Autumn in New England
For a spectacular leaf-peeping show, head north to wind your way along famed or lesser-known routes.
Arguably New England’s most beloved scenic byway, Kancamagus Highway is a 34-mile stretch of road that cuts an east-west pass through the White Mountain National Forest. Designated an American Scenic Byway, the route is devoid of billboards, gas stations, restaurants, and other eyesore conveniences, making it a rare uninterrupted swath of natural beauty. Following the path of the Swift River, the highway climbs to roughly 3,000 feet at the peak of Mount Kancamagus.
Stop at the Covered Bridge Campground to walk across the Albany Covered Bridge. Stretch your legs on the camp’s three-mile Boulder Loop Trail, relish views of Mount Chocorua, and skip down to the Lower Falls. For an easy woodsy walk, hit the Lovequist Loop Trail around Falls Pond.
Heading west, must-stop waterfall spots include Sabbaday Falls and Rocky Gorge. On the ascent up Mount Kancamagus, there are multiple places to pull over for photo ops; Sugar Hill, Pemigewasset, and Hancock Overlooks all provide a place to park. If the weather is warm, dip into Upper Lady’s Bath swimming hole at Big Rock Campground.
Recommended spots for chews and brews include Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery, Gordi’s Fish & Steak House, Texas Toast Eatery, and Rustic River Restaurant. If you want to make a weekend of it, there are campgrounds and cabin rentals aplenty along the route, as well as motels in Conway and Lincoln.
Old Canada Road Scenic Byway stretches nearly 78 miles from Solon to the Canadian border, and hugs the upper Kennebec River for more than 25 miles before giving way to Wyman Lake. You’ll pass through the towns of Bingham, Moscow, Caratunk, and Jackman, as well as the wilderness outpost known as The Forks, where the Dead and Kennebec rivers converge. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you move north of The Forks—it is called Moose River Valley, after all. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time, as there are long passes with little to no development. In fact, this area has hardly changed since pre-colonial times.
One option is to start in Skowhegan and follow Route 201 to Jackman, and then pick up Route 6 and drive along Moosehead Lake to Greenville. Scenic pullouts include Attean Overlook and Lake Parlin, and notable side excursions are Evergreen Campground and Restaurant, Wyman Dam and Lake, Moxie Falls (one of the state’s tallest waterfalls), and Holeb Falls, called “Switzerland of Maine.”
Dining and lodging options are found in the little villages and quaint towns that dot the route. A favorite among river rafters is Inn by the River. In addition to 10 guest rooms, a carriage house, and Riverside Restaurant and Pub, it offers tubing and rafting rentals. The pub at the Marshall’s Inn, also in The Forks, is known for its slow-cooked meats, and Hawk’s Nest Lodge in West Forks offers rustic accommodations and an open-timber restaurant and tavern.
The Quechee—Coolidge scenic drive is a 61-mile loop through central Vermont’s verdant countryside and old villages. Hemmed by Hartford, Woodstock, Plymouth, and Killington, there’s much to see and do along the way. As its part of what i known as the New England Uplands, expect rolling hills and meandering river valleys.
Be sure to stop at Quechee Gorge State Park to experience the 165-foot gorge nicknamed “Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon.” While in the area, pop into Simon Pearce Glassworks to watch artisans blowing glass in the old hydropower mill. Woodstock—considered one of New England’s prettiest towns with its covered bridges and Colonial architecture—affords views of Mount Tom and Mount Peg.
Visit Plymouth Notch Historic District, a clapboard hamlet on the edge of the Green Mountains and home to the Coolidge family compound. Pick up a wheel of artisan cheese for the road at The Plymouth Cheese Factory, built by President Coolidge’s father. Stand beneath old-growth red spruce and hemlock forests in the 45-acre Tinker Brook Natural Area.
A drive highlight is Killington Peak, the second highest of Vermont’s mountains.
For gastropub eats, there’s the famed Long Trail Brewing Company in Woodstock, and Killington Ski Area offers six resort restaurants, including Preston’s, where ingredients are sourced from independent farms, small-batch cheesemakers, and craft brewers. For a weekend-long scenic tour, book a room at the ultra-luxe Killington Grand Resort Hotel.