Fall’s crisp arrival is truly a relief after the wet, humid summer months. October is the time for apple picking, pumpkin carving, bonfires, friends, and family—as the leaves around us change to velvet red, flame orange, and golden apple yellow. The Farmers' Almanac predicts that in 2021, Massachusetts foliage will reach peak beauty from October 5 to 21 inland and in the coastal areas, cresting from the 12th to the 28th, so plan the fun accordingly. Gather the crew together and choose a foliage-spotting excursion from these North Shore haunts:
Hike and picnic through Lynn Woods Reservation
Grab your pup (leashed, of course), and enjoy the crunch of leaves under your hiking boots as you hike the 2,200-acre Lynn Woods Reservation—an oasis from the busy towns and highways nearby. The moderate 4.4-mile Lynn Woods Trail loop circles the serene Breed’s Pond. Kids will love Dungeon Rock, an underground tunnel with a pirate past. There’s also a rose garden and public amphitheater that frequently hosts concerts. Take along a picnic, camera, or sketchbook and pause at one of the wooden tables to take in the patchwork of colors. For information about reservation hours, trails, and facilities visit lynnma.gov/departments/lynnwoods.shtml.
Pedal down Massachusetts Route 133 through Georgetown
Cyclists, take note! The perfect, leisurely country ride starts out in West Boxford, passing farmhouses and antique shops before entering Georgetown just South of the 20-acre Lufkins Brook Conservation Area and straight on through Main Street. Stop for breakfast and a game of garden golf at locally sourced farm-to-table restaurant Café Sarina on Central Street.
Admire the best fall scenery from the water
Take a Lighthouse and Foliage Cruise on the Salem Sound. Head to downtown Salem’s Pickering Wharf throughout October and hop aboard Mahi Cruises’ Hannah Glover, which boasts an open top deck and a heated main deck. The narrated sightseeing tour will go by five classic New England lighthouses while passing the shores of Salem, Beverly, Marblehead, and the Misery Islands. Snap photographs, settle in on deck with a warm drink, and enjoy fall from a totally different angle. For tickets and timings visit mahicruises.com/october.
Take a gorgeous stroll through the historic Maudslay State Park in Newburyport
This stunning and unusual park offers acres of trails and expansive meadows, as well as a 19th century walled garden with original plantings. Theatre in the Open, which has been offering free performances at the park for 40 years, hosts Maudslay Is Haunted, the annual spooky walk through the park, complete with crunchy leaves and kid-friendly boos. For information, check out theaterintheopen.org
Take a fall foliage cider & donut cruise
Nibble on sugared donuts from Ipswich’s Russell Orchards from aboard the deck of an Essex Cruise and watch the leaves of the forest pass in blurs of gorgeous color. Open to all ages, the gentle two-hour riverboat journey starts in Essex, looping up the Essex River, past Hog/Choate Island. Life couldn’t be sweeter or more relaxing. Book tickets in advance at essexcruises.com.
Reconnect with nature at one of the nation’s longest running farms
Appleton Farms in Ipswich was established in 1638, and has been managed by nine generations of Appleton family members, and is now a Trustees of Reservation property. Plan a day trip to the working farm and first hit up the CSA store for local apples and other goodies for your picnic, before walking the six miles of picturesque bridle paths, foot paths, and farm roads (jogging stroller accessible). Be sure to check out the website in advance, for special events like local cheese tastings, pizza picnics, hayrides, theatre performances, and guided hikes: thetrustees.org/place/appleton-farms.
Willowdale State Forest
When you’re done at Appleton, head to this classic New England woodland habitat bridging Ipswich and Topsfield to hike or mountain bike through 40 miles of trails or fish and boat on the 100-acre Hood Pond. In mid to late October, wander beneath soaring oak, hickory, hemlock, and maple trees, each more illuminated than the last. If you’re lucky you might spot a red-tailed hawk, or as you ramble through the adjoining wetlands have the chance to see frogs, toads, and salamanders. For trail information visit essexheritage.org/attractions/willowdale-state-forest.
Hit the road
If you're interested in seeking fantastic foliage beyond the North Shore, check out these options for off-the-beaten-path leaf-peeping around New England.