birdwatching during busy fall migration: Nearby nature reserves include the Wells Reserve at Laudholm and the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge. Carson’s book, Silent Spring, helped trigger the environmental movement.
Head inland to Maine’s unspoiled mountains and Sebago Lake (50 miles/80 km).
This lake, whose name means “great stretch of water”, covers some 45 square miles (116 sq km). Nearby are smaller bodies of water: all reflect the surrounding woods, which are dazzling in autumn.
- Climb that mountain: Short but steep is the trail leading to the summit of Douglas Mountain (1,415 ft/430 m), Sebago. The panorama takes in the White Mountains and Sebago Lake.
- Cruise on a paddle steamer: The Songo River Queen II departs from Naples and heads along Long Lake.
Continue into New Hampshire, through rugged scenery. Stay in or near Colebrook, New Hampshire (100 miles/160 km), exactly halfway between the North Pole and the Equator!
Surrounded by the spectacular White Mountains, this is a great base for hiking, cycling and mountain biking, as well as zip lining and playing golf (ten courses close by). Attractions include the Mount Washington Auto Road, Great Glen Trails, Wildcat Mountain, Mount Washington Observatory and the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center with free shuttles available for hikers.
- Drive north on Route 16. In the Great North Woods Region, go through 13 Mile Woods to Umbagog Lake, the source of the Androscoggin River.
- Ride the Moose Bus. See moose in their natural habitat. Leave from the Gorham Information Booth on the Town Common. Reservations recommended (through October).
Drive west. Cross the Connecticut River and enter Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, whose “capital” is St Johnsbury (53 miles/105 km).
Known as “St J”, this small town has a lot to see: The Athenaeum, with Albert Bierstadt’s gigantic “Domes of the Yosemite” painting; the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium; and the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild shop, with works by 100 local artists. Nearby, the Maple Museum explains the mysteries of sugaring and maple syrup.
- Drive the “Willoughby Loop”: Follow Route 5A to Willoughby State Forest, whose 8,000 acres/3,250 ha include a lake, cliffs and Bald Mountain (3,315 ft/1010 m).
- Delve into history: In Brownington Village, the Old Stone House Museum, highlights Vermont life in the 19th century – and tells the story of Rev. Alexander Twilight, the nation’s first African-American college graduate (1823).
Drive south, following the Connecticut River to Cornish, New Hampshire (75 miles/120 km).
In the 19th century, Cornish was a summer artists’ colony. Most famous was sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (statues of Lincoln, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial). The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site preserves his former home, studio, artworks, and garden.
- See the view: You can drive almost to the top of Mount Ascutney (3,144 ft/960 m); walk the last mile to the summit. Watch the hang gliders!
- Cross over the bridge: Built in 1866, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge is the longest wooden covered bridge in the U.S.A. (449 ft 5in/137 m) and also the longest two-span covered bridge in the world!
Leave Cornish; cross the Connecticut River and enter Vermont. Stop in Londonderry, Vermont (40 miles/65 km).
This part of Vermont is dotted with photogenic villages: Londonderry, Peru, Weston, Landgrove, and Grafton. There are handsome homes, country stores, artist’s studios – and farms with red barns and cows.
- Cycle the trail: Pedal part of the 36-mile West River Trail, a scenic route along this untamed river.
- Explore the forest: Hike, drive, cycle or ride a horse in the enormous natural playground that is the Green Mountain National Forest.
Carry on south, driving over and through the Green Mountains and into Massachusetts and the Berkshire Hills. North Adams is the destination (60 miles/100 km).
Thanks to MASS MoCA, this former mill town is now one of the most visited places in the United States dedicated to new art. In 1999, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art opened in a vast disused factory complex, offering art, dance, music, film, and more.
- Have fun: Fall festivals in North Adams range from a children’s parade and horse dressage to the arts.
- Commune with nature: Near Florida (!) and north of Route 2, the Monroe State Forest has trails and wonderful vistas.
Drive through the Berkshire Hills, taking Route 8 instead of popular Route 7. Cross into Connecticut, the Litchfield Hills and head for Torrington (75 miles/125 km).
In Torrington, the lovingly-restored Warner Theatre (now an arts complex) is just one of many Art Deco buildings. Add in the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts (ballet) and the No Place Like Home History Museum (local history) and you have a fun and buzzy arts destination.
- Hike the trail: In Mohawk State Forest and adjoining Mohawk Mountain State Park, the higher you go, the better the views – as far as the Catskill, Taconic, and Berkshire ranges.
- Go on safari: At Action Wildlife, see animals from all over the world on a drive-thru safari – in your own car!
Drive across to northeastern Connecticut, dubbed the Quiet Corner. A typical community is Putnam (90 miles/145 km).
Nowadays, Putnam is known for its antiques shops, with everything from bric-a-brac to highly collectible furniture. But, this was also an important mill town: learn more on the River Mills Heritage Trail walking tour.
- Be an explorer: With its 35 communities, farms, and forests, the unspoiled Last Green Valley is part of the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor.
- Pick your own: Check out festivals in towns such as Brooklyn; join in Walktober events, such as pick-your-own apples, or visits to corn mazes and wineries.
Drive down Route 169, one of the prettiest in the state. Then head into Rhode Island and the seaside village of Wickford (45 miles/75 km).
With 300 years of history, Wickford is delightful: churches, Colonial homes, gardens, antiques shops, galleries, restaurants – and a town dock! It was also the setting for local author John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick – inspiring the Wicked Week festival in October.
- Cruise Narragansett Bay: From Quonset Point, North Kingstown, join a cruise to see lighthouses, islands, the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, Newport Harbor, mansions, historic Fort Adams and more.
- Rent a kayak for the afternoon and paddle about Wickford Harbor.
- Stroll historic Newport: No city in America crams more history into its quaint streets, from Colonial days to the Gilded Age mansions.
Drive over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges to Rhode Island’s sleepy East Bay and Little Compton (35 miles/55 km).
Three centuries of history beckon in Little Compton, where homes are grand and meadows manicured. On the village green are a post office, library, school, and Wilbur’s General Store (since 1893).
- Grape expectations: One of several vineyards along the Coastal Wine Trail is Sakonnet, with its regular tours and tastings of award-winning Chardonnays, and Gewurztraminers.
- Visit tiny Sakonnet Harbor: A handful of boats still go out fishing from here every day.
Drive into Massachusetts and head for Sandwich, the first and oldest town on Cape Cod – established in 1639 (60 miles/100 km).
- Visit a cranberry bog: On farms, run by members of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, you can see how bogs are flooded, so that the berries float for “wet picking”. October features the annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration.
- Take a royal drive: What is now Route 6A is also known as the Old King’s Highway, linking villages, historic homes, antiques stores, and charming B&Bs.
Return to Boston, Massachusetts (60 miles/100 km).
Other New England Fall Foliage Drives: