Famed around the world for its natural beauty, New England is one of the most mesmerising regions of North America to visit in autumn (or fall, as our cousins across the pond call it). From the middle of September to late October, the trees are ablaze with vivid shades of red, orange and gold. Forests, mountains and historic towns are transformed into unforgettable visions coloured with the glorious seasonal palette.
Grab a slice of the (pumpkin) pie for yourself on our ‘Best of New England in the Fall’ tour, taking you through five states with postcard-worthy views at every turn. Unearth the charming history and culture of this north-eastern corner of the USA, visit the big-name cities and small-time towns, and even meet some local wildlife along the way.
Take a stroll through brilliant Boston
With the Atlantic Ocean lapping at the city’s shore and 2,100 acres of parks inland, it’s little wonder Boston is known as America’s walking city. Bostonians love a good wander; the city has one of the highest percentages of pedestrian commuters in the United States – and for good reason. Get your walking shoes on and spend your free afternoon on day 2 exploring the green (or gold) heart of the city in Boston’s parkland.
In the Public Garden, you’ll see a spectacular display of colour as you stroll through the leaf-flooded walkways. As the foliage reaches its peak, you’ll spot sweeping willow trees, horse chestnuts decorated with conkers, golden Japanese larch and towering Californian redwoods (to name just a few). For one of the best views, walk across lagoon’s footbridge to see Mallard Island – you’ll often spot ducks waddling along in the sunshine on warmer days.
Alternatively, hire a bicycle and ride along the river paths of The Esplanade. This long, linear park runs along the Charles River and offers wonderful views of the iconic cityscape framed by the warm colours of autumn. To get a more local taste of the city, why not take a wander around one of the elegant neighbourhoods, where the brownstone buildings complement the falling leaves. In Back Bay, Commonwealth Avenue is a great place to start – then see where the leaves guide you.
Enjoy autumn visions of Vermont
You’ll want to keep your cameras at the ready for every drive you take in Vermont – this state promises to be a scenic feast of fall foliage. Green Mountains National Forest is a wonderful introduction to the autumn colours; you won’t be disappointed by the beauty of the tree-blanketed mountain vistas of vivid gold, orange and red.
Arriving in Woodstock, leave your camera case behind – you won’t need it. This quaint, colonial village is a sea of golden shades at this time of year. You’ll have some free time to wander around the churches and many grand houses that surround the village green. And if stunning orange-tinged villages are your thing, you might consider joining the optional excursion to the mountain town of Stowe on day 8. Reached by gondola, this cosy town has an enchanting colonial character with a Community Church at its centre. In the winter, it’s one of the east’s classiest ski resorts.
As we make our way round to Burlington, there’ll be an opportunity to complement the scenic beauty with some tastes of autumn. We’ll stop by the Morse Maple Farm for a tasting of the delicious maple syrup made using the sap from the very trees along our route.
In our opinion, one of the best parts of discovering a new area is meeting the wildlife that calls that place home – and in New England, there’s certainly no shortage of wildlife to see. Perhaps one of the area’s most famous residents, the moose, is instantly recognisable by its knobbly knees and humped back. Found in the more densely wooded areas, they’re particularly common around Pittsfield (where we stay overnight on day 7). These eastern moose are known as Alces alces Americana – a subspecies that are also found in Eastern Canada and northern New York.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, colonies of beavers scurry about their business in the masses. Perhaps choose to spend your free afternoon in Boston at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, not far from the city. Teeming with wildlife, the American beaver can be spotted here hauling branches and building dams – you might even see a blue heron and Blanding’s turtle, too.
Keep your eyes peeled as you ascend to the 4,080-ft summit of Cannon Mountain on day 10 – you might be lucky enough to spot the famous bald eagle. On a clear day, you’ll enjoy phenomenal views of mountains across four states and Canada, but watching the US National Emblem glide through the air would really be the icing on the cake. The only eagle unique to North America, these fierce birds become more active as the season begins to change to winter. Fingers crossed!
A visit to the glorious autumn scenery of New England centres around the natural beauty and colour of the region, but it’s far from just a feast for the eyes. It is an unforgettable and enchanting cultural experience, too.
Feeling inspired? Take a look at our ‘Best of New England in the Fall’ tour for more details.
Originally published July 2015, updated October 2018