Road Trip: New England Fall Foliage + Best Time to Visit

It’s an annual rite of passage, making a New England fall foilage road trip a quintessential American experience.

The experience of a fall foliage road trip in New England is nothing short of magical. As summer gives way to autumn, the landscape transforms dramatically, with forests donning a vibrant palette of reds, oranges, and golds. 

Each twist and turn of the road reveals a new tapestry of colors from the tranquil hues reflected in quiet lakes and rivers. This seasonal event eagerly awaited and deeply cherished, transcends mere sightseeing—it’s an annual rite of passage, making a New England road trip a quintessential American experience in the fall.

Below are some of the most popular New England fall foliage drives. 

Kancamagus Scenic Byway (New Hampshire)

Kancamagus Scenic Byway (New Hampshire)
Photo Credit: [@Alpegor6/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: First Two Weeks of October

The Kancamagus Scenic Byway, often called “The Kanc,” is a 56-mile route that winds through New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. One of the best places in the United States to witness fall foliage, the drive offers unforgettable colors, from vibrant reds to golden yellows and deep oranges. Numerous overlooks, such as the famous Sabbaday Falls, provide panoramic views and opportunities to take short hikes deeper into the wilderness.

Route 100 (Vermont)

Covered Bridge in New England in the Fall
Photo Credit: [@jamesgroup/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Late September – October

Route 100 in Vermont is often hailed as one of the most scenic drives in New England, particularly stunning during the fall foliage season. The road stretches approximately 216 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada, passing through charming villages and farms. Covered bridges, waterfalls, and local farmers’ markets along the route offer delightful stops to fully absorb the splendor of Vermont’s fall foliage.

Scenic Route 7A (Vermont)

Road Trip: New England Fall Foliage + Best Time to Visit
Photo Credit: [@haveseen/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Early October

Scenic Route 7A in Vermont is a picturesque byway that traverses the state’s southwestern region, offering a beautiful backdrop of New England’s fall foliage. This drive, a quieter alternative to the main U.S. Route 7, takes you through quaint towns like Manchester and Arlington, where colonial architecture is beautifully set against hillsides. Covered bridges, antique shops, and historic landmarks pepper the drive, allowing you to combine your love for fall foliage with a bit of exploring.

Acadia National Park Loop (Maine)

Acadia National Park Loop (Maine)
Photo Credit: [@mandritoiu/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: October 13th – 22nd

Acadia National Park in Maine offers a unique blend of coastal and forested landscapes, making its 27-mile Park Loop Road a must-see destination for fall foliage enthusiasts. The rich tapestry of colors includes vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges that contrast strikingly against the deep blue backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The route provides plenty of overlooks and stops, such as the iconic Cadillac Mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the sea and forest enveloped in autumn’s embrace. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or driving, the changing leaves of the park’s varied tree species—ranging from maple and birch to oak and pine—create a display that makes Acadia National Park a unique and unforgettable fall destination.

Old Canada Road – U.S. Route 201 (Maine)

Kennebec River, Augusta, Maine
Photo Credit: [@mandritoiu/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Late September – Early October

Old Canada Road, or U.S. Route 201, offers a compelling journey through the heart of Maine’s stunning wilderness, particularly captivating during the fall foliage. This 78-mile stretch of road winds alongside the Kennebec River, creating a vibrant panorama where autumn leaves’ golden and russet hues reflect off the water’s surface. 

The route takes you through historic towns, past old logging camps, and offers numerous scenic overlooks perfect for capturing the splendor of Maine’s fall foliage.

Mohawk Trail (Massachusetts) 

Mohawk Trail (Massachusetts) 
Photo Credit: [@haveseen/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-to-Late September – Early October

The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts is one of the oldest auto-touring roads in the country and offers an exceptional showcase of New England’s autumn colors. Spanning about 69 miles from Greenfield to Williamstown, the trail winds through the scenic Berkshires, offering a range of vistas from towering cliffs to sprawling valleys, all adorned in vivid shades of orange, red, and gold. 

Popular stops along the route, like the “Hairpin Turn,” provide panoramic views that capture the essence of fall at a glance. Rich in natural beauty and cultural history, including Native American and colonial sites, the Mohawk Trail offers a complete and enriching fall foliage experience in Massachusetts.

Route 6A, Old King’s Highway (Massachusetts)

Cranberry Bog in the Fall
Photo Credit: [@catstail/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-to-Late September – Early October

Route 6A in Massachusetts, known as the Old King’s Highway, offers a unique fall foliage experience as it winds through Cape Cod. Unlike the mountainous terrains often associated with autumn colors, this coastal route features a blend of salt marshes, cranberry bogs, and deciduous trees that don vibrant yellow, orange, and red hues. 

Historic homes, some dating back to the 17th century, charming inns, and quaint shops line the road, creating a picturesque backdrop accentuated by fall colors. While the ocean views are a constant allure, the changing leaves add a seasonal charm that makes Route 6A a special place to explore during autumn.

Catskill Scenic Byway (New York)

Catskill Mountains (New York)
Photo Credit: [@LoneStarForever/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-October

The Catskill Scenic Byway in New York is a 52-mile route that takes you through the heart of the Catskill Mountains, offering breathtaking views of rolling hills, valleys, and waterways adorned in autumn’s vibrant colors. As the leaves turn, the route becomes a panorama of brilliant reds, golds, and oranges punctuated by the evergreen pines and spruces that make up the Catskill forest. The byway offers numerous overlooks, hiking trails, and historic sites, such as the Catskill Interpretive Center, providing opportunities to stretch your legs and soak in the scenic views. 

