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The ultimate New England fall foliage road trip

By Lonely Planet Editors
January 12, 2022
West Cornwall Bridge Connecticut Cs
© Jeff Hunter / Getty Images
Touring New England in search of autumn’s changing colors has become so popular it has sprouted its own subculture of “leaf-peepers”. Immerse yourself in the fall harvest spirit with the ultimate road trip.

Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.

Trip length: 5–7 days; 424 miles (682km)
Best time to go: Late September to mid-October
Essential photo: Kent Falls set against a backdrop of autumnal colors
Top experience: Ziplining through the tree canopy in Bretton Woods

New England Fall Foliage map




The brilliance of fall in New England is legendary. Scarlet and sugar maples, ash, birch, beech, dogwood, tulip tree, oak and sassafras all contribute to the carnival of autumn color. But this trip is about much more than just flora and fauna: the harvest spirit makes for family outings to pick-your-own farms, leisurely walks along dappled trails, and tables groaning beneath delicious seasonal produce.

Boats are moored at a marina in a brilliant blue lake in autumn, with fall colors on the lake shores; New England fall foliage road tripLake Candlewood is the perfect place to start a New England fall foliage road trip © Alan Copson / Getty Images

1. Lake Candlewood

With a surface area of 8.4 sq miles, Candlewood is the largest lake in Connecticut. On the western shore, the Squantz Pond State Park is popular with leaf-peepers, who come to amble the pretty shoreline. In Brookfield and Sherman, quiet vineyards with acres of gnarled grapevines line the hillsides. Visitors can tour the award-winning DiGrazia Vineyards or opt for something more intimate at White Silo Farm Winery, where the focus is on specialty wines made from farm-grown fruit. For the ultimate bird’s eye view of the foliage, consider a late-afternoon hot-air-balloon ride with GONE Ballooning in nearby Southbury.

The drive: From Danbury, at the southern tip of the lake, you have a choice of heading north via US 7, taking in Brookfield and New Milford (or trailing the scenic eastern shoreline along Candlewood Lake Rd S); or heading north along CT 37 and CT 39 via New Fairfield, Squantz Pond and Sherman, before reconnecting with US 7 to Kent.

mist clings to the surface of a lake in Connecticut as red, orange, yellow and green leaves are reflected in its surface from a hill behind. New England fall foliage road tripThe Litchfield Hills of Connecticut have possibly the best fall colors in the world © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

2. Kent

Kent has previously been voted the spot in all of New England (yes, even beating Vermont) for fall foliage viewing. Situated prettily in the Litchfield Hills on the banks of the Housatonic River, it is surrounded by dense woodlands. For a sweeping view of them, hike up Cobble Mountain in Macedonia Brook State Park, a wooded oasis 2 miles north of town. The steep climb to the rocky ridge affords panoramic views of the foliage against a backdrop of the Taconic and Catskill mountain ranges.

The 2175-mile Georgiato-Maine Appalachian National Scenic Trail also runs through Kent and up to Salisbury on the Massachusetts border. Unlike much of the trail, the Kent section offers a mostly flat 5-mile river walk alongside the Housatonic, the longest river walk along the entire length of the trail. The trailhead is accessed on River Rd, off CT 341.

The drive: The 15-mile drive from Kent to Housatonic Meadows State Park along US 7 is one of the most scenic drives in Connecticut. The single-lane road dips and weaves between thick forests, past Kent Falls State Park (currently closed due to COVID-19) with its tumbling waterfall (visible from the road), and through West Cornwall’s picturesque covered bridge, which spans the Housatonic River.

The picturesque covered bridge in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Image by Jeff Hunter / Photostock / GettyThe picturesque covered bridge in West Cornwall, Connecticut © Jeff Hunter / Getty Images

3. Housatonic Meadows State Park

During the spring thaw, the churning waters of the Housatonic challenge kayakers and canoeists. By summer, the scenic waterway transforms into a lazy, flat river perfect for fly-fishing. In the Housatonic Meadows State Park, campers vie for a spot on the banks of the river while hikers take to the hills on the Appalachian Trail. Housatonic River Outfitters runs guided fishing trips with gourmet picnics.

Popular with artists and photographers, one of the most photographed fall scenes is the Cornwall Bridge (West Cornwall), an antique covered bridge that stretches across the broad river, framed by vibrantly colored foliage. In the nearby town of Goshen is Nodine’s Smokehouse, a major supplier of smoked meats to New York gourmet food stores.

