New England

Best 5 Secret Fall Escapes

New England’s tucked-away corners sometimes prove to be the best places to see the region’s autumn beauty. See our list of the best 5 secret fall escapes.

By Kim Knox Beckius

Aug 25 2016


A bench provides a sunrise view of Cape Cod marshland at the Sandwich Boardwalk over Mill Creek.

Photo Credit : Susan Cole Kelly
A bench provides a sunrise view of Cape Cod marshland at the Sandwich Boardwalk over Mill Creek.
A bench provides a sunrise view of Cape Cod marshland at the Sandwich Boardwalk over Mill Creek.
Photo Credit : Susan Cole Kelly

When leaves light up with color and swirl like confetti, New England’s tree-canopied byways fill with admirers, and last-minute lodging in primo foliage destinations may be hard to find. Looking for quieter places away from the crowds? Here are a handful of hidden spots where the leaf peepers aren’t … where you can observe autumn’s emerging hues in relative solitude and focus on your own transformation.

Chepachet, Rhode Island

It’s easy to forget that the Ocean State is actually 52 percent forested. Just when northern landscapes are fading, this historic village in Rhode Island’s northwest corner becomes an introverted leaf lover’s paradise. Route 102, the state’s best foliage drive, runs straight through this riverside outpost. A quiet walk along Bowdish Reservoir, or a rugged hike of the most stunning stretch of the North South Trail, awaits within George Washington State Campground; the $14-per-night Rhode Island resident price for a zero-frills RV, trailer, or tent site is hard to beat. There’s penny candy at Brown & Hopkins, one of America’s oldest general stores, and a crackling fire inside Old Stone Mill Antiques. Don’t leave without tasting Purple Cat Winery’s hard apple cider, the closest thing to fall in a;

Hebron, New Hampshire

As pristine as any water in the country, Newfound Lake sheds its light layer of summer tourists after Labor Day. “Low-effort, high-reward hikes” abound, says Pete Carey, whose Meadow Wind Bed & Breakfast features Audubon lands in its backyard. You can drive the entire lakeshore, but the Newfound Lake Region Association’s pontoon-boat eco tours provide optimal views of the wild, rust-splashed hillsides ringing this deep bowl. NLRA executive director Boyd Smith says that newcomers find that the lake’s pure beauty “touches something inside them from their days of innocence … We’re 20 or 30 years behind the times—thank God.”

Riverton, Connecticut

The West Branch of the Farmington River—famed for trout fishing—surges through Riverton, just as it did in 1825, when it began powering the Hitchcock Chair factory. Then, “Hitchcocksville” was a booming stagecoach stop. Now, Riverton is a village that time forgot. The 107-year-old Riverton Fair on Columbus Day weekend draws thousands of visitors—but midweek, this place can feel like yours alone. Sandwiches from the General Store will fuel you for exploring American Legion and Peoples state forests, or keep you going till an early dinner at Sweet Pea’s or a movie at Pleasant Valley Drive-in. Love the church that houses Peter Greenwood’s glassblowing workshop and gallery? It’s for sale. So is the 1796 Old Riverton Inn. Until the right buyer appears, owners Mark and Pauline Telford say, “It’s a nice place to be stuck.”

Rockland, Maine

Why escape to the coast when autumn’s richest golds and rubies are stashed deep in the interior? Rockland is an overlooked launchpad for a fall getaway; pick up meandering Route 17 here, and the northwest drive toward Rangeley is as scenic as any in Maine. But you don’t have to leave the city for color: The new Center for Maine Contemporary Art joins the Farnsworth Museum in cementing Rockland’s status as the Midcoast’s arts capital. Fill fall days with lighthouse walks, day sails, shopping, a hot-seashell massage at RHEAL Day Spa—whatever revs your appetite for lobster, which is abundant and cheaper once summer is over. Save room if you’re staying at Berry Manor Inn, where homemade pie is available on demand.

Sandwich, Massachusetts

The same autumn light that enchants artists adds rich radiance to the Sandwich Glass Museum’s window displays and beams through the stained glass of the abbey of the 1901 Belfry Inn & Bistro, a former church. Thanks to this old town’s sheltered position on Cape Cod Bay, trees—particularly the dense beech groves of Lowell Holly Reservation—remain vibrant late into the season, rewarding last-gasp leaf seekers. And they’re not Mother Nature’s only visual treat: Look for cranberries surfacing atop flooded bogs as you wander historic Route 6A, or admire the glowing amber marsh grasses as you tread the 1,700 lovingly inscribed planks of the Sandwich