Taconic State Parkway (New York)

Hudson Valley River New York
Photo Credit: [@rabbit75_dep/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-September – October

The Taconic State Parkway in New York offers one of the most scenic drives in the Hudson Valley, particularly beautiful when autumn rolls around. Stretching over 90 miles, this parkway is flanked by deciduous trees that transform into a riot of red, orange, and yellow colors.

Numerous overlooks and pull-offs along the way offer opportunities to pause and take in the grandeur of the season, capturing photos or simply enjoying a moment in nature’s spectacle. With its gentle curves and hilly terrain, the Taconic State Parkway offers a drive as engaging as it is visually stunning, making it a perfect route for fall foliage viewing in New York.

Delaware Water Gap (Pennsylvania)

Delaware Water Gap (Pennsylvania)
Photo Credit: [@rabbit75_dep/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-to-Late October

A Delaware Water Gap fall foliage road trip in Pennsylvania is like a scenic journey through a natural gallery of colors. As you traverse the roads that curve around the Delaware River and cut through the Pocono Mountains, you’re treated to a stunning display of Mother Nature’s autumnal beauty.

The Water Gap offers more than just a visual spectacle; numerous pull-offs, overlooks, and trailheads along the way beckon you to stop, explore, and fully immerse yourself in the autumn scenery. If you’re keen on hiking, trails like Mount Minsi offer more challenging climbs with rewarding views. For a more relaxed experience, Dingmans Falls Visitor Center provides easy walking trails that lead to gorgeous waterfalls. 

Route 6 (Pennsylvania)

Allegheny National Forest fall road
Photo Credit: [@snehitdesign/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Late September – Early November

A fall foliage road trip along Pennsylvania’s historic Route 6 is a journey through a corridor of seasonal splendor. This highway stretches across the state’s northern tier and is often referred to as one of America’s most scenic drives.

Route 6 is also rich with opportunities for adventure and exploration. In the Allegheny National Forest, you can go hiking, fishing, or camping amidst fall foliage. Visit the Kinzua Sky Walk for a panoramic view that lets you look down through a glass-floored observation deck to the forest below, cloaked in its autumnal glory. Further east, you could stop at the charming town of Wellsboro, often described as the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” for some local dining and shopping. 

Merritt Parkway (Connecticut)

Norwalk Connecticut pond fall
Photo Credit: [@closertoinfinity/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Late September – Early November

Navigating the Merritt Parkway during Connecticut’s autumn season offers a compelling synthesis of historic architecture and natural splendor. Designed in the late 1930s, this historic scenic byway is renowned for its Art Deco and neo-classical bridges.

Adjacent municipalities like Greenwich, Stamford, and Fairfield offer attractions ranging from upscale shopping districts to art galleries and museums. Outdoor enthusiasts may consider detouring to state parks such as the Sleeping Giant State Park for hiking opportunities that provide panoramic views of the fall foliage.

Connecticut River Loop (Connecticut)

Connecticut River
Photo Credit: [@brians101/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Early October

The Connecticut River Loop is an exceptional scenic byway for observing the spectacle of New England’s fall foliage—the loop traverses along the Connecticut River, from farmlands to rolling hills and riverfronts. The route meanders through several historic towns, such as Essex, Old Lyme, and East Haddam.

For those inclined towards the arts, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme is a cultural landmark, showcasing American Impressionist paintings that often capture the beauty of the surrounding landscapes. Outdoor enthusiasts may explore the Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, where hiking trails offer commanding views of the river and surrounding foliage. The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is another popular attraction; it provides a unique opportunity to view the fall scenery from a vintage train and a riverboat.

Ocean Drive, Newport (Rhode Island)

Ocean Drive, Newport, RI
Photo Credit: [@jiawangkun /DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: October

Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island, offers a blend of coastal beauty and historic elegance, incredibly captivating during the fall foliage season. This scenic route, the Ten-Mile Drive, skirts the Atlantic Ocean and weaves through some of Newport’s most storied neighborhoods.

Several famed Newport Mansions, such as The Breakers and Marble House, are open for public tours and provide a fascinating look into the Gilded Age. For those interested in maritime history, a detour to the Museum of Yachting at Fort Adams State Park is highly recommended. The park offers hiking and picnicking opportunities amidst fall foliage and panoramic views of Narragansett Bay. For those inclined towards gastronomy, the drive is near Newport’s downtown, where an array of restaurants offer fresh seafood.

Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park (New Jersey)

Lambertville, NJ Delaware River
Photo Credit: [@cwiederspahn/DepositPhotos]

Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-to-Late October

The Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park in New Jersey offers an idyllic setting for a fall foliage road trip, combining natural splendor and historical significance. Stretching for more than 70 miles, this linear park encompasses the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the adjacent towpath and runs parallel to the scenic Delaware River.

The towpath along the canal is ideal for various recreational activities, including hiking, cycling, and horseback riding, all set against the vibrant fall foliage. For those interested in angling, the canal is stocked with fish and offers a peaceful setting for fishing. History enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s historical markers and 19th-century bridges and lock-tender houses, which provide insight into the canal’s role in shaping regional commerce. Moreover, nearby towns such as Lambertville and Princeton offer boutique shopping, art galleries, and restaurants ranging from quaint cafes to fine dining.

This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Featured Photo Credit: [@jovannig/DepositPhotos]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Road Trip: New England Fall Foliage + Best Time to Visit
Wander With Alex

The Wander With Alex travel blog provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, vacation guides, and travel news. Visit WanderWIthAlex.com for all things vacation and travel!