The Middlebury College campus and the surrounding Town of Middlebury are particularly scenic in the fall.
Photo Credit : Photograph by Brett Simison
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. But picking the right autumn destination is no easy matter. To guide you to the perfect fall experience, we’ve put together this list of ten of our favorite foliage towns.
Set in the heart of Connecticut’s stunning Litchfield Hills region, Kent offers the full foliage experience: 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 (just shy of 3,000 people).
To bring home a little of that artistic sensibility, visit Heron American Crafts Gallery (heronamericancraft.com) for artisanal wares from around New England and beyond. Look for the shadow-box sculptures of Tomas Savrda, which we guarantee are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The profusion of art in town offers a constant counterpoint to the artistry of nature. Across the Housatonic River, the natural area of Macedonia Brook State Park (ct.gov) is carved into the side of Cobble Mountain, where Revolutionary-era residents dug iron ore out of the hills and fashioned it into cannonballs to fire at the British. Kent’s other big natural draw tumbles 250 feet down from the hills in a series of cascades known collectively as Kent Falls (ct.gov).
Don’t miss: Mountain View Farm (mountainviewfarmkent.com), which boasts an enviable vista along with a bevy of organic produce. There, you can meet Maria LaFontan, who has been working the land here with her husband, Vincent, for 15 years, and now farms eight fields of pumpkins, squash, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, and other crops, along with raising a flock of some 85 chickens. It’s also one of the few places in Connecticut where you can purchase certified organic maple syrup.
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. Don’t miss: Bethel’s townwide Annual Harvest Fest & “Chowdah” Cookoff, held September 19 this year (207-824-2282; bethelmaine.com), where local restaurants compete for bragging rights.
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 mid-summer, (July 31-August 2) the town hosts the annual Southern Vermont Art & Craft Festival, which draws artisans from around the Green Mountains. Don’t miss: Northshire Bookstore (4869 Main St., Manchester Center; 802-362-2200; northshire.com), the independent bookshop/café you might have created in your dreams.
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. Don’t miss: the stunning Impressionist collections at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (225 South St.; 413-458-2303; clarkart.edu).
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. Don’t miss: the A&W Drive-In (1557 Route 7; 802-388-2876; awrestaurants.com), where frosty root beers and fried onion rings from one of New England’s last car-hop restaurants perfectly complement the crisp fall air.
The view from the forested slopes of Mount Battie straight down to the forest of masts in Camden Harbor is one of the most dramatic in New England—and never more beautiful than in fall. For a closer look at the trees, hike nearby Mount Megunticook or Bald Rock Mountain. Don’t miss: the crispy cider doughnuts at Boynton-McKay Food Co. (30 Main St.; 207-236-2465; boynton-mckay.com).
Iconic barns and hillside farmlands carpet this narrow valley between Green Mountain ranges, reflected in the rushing currents of the Mad River. The town has two covered bridges, including the Great Eddy (a.k.a. Big Eddy), the second-oldest operating covered bridge in the state. Saturday mornings bring local residents out for fresh produce, crafts, and music at the weekly Waitsfield Farmers’ Market on the Green. Don’t miss: the gourmet pizzas at American Flatbread (46 Lareau Road; 802-496-8856; americanflatbread.com).
CONWAY/NORTH CONWAY, NEW HAMPSHIRE
There may be no better way to see foliage than by train, and the Conway Scenic Railroad is just the ticket, wending its way through White Mountain clefts and over trestles lit by the colors of fall. Restaurants and outlet shopping ensure that you won’t sacrifice comfort for beauty. Don’t miss: the hike to Diana’s Baths (off West Side Road on the Bartlett town line), a chain of waterfalls and swimming holes enveloped in foliage.
SANDWICH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Sandwiched between the loon-rich shores of Squam Lake and the forested foothills of the White Mountains, the village offers plenty of hiking trails, driving routes, a covered bridge, and an inviting downtown. Don’t miss: the 129-year-old Sandwich Fair, October 10-12 this year (603-284-7062; thesandwichfair.com), with midway rides, livestock competitions, and more.
The lakes of Maine’s western mountains hold up a succession of mirrors to some of the state’s best fall foliage. The must-stop viewpoint in the area is at a small turnout on Route 17, aptly named Height of Land, from which a panorama of five lakes and countless forested mountains stretches in all directions. Don’t miss: the annual Maine Forest Museum Apple Festival, October 3 this year (207-864-5595; rangeleymaine.com), where visitors can press their own cider while watching artisans “whittle” away with chainsaws.