New England fall foliage is a showcase for Mother Nature. Nowhere else in the United States are the colors of the fall as breathtaking and beautiful as they are in October in New England.
Wondering what is the best time to see fall foliage in New England? That would be in the middle of autumn, but you can actually start going on scenic New England fall foliage drives as early as August. The shortening of the daylight hours causes the deciduous trees to start shedding their leaves earlier. Sure, it happens all over North America and around the world. But the unique landscapes painted in fiery autumn colors in New England states will take your breath away.
What makes New England fall foliage so special?
It’s a sum of many factors, but mainly an abundance of different kinds of deciduous trees, warm autumn days, and cold (but not freezing!) nights. When these and a few other conditions are all combined in the right proportions, you get to see the world-famous shades of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns on the mountains and hillsides of New England.
From mid-September to late-October, travelers drive to admire the wondeful New England fall foliage. A lot of people also go on special bus trips, train rides or even New England fall foliage cruises. However, most travelers take to the road.
That is why in this article I’m going to cover the six best New England fall foliage drives. Keep reading, get inspired, and plan your own New England fall foliage tour!
The 6 best New England fall foliage drives
1. Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
The most popular New England fall foliage drives in Massachusetts are along the famous Mohawk Trail and the region known as the Berkshires. The Mohawk Trail passes through the northwestern part of the state on Route 2 and passes through the hills and mountains of the Berkshires. It reaches picturesque New England towns like Williamstown, Deerfield, Shelbourne, Colrain, Charlemont, and Shelburne Falls. This autumn road trip actually follows an ancient footpath used by Native Americans to travel between Massachusetts and New York.
Go to Mount Graylock, the highest point in the Berkshires and Massachusetts for breathtaking views of the surrounding area and the Mohawk Trail.
2. Kangamagus Highway in New Hampshire
The White Mountain National Forest is home to many wonderful scenic drives, but the most famous – and rightly so – must be the 34-mile Kangamagus Highway. Running along route 112 from Conway to the White Mountains Visitor Center in Lincoln, this drive is considered by many to be the best New England fall foliage drive. On it, you’ll see beautiful woods blazing with fall colors. You’ll also have plenty of photo opportunities with walks along gorges and streams, plus spectacular views of the highest mountains in the Presidential Range.
3. Central Vermont
In the fall, Vermont is a popular travel destination for road trips. With several fall foliage scenic drives to choose from, the central Vermont area around Killington and the villages and highways of Woodstock, Rutland, and Ludlow offer some of the most dazzling routes in New England. This area is deep in the Green Mountain National Forest area, meaning that you’ll return with beautiful photos of dramatic fall foliage color and scenery after a drive in the region.
Escape on a scenic byway to admire the Vermont fall foliage
4. Lakes and Leaves Route in Maine
Maine is a vast wilderness and, because of its location, it is also the first state to reach the New England fall foliage peak. Maine has a lot of unparalleled scenic drives to choose from, and it’s hard to pick out one. But the Lakes and Leaves route that passes along the shores of Moosehead Lake on Route 15 and then heads south on Route 201 offers a breathtaking view of this empty but spectacular backcountry. You’ll see gorgeous foliage landscapes of the tree-lined banks of the Kennebec River and the surrounding mountains on this Maine Scenic Highway.
5. Rhode Island’s coastline
Rhode Island has open roads and coastline drives for fall vacationers who love leaf-peeping. The 61-mile Rhode Island Coast scenic drive follows the coastline east from Westerly to Point Judith, passing by nature reserves and secluded beaches, to the north along Narragansett Bay, and finally over Newport Bridge on Route 138. The drive ends at the spectacular Ocean Drive in historic Newport.
Check out this Rhode Island peak foliage guide
6. Route 169 in Connecticut
Far from being the neglected stepchild of all the beautiful fall foliage drives in New England, Connecticut is full of its own set of scenic routes. For example, Route 169 in the eastern Quiet Corner area is a remarkable road trip to go on during the autumn foliage season. In Connecticut, you will see rolling fields, stone walls, together with picturesque towns and villages along the road.
There are lots of New England fall foliage drives to choose from, which is why you should consider the ones listed above as a springboard to discover even more country roads with surprises at every turn. The backroads of New England are where the hidden gems are, so don’t be afraid to explore this fall!