Fall in New England is more than just beautiful leaves. It encompasses a variety of experiences, from apple picking and browsing farmers’ markets to visiting unique shops and, of course, sampling great food. We ranked each town by using 14 categories that we felt best defined a great fall outing: color, scenery, vistas, water reflections, drives, hikes, culture, farmers market, orchards, parks, covered bridges, being away from crowds, shopping, food and lodging. Based on hard data, opinion and lots of travel time, here are the five best foliage towns in New England.
1. Kent, Connecticut
The profusion of crimson and gold leaves that leaps off the Litchfield Hills to reflect in the winding course of the Housatonic River is nothing short of breathtaking. The heart of the New England leaf-peeping experience lies in the details: the farmstands and covered bridges, the waterfalls and antiques stores that provide the eye candy, framed by the colors of our most glorious season. All of these things Kent has in abundance, in a perfect blend of uncommon natural beauty and culture that might shame cities 10 times its size.
2. Bethel, Maine
Maine’s mountain gem boasts scenic drives through Evans Notch and a covered-bridge driving tour of the area. On fall weekends, Sunday River Ski Resort’s “chondola” in nearby Newry whisks visitors 1,000 feet up North Peak to the ultimate picnic ground.
3. Manchester, Vermont
The second-highest peak in southern Vermont, Equinox Mountain offers unbroken views stretching miles to the surrounding ranges–a painter’s palette of gold and crimson by the first week of October. In August, the town hosts the annual Southern Vermont Art & Craft Festival, which draws artisans from around the Green Mountains.
4. Williamstown, Massachusetts
The ultimate college town, sheltered in the arms of Massachusetts’ highest mountain (Mount Greylock, in nearby Adams), Williamstown’s mix of eclectic architecture and inviting quads can’t help but inspire lofty thoughts. The drive up Mount Greylock affords dizzying views of the Berkshires and the Taconic Range, but the favorite hike for Williams College students is the two-mile pitch up to Pine Cobble, a quartzite outcropping with a panoramic view of “the Purple Valley” and church spires below.
5. Middlebury, Vermont
The 16-mile “Trail Around Middlebury” provides an ideal walking route where families can soak in the atmosphere of this vibrant college town. Here the fall foliage harmonizes with the brick architecture and the roaring falls of Otter Creek, with eclectic shopping and restaurants along the way.
Read the full story which explains the methodology used in selecting the towns in Yankee‘s 2010 September/October issue.
Find out which towns our readers chose as the best foliage towns in New England.