The drive: Continue north along US 7 toward the Massachusetts border and Great Barrington. After a few miles you leave the forested slopes of the park behind you and enter expansive rolling countryside dotted with large red-and-white barns. Look out for hand-painted signs advertising farm produce and consider stopping overnight in Falls Village, which has an excellent B&B.

Fall colors fill a picturesque Massachusetts valley as a small village peeks through; New England fall foliage road tripThe Berkshires turn crimson and gold, making for a spectacular fall, in the hills of Massacusetts © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

4. Berkshires

Blanketing the westernmost part of Massachusetts, the rounded mountains of the Berkshires turn crimson and gold as early as mid-September. The effective capital of the Berkshires is Great Barrington, a formerly industrial town whose streets are now lined with art galleries and upscale restaurants.

It’s the perfect place to pack your picnic or rest your legs before or after a hike in nearby Beartown State Forest. Crisscrossing some 12,000 acres, hiking trails yield spectacular views of wooded hillsides and pretty Benedict Pond, Further north, October Mountain State Forest is the state’s largest tract of green space (16,127 acres), also interwoven with hiking trails. The name – attributed to Herman Melville – gives a good indication of when this park is at its loveliest, with its multicolored tapestry of hemlocks, birches and oaks.

The drive: Drive north on US 7, the spine of the Berkshires, cruising through Great Barrington and Stockbridge. In Lee, the highway merges with scenic US 20, from where you can access October Mountain. Continue 16 miles north through Lenox and Pittsfield to Lanesborough. Turn right on N Main St and follow the signs to the park entrance.

Yellow leaves surround a winding road in Massacusetts; New England fall foliage road tripDriving to the summit of Mt Greylock in autumn is a sensory overload © PM 10 / Getty Images

5. Mt Greylock State Forest

Massachusetts’ highest peak is not so high, at 3491ft, but a climb up the 92ft-high War Veterans Memorial Tower rewards you with a forested panorama stretching up to 100 miles, across the Taconic, Housatonic and Catskill ranges, and over five states. Even if the weather seems drab from the foot, driving up to the summit may well lift you above the gray blanket, and the view with a layer of cloud floating between tree line and sky is simply magical.

Mt Greylock State Reservation has some 45 miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Frequent trail pull-offs on the road up – including some that lead to waterfalls – make it easy to get at least a little hike in before reaching the top of Mt Greylock.

The drive: Return to US 7 and continue north through the quintessential college town of Williamstown. Cross the Vermont border and continue north through the historic village of Bennington. Just north of Bennington, turn left on Rte 7A and continue north to Manchester.

A look at Manchester New Hampshire, focused on fall treesManchester's architecture looks even better shrouded in fall colors © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

6. Manchester

Stylish Manchester is known for its magnificent New England architecture. For fall foliage views, head south of the center to 3828ft-high Mt Equinox, the highest mountain accessible by car in the Taconic Range. Wind up the 5.2 miles – with gasp-inducing scenery at every hairpin turn – seemingly to the top of the world, where the 360-degree panorama unfolds, offering views of the Adirondacks, the lush Battenkill Valley and Montréal’s Mt Royal.

If early snow makes Mt Equinox inaccessible, visit 412-acre Hildene, a Georgian Revival mansion that was once home to the Lincoln family. It’s filled with presidential memorabilia and sits nestled at the edge of the Green Mountains, with access to 8 miles of wooded walking trails.

The drive: Take US 7 north to Burlington. Three miles past Middlebury in New Haven, stop off at Lincoln Peak Vineyard for wine tasting or a picnic lunch on the wraparound porch.

A sailboat cruises on a pristine lake as the trees on the hill behind just start to change colors; New England fall foliage road tripGo out on Lake Champlain for a leaf-peeping adventure and you might run into a mythical sea creature © Larry Gerbrandt / Getty Images

7. Lake Champlain

With a surface area of 490 sq miles, straddling New York, Vermont and Quebec, Lake Champlain is the largest freshwater lake in the US after the Great Lakes. On its northeastern side, Burlington is a gorgeous base to enjoy the lake. Explore it by foot on our walking tour. Then scoot down to the wooden promenade, take a swing on the fourperson rocking benches and consider a bike ride along the 7.5-mile lakeside bike path.

For the best off-shore foliage views we love the Friend Ship sailboat at Whistling Man Schooner Company, a 43ft sloop that accommodates a mere 13 passengers. Next door, ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center explores the history and ecosystem of the lake, including a famous snapshot of Champ, Lake Champlain’s mythical sea creature.

The drive: Take I-89 southeast to Montpelier passing Camels Hump State Park and CC Putnam State Forest. At Montpelier, pick up US2 heading east to St Johnsbury, where you can hop on I-91 south to I-93 south. Just after Littleton, take US 302 east to Bretton Woods.

