From the best time for peak color to the perfect foliage towns and road trips, our Connecticut fall foliage guide will help you plan a great escape this autumn.
By Yankee Editors
Oct 05 2021
Planning a trip to Connecticut this year for some autumn color and fun? Our Connecticut fall foliage guide is here to help. Learn the best time to see the leaves change, discover our favorite foliage towns and scenic routes, and read up on a few fantastic fall attractions.
While the timing is slightly different every year, Connecticut sees its best fall color, moving from north to south, starting in early October and extending through late October.
Some of our favorite regions in Connecticut for enjoying fall color are the Granby area and the Lower Connecticut River Valley area during middle peak (mid-October to late October). That said, you’ll find pockets of color in every corner of the state throughout the season.
Learn more about finding peak color in New England in the 2018 Yankee feature “Peak Perfection.”
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.
Water and leaves perform a charming pas de deux here every autumn, from the picturesque reflections in the Connecticut River to the brilliant counterpoint of the cascading brooks and waterfalls of Devil’s Hopyard State Park. Don’t miss the medieval whimsy of Gillette Castle, created by an eccentric actor, who also laid hiking trails through tunnels and over stone bridges on the surrounding estate.
Quieter than Kent, its Litchfield Hills neighbors are latticed with picturesque driving routes through Mohawk State Forest. Take in the view from Cunningham Tower, picnic at Housatonic Meadows State Park in nearby Sharon, or just admire the astounding length of the brick-red West Cornwall Bridge. Don’t miss a foliage canoe trip along the Housatonic with Clarke Outdoors.
Litchfield’s flawless, tree-studded town green may just be one of the best picnic spots in the world. It’s surrounded by a profusion of Colonial-era architecture as well as upscale boutiques catering to daytrippers up from the city. Don’t miss the town’s half-dozen specialty and organic farmstands—especially the PYOP (pick-your-own-pumpkin) hayrides at Bunnell Farm.
History, sweeping scenery, and (what else?) fall color are the hallmarks of this winding route through the northwestern corner of Connecticut. Begin in Granby, about 20 miles northwest of Hartford. As you head west on Route 20, available stops include Honey Hill Pottery for a unique gift or Holcomb Farm for 13 miles of walking trails. Documenting your drive? A left onto Route 219 to Route 318 offers Instagram-ready views of Saville Dam, with its stone gatehouse and backdrop of sugar maples, oaks, and pines. Motor on through the American Legion State Forest before a stop at the Riverton General Store, at Hogback Dam, to enjoy coffee or sandwiches on the outdoor patio. Ten miles to the west lies Norfolk, home to Haystack Mountain State Park, where you can drive halfway up and then hike to the top (the 1929 tower offers views in all directions). Continue south on 272 to Route 4 toward Goshen, your last stop. Here, you won’t want to miss Thorncrest Farm, where the cows supply a key ingredient for Milk House Chocolates’ gourmet sweets. A box or two just might be the perfect New England road trip souvenir.
The spine of Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner,” Route 169 also happens to be one of New England’s prettiest roads—most of it is in fact a National Scenic Byway. The start of this quick and easy drive is Woodstock, just a stone’s throw from Interstate 395; before setting out, be sure to check out the town’s watermelon-pink National Historic Landmark, Roseland Cottage, a grand Gothic Revival house built in 1846 by a local boy made good. Next stop is Pomfret, home of Mashamoquet Brook State Park and the ivied buildings of Pomfret School (plus the chance for antiques lovers to make a quick side trip via Route 44 to next-door Putnam’s 20,000-square-foot Antiques Marketplace). Continuing on 169 brings you to Brooklyn, a town steeped in agricultural history and where bison as well as cows can be seen grazing the fields. A side-trip option here: Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson, where more than a thousand rare tropical and subtropical plants are cultivated. Returning to the curves and hills of the main route, you’ll pass through historic Canterbury and, after the final stone wall–lined stretch, wind up in Lisbon, where the National Scenic Byway ends.
Learn more about our favorite fall routes in the 2014 Yankee feature “Slow Drives Through Fall Color” and get more New England foliage trip ideas in our list of 14 Favorite Fall Drives in New England.
A bench-spotted trail winds up the slope beside Kent Falls, where visitors can take in a series of cascades and pools. Park facilities include picnic tables and grills, which can be found dotted among open fields. In the past, Kent was named one of the best towns for fall foliage by Yankee Magazine, so you can be sure you’ll experience a real New England fall here.
There are a lot of great Connecticut corn mazes, but two of our favorites are Plasko’s Farm in Trumbull, spanning 4 acres and over 1.5 miles of pathways among 10-foot tall corn, and Preston Farms in Preston, which offers 16 stamping stations to find (or not) and 3-5 miles to trek.
These vintage steam trains carry you along the river in style and comfort as you take in stunning views of the fall foliage along the Connecticut River. Book the Essex Clipper Dinner Train package for a lunchtime trip or the Friday Night Sunset tour for unique views of the foliage as the light changes at day’s end. This is one of the only fall foliage train tours to offer a sunset option.
What Connecticut fall foliage picks would you add to the list? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated.