New England Celebrates 100 years of Scenic Drives

New England scenic drives

This month, New England will celebrate a century of scenic touring by car, as the region’s historic Mohawk Trail — America’s first designated scenic auto-touring route — will turn 100 years old on 22 October 2014. 

One of America’s oldest transport routes, the Mohawk Trail is hundreds of years old. Initially used as a trade route which connected Atlantic Native American tribes with tribes in what is now Upstate New York, the trail was later used by early European settlers, connecting English settlements in Boston and Deerfield with Dutch settlements in New York. During the American Revolution, American patriots recruited troops along the trail to capture a cannon at the English Fort Ticonderoga, New York.

Today the trail is one of the most loved scenic drives in the region. Its designation as a Scenic auto route by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1914 heralded the start of scenic leisure driving in New England, with many other routes quickly established. These drives in the six states (Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut) offer stunning fall foliage, breath-taking forests and mountains, some of the country’s best heritage, and charming New England architecture.

Six of the Best Scenic Drives in New England:

Mohawk Scenic Byway, Massachusetts
Starting in Williamstown (home to museums and architecture such as Williams College, caretaker of four Founding Documents of the United States), the trail follows the footsteps of the Native Americans to mountain summits and through Natural Bridge State Park. Known as “the Indian Path”, the Massachusetts byway meanders through 69 miles of forest and historic towns, revealing world-class art museums, scenic hikes, dramatic vistas and breath-taking rivers. Special anniversary events include a photography exhibition detailing the trail’s history. www.mohawktrail.com

Acadia National Park Scenic Loop, Maine
This 27-mile scenic drive journeys through Maine’s Acadia National Park, showcasing the rocky shores, lakes, mountains and forests of Mount Desert Island. En route, excellent hiking, rock climbing and camping can be found. Alternatively explore the culture and nature by discovering the beautiful Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Robert Abbe Museum of Stone Age Antiquities, the Acadia National Park Nature Center, or the dramatic shore at Thunder Hole. www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/driving.htm

Coast Scenic Drive, Rhode Island
Wind along 61 miles of Rhode Island’s beautiful coastline overlooking Narragansett Bay, taking in a network of beaches, harbours, lighthouses, rocky peninsulas and islets. The trail also features dense woodlands and landmarks such as Fort Ninigret en route to historic Newport and its famous Mansions. Great hiking, bird watching and fishing can be found along the way, as well as wildlife hot spots like the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. www.visitrhodeisland.com

Scenic Route 100, Vermont
Scenic Route 100 forms the backbone of Vermont and the Green Mountains. Starting at the Canadian border, journey through classic Vermont country villages, unearthing the state’s historic charm. The drive meanders through the villages of Stowe, Warren, Weston and Wilmington, exploring their charming church steeples, quirky local stores and covered bridges. Intertwined with stunning mountain views which turn amber in the Fall, don’t miss the famous Ben & Jerry’s Factory, the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, the roaring Moss Glen Falls and the charming Vermont Country Store. www.vermont-byways.us/Route_100

Kancamagus Scenic Highway, New Hampshire
Soaring through New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Kancamagus Scenic Highway is one of the region’s best for Fall foliage. Twists and turns through national forest and pinelands offer encounters with vibrant fall colours and natural marvels such as the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls and Rocky Gorge. Enjoy rafting, water sports and zip-lining in this area, or take it easy browsing boutique shops and admiring the Fall colours from scenic railroads. www.visitwhitemountains.com/attractions/white-mountains-trail

Scenic Route 169, Connecticut
This byway takes in the hidden and ‘off beat’ treasures of north-east Connecticut, lazily winding through rolling hills, farmland and the historic villages of Woodstock, South Woodstock, Pomfret and Brooklyn. The drive takes travellers on a discovery of interesting architecture, including the Brooklyn Green, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and to sample the local cuisine at the Inn at Woodstock Hill or Vanilla Bean Café. Before departing this quiet corner of New England, stop off at the stunning Sharpe Hill Vineyard & Winery to sample the local wine. www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2451