Looking down on a wide valley with copper colored trees and a brilliant white hotel resortThe Bretton Woods have leaf-peeping as well as high adventure just waiting to be explored © thrmylens / Getty Images

8. Bretton Woods

Unbuckle your seat belts and step away from the car. You’re not just peeping at leaves today, you’re swooping past them on zip lines that drop 1000ft at 30mph. The four-season Bretton Woods Canopy Tour includes a hike through the woods, a stroll over sky bridges and a swoosh down 10 cables to tree platforms.

If this leaves you craving even higher views, cross US 302 and drive 6 miles on Base Rd to the coal-burning, steam-powered Mount Washington Cog Railway at the western base of Mt Washington, the highest peak in New England. This historic railway has been hauling sightseers to the mountain’s 6288ft summit since 1869.

The drive: Continue driving east on US 302, a route that parallels the Saco River and the Conway Scenic Railroad, traversing Crawford Notch State Park. At the junction of NH 16 and US 302, continue east on US 302 into North Conway.

A stream tumbles over gray boulders as fall leaves stick out all around; New England fall foliage road tripWrap up your fall foliage road trip in North Conway, a scenic finale © Nils Winkelmann / EyeEm / Getty Images

9. North Conway

Many of the best restaurants, pubs and inns in North Conway come with expansive views of the nearby mountains, making it an ideal place to wrap up a fall foliage road trip. If you’re traveling with kids or you skipped the cog railway ride up Mt Washington, consider an excursion on the antique Valley Train with the Conway Scenic Railroad; it’s a short but sweet roundtrip ride through the Mt Washington Valley from North Conway to Conway, 11 miles south. The Moat Mountains and the Saco River will be your scenic backdrop. First-class seats are usually in a restored Pullman observation car.

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Road Trips

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Heading out on a road trip across the glorious state of California? Unfortunately, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of the state's summer and fall festivals have been canceled or delayed. Those that are still scheduled, for now, are probably best to skip as California is seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases making it important to avoid crowded areas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the aspects of California culture the festival’s celebrate. You can go on a socially distanced California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals. But, before you head out on the road be sure to pack proper PPE, be conscious of how many ICU beds are available in the towns you’ll visit, have a game plan for meals, book accommodations with hygiene protocols, and triple check your car is ready for a road trip. Here’s how to take a California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals. There are over six festivals in California dedicated to lavender. 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Road Trips

Return of the Great American Road Trip

Imagine you and your loved ones have a cooler packed of food, and clothes for a week in your car. Air conditioning on, singing to music, enjoying the open road. Take a minute and close your eyes. Do you feel freedom? There is sun shining on your face, COVID-19 worries in the rearview mirror, and the open road ahead of you. The great American road trip is a pastime that took off in the 1950’s, when there was rapid growth in families owning cars after World War II.These families commonly traveled U.S. Route 66 which ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Any families taking road trips in the 50’s were doing something right. Not only did a road trip enable these families to choose who they wanted to go with, plan a trip specifically for themselves, and put money back into the economy after World War II, they also started a tradition that would revive itself time and time again. It’s been 70 years since road trips became an American tradition and in 2020 the tradition will be back again and coming in strong. COVID-19 took away how we used to travel. The Department of Labor reported that in just 10 weeks over 40 million people applied for unemployment. The financial hardship many families find themselves in, along with COVID-19 restrictions, has severely limited travel plans in 2020. The way they may be accustomed to traveling will no longer be an option and they will look for different ways to spend their time and explore somewhere new. If you’re looking for a cheap vacation the answer is: road trip. AAA reported national gas prices in the month of May as an average of $1.97, almost a dollar less than this time in 2019 ($2.82). Traveling by car is cheap and convenient; whether you choose to go somewhere in state or out of state, the current gas prices will be worth the drive. When the American economy is in shambles, we are encouraged to spend money to help rebuild our economy. Road tripping enables Americans not only to spend their money on necessities but on fun activities. Stopping by local restaurants or businesses to have a new experience raises tourism and will help money flow to small towns and businesses. Places like the Grand Canyon will open up bringing in people to see its beauty, buy souvenirs, eat at their restaurant and still have the ability to create a social distancing environment to make everyone feel safe. Where should we be going on our road trips? Anywhere out of the ordinary. “The key is to find a place everyone isn’t going to,” said Cindy Richards, editor-in-chief of TravelingMom.com. Now is the time to convince your loved ones to join you on that obscure trip you’ve always wanted to go to. A trip to Buena Vista, Colorado gives many outdoor recreational activities, no matter what season. Social distance as you kayak down the Arkansas River, go rock climbing, scramble up Turtle Rock, or find your own adventure. Camping at national or state parks gives you plenty of time to bond with your loved ones, explore a new area, see and experience new things. The best part about a road trip is how the experience brings everyone closer together. Each activity you do together, every conversation you have, even the arguments you have about where to go next or what to do, allows you to learn a little bit more about the other person, how to compromise and work together as a team. Even though you may be bummed that your flight to Brazil was canceled or that cruise you were planning on taking, COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise. Americans now get to explore their own country, something many of us don’t do. America has some of the most beautiful and unique geologies in the world The road trip will bond us for life, create memories to last a lifetime, and an experience that will keep us planning the next one. Are you planning a road trip? Click here to see Budget Travel’s road trip itineraries. Sam War is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

