Fall foliage in New England provides a showcase for Mother Nature. Perhaps nowhere else in America, and maybe even the world, are the fall colors as stunning and spectacular as October in New England.
Fall foliage in New England really begins in August. The shortening daylight hours trigger the deciduous trees to begin the process of shedding their leaves. It happens all around North America, and all around the world. But in New England it results in a display of special landscapes painted with fiery autumn colors.
Why is fall foliage in New England so different and special?
It’s a factor of many things but mostly an abundance of different types of deciduous trees, warm autumn days, and cool – but not freezing – nights. When these and a few other conditions are all mixed in the right proportions, then you get the world famous stunning shades of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns on the hills and mountain sides of New England.
Between mid-September to late-October, visitors flock to New England to see the fall foliage. Many take special bus tours or even train rides. But most take to the road and these six scenic drives offer some of the best autumn views available from anywhere on the planet.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – MOHAWK TRAIL MASSACHUSETTS
In Massachusetts the most popular fall foliage scenic drives are along the famous Mohawk Trail, and the area known as The Berkshires. The Mohawk trail rolls out through the northwestern part of the state on route 2, and winds through the hills and mountains of the Berkshires, touching picturesque towns like Williamstown, Deerfield, Shelbourne, Colrain, Charlemont, and Shelburne Falls. The road follows an ancient foot path used to move between Massachusetts and New York by Native Americans.
Mount Greylock, the highest point in The Berkshires and Massachusetts, offers stunning views of the surrounding area and Mohawk Trail.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – KANCAMAGUS HIGHWAY NEW HAMPSHIRE
The White Mountain National Forest is home to many wonderful scenic drives but the most popular – and rightly so – has to be the 34-mile Kancamagus Scenic Highway that runs along route 112 from Conway to White Mountains Visitor Center in Lincoln. This drive is considered by many to be the top fall foliage New England scenic drive. You’ll see beautiful forests ablaze with autumn colors and plenty of photo opportunities with walks along gorges and streams, and with breathtaking views of the highest mountains in the Presidential Range.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – CENTRAL VERMONT AREA
Vermont is a popular destination state in the fall. With many fall foliage scenic drives to choose from, the Central Vermont area, around Killington, and the towns and highways of Woodstock, Rutland and Ludlow, offer up some of the most dazzling. This area is deep in The Green Mountain National Forest area, and not surprisingly offers dramatic fall foliage color and scenery.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – LAKES AND LEAVES MAINE
Maine is a vast wilderness and given its proximity is the first New England state to display peak fall foliage color. Maine has many unparalleled scenic drives to choose from, and it’s difficult to single out one. But the Lakes and Leaves drive that skirts the shores of Moosehead Lake on Route 15 and then heads south on route 201 provides an amazing view of this empty, but beautiful backcountry. You’ll see incomparable fall foliage views of the tree-lined banks of the Kennebec River, and the surrounding mountains on this Maine Scenic Highway.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – RHODE ISLAND COAST
Rhode Island provides open roads and coastal drives for fall vacationers and leaf peeping.
The 61-mile Rhode Island Coast Scenic Drive follows the coastline east from Westerly towards Point Judith passing nature reserves and secluded beaches, until turning north along Narragansett Bay, and eventually over Newport Bridge on route 138. The drive finishes over the breathtaking Ocean Drive in historic Newport.
Always close to a picnic stop along this short drive it begs to be taken slowly and to stop occasionally and breathe in the crisp fall salt air.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – CONNECTICUT ROUTE 169
Far from being the forgotten step child of the other fall foliage scenic drives in New England, Connecticut is full of its own collection of scenic drives. One noteworthy trip to take in autumn is Route 169 in the eastern “Quiet Corner” region. Here the backdrop is rolling farmland, stone walls, and picturesque towns and villages that line the route.
New England is littered with fall foliage scenic drives, and look at those mentioned here as springboards to visiting other country roads that lead to surprises and discovery at every turn. The backroads of New England are where the gems are located, so don’t be afraid to explore.