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’s special.
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. These six scenic drives offer some of the best autumn views available from anywhere on the planet.
This is an introduction to a series of six articles that provide details and routes on each of these scenic drives.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – MOHAWK TRAIL MASSACHUSETTS
The most popular fall foliage scenic drives in Massachusetts are along the famous Mohawk Trail. This 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.
Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, offers spectacular views of the surrounding area and Mohawk Trail.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – KANCAMAGUS HIGHWAY NEW HAMPSHIRE
New Hampshire has many scenic drives in the White Mountain National Forest but at the top of the list 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. It has beautiful forests ablaze with autumn colors and plenty of photo opportunities with walks along gorges and streams, and with views of the highest mountains in the Presidential Range.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – CENTRAL VERMONT AREA
In Vermont nature planted all the high peaks in the south – although the North Kingdom has great color as well. But arguably Vermont’s best loved fall foliage drive is in the Central Vermont area, around Killington, and the towns and highways of Woodstock, Rutland and Ludlow. This is deep in The Green Mountain National Forest area, and not surprisingly offers spectacular fall foliage color and scenery.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – LAKES AND LEAVES MAINE
Parts of Maine are the first to display peak fall foliage color in New England. With Maine’s many driving loops to choose from, it’s difficult to single out one. But the Lakes and Leaves drive that touches the shores of Moosehead Lake on Route 15 before heading south on route 201 is ever popular. You’ll see unparalleled 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
Fall vacationers in Rhode Island have open roads and coastal drives to satisfy their leaf peeping. The 61-mile Rhode Island Coast Scenic Drive follows the coastline east from Westerly before turning north along Narragansett Bay, and eventually over Newport Bridge on route 138. The drive finishes over the breathtaking Ocean Drive in historic Newport. A pleasant seaside twist to a fall foliage drive.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC DRIVE – CONNECTICUT ROUTE 169
Not to be outdone during fall foliage the state of Connecticut has in its own little corner of popular autumn leaf spotting sites, with some of the most stunning scenic drives being on Route 169 in the glacial plains which are part of Quinebaug River bottomlands.