Road Trips

#VanLife: how a pandemic affects life on the road

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Road Trips

RV Sales Skyrocket Due to the Coronavirus

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Americans have been looking for a way to get out of their homes and start truly living their lives again. As summer arrives, travel enthusiasts are finding that one of the hardest parts of the pandemic is that the list of places to travel is shorter than ever. It is even more disappointing for those who had trips already planned and were forced to cancel plans they had been looking forward to for so long. Airlines, cruises, and hotels have limited access or closed indefinitely, and that has inspired everyone who is eager for an adventure to think outside of the box. With group gathering guidelines limiting the number of places that are open for guests, getting outside and participating in outdoor recreation activities is one of few safe options left. Streets, parks, lakes, beaches, and trails have become most people’s new favorite places. Memorial Day is normally the weekend that kicks off the summer season, and this year it was especially important because it coincided with many places relaxing their stay-at-home orders. As a result, mass amounts of people are suddenly interested in purchasing some new toys to enjoy after weeks of being in lockdown. All over the country, RV sales have skyrocketed. RVs are the perfect way to get out, take a trip and enjoy the outdoors while still safely social distancing. Renters or buyers have the guarantee of their RV being a clean and safe place. Charrier and RV Masters’ owner, Tim Switzer, explained that RVs have become so popular in the past few weeks because the buyers or renters will still have control of their environment. “You’re sleeping in your own bed, you’re using your own bathroom,” Switzer said. “You don’t know who was in a hotel before you so it’s your own germs and your own choice of cleaning.” You can’t have that guarantee with airplanes, buses, cruise ships or any other public transportation. RVs have everything anybody could ever need in a quarantine. With an RV, the biggest risk of exposure to COVID-19 is the gas station. This has become such a big deal that some RV lots are struggling to keep enough RVs on hand for people to rent or buy. Scott Jones, owner of Access RV in Utah, even went as far to say that this was the busiest they have ever been in the 25 years his business has been open. American Family RV in Salem and Chesapeake, Virginia have doubled their sales in the past two months. Reno, Nevada has seen a 130% increase in RV sales compared to this time last year. In Kenner, Louisiana, there has been a 170% jump. Some people have even begun calling RVs “COVID campers.” It seems everyone has the same idea, no matter what state they live in. RVs are also helping frontline healthcare workers There are other uses for the RVs amid the Coronavirus though too. RV companies or owners have started offering up their RVs to first responders, nurses and other essential workers who cannot go home in fear of spreading the virus to their families. There is a Facebook page called “RVs 4 MDs” started by Emily Phillips and Holy Haggard in Texas. Since its founding on March 24, it has grown to more than 20,000 members all over the nation that have come together to help match available RVs with those in need of a way to self-isolate. RVshare and RVs 4 MDs created rental agreements and insurance to protect both the renter and owner of the RV while the frontline worker uses it. RVshare has even waived all booking fees for parties who rent through the platform. Even in such a difficult time, people have found a way to extend a helping hand. And from across the country at that. Now, essential workers can go to their “home” parked right outside their real home. Though it is not the same, it is better to see your family in the window only feet away than not at all. A temporary home could save hundreds of people from the virus. Another reason sales have increased is because hurricane season is approaching. According to Tim Switzer, some people use RVs as their form of evacuation when there is a storm warning. Having an RV is an easier and more homey way to pack up the necessities to leave in a scary situation while still having a safe and comfortable place to live. Living in a global pandemic has been a confusing time but it is beautiful to see that people are still able to find the good. Where some found a loophole to travel restrictions, others found kindness in an unexpected place. The virus, though scary and lonely, was not strong enough to keep people from spreading love or exploring the stunning places the nation has to offer.Haley Beyer is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.