While you can enjoy the summer greenery shifting into the best fall foliage in many states, New England has an extra special something that brings visitors each fall time for leaf peeping. Winding country roads, scenic mountains, covered bridges, picturesque farms, and brighter leaf colors than the surrounding areas make New England an ideal location for spending a week or two in autumn.
The mountains stretching from Vermont to New Hampshire provide some of the most idyllic areas for photography. These idyllic landscapes and a crisp temperature provide a festive scene for New Englanders and visitors to enjoy each fall. However, the fall colors don’t arrive simultaneously in New England, so it’s essential to know where to go and when for the best places to see fall colors.
This guide offers a week-long itinerary with hotel suggestions and other travel trips, so you can spend time at the best places to see fall foliage in New England.
Best Time to Go
The leaves change color each year from the Northeast to the South, so it’s best to visit toward the end of September through the beginning of October. These months offer the most beautiful yellow and red leaves for viewing.
However, keep in mind that the New England fall foliage changes at slightly different times each year. This difference in timeframe is due to weather and the state(s) you plan on visiting. If you want to travel along the southern part of New England to see spots like the Connecticut River, visiting during mid-October is ideal for leaf peeping.
Week-Long Car Trip
This weeklong trip takes you from the stunning Lake Winnipesaukee area in New Hampshire through Manchester, Vermont.
Day 1: Lake Winnipesaukee
Begin at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Set right in the foothills of the White Mountains, this is the largest lake in the state of New Hampshire. It provides an incredibly scenic area for photography and leaf viewing. There are a few airports nearby the lake, including Portsmouth Pease Airport, so you can easily fly into the area. These will add about 1.5 hours to the itinerary. Alternatively, you can drive to Lake Winnipesaukee.
While at the lake, you can elect to drive the 80-mile trek around the lake, hike on the vast number of trails, or enjoy the scenic railroad foliage tour.
Day 2: Kancamagus Highway
Day two is spent driving along the Kancamagus Highway, one of New England’s most famous leaf-peeping areas. This highway stretches 34.5 miles and features lush trees on either side, offering many idyllic spots to stop at the best places to see fall color.
Day 3: Franconia Notch State Park
The following day, you’ll head to Franconia Notch State Park. This lovely spot is set in the White Mountain National Forest, offering views of cascading waterfalls and rocky terrain interspersed between thick bunches of trees. If you have extra time, hiking around the park provides the best foliage views.
Day 4: Burlington, Vermont
The next stop is Burlington, Vermont. This mountainous area offers access to early fall colors and plenty of hiking opportunities. While in Burlington, you can spend your time exploring Lake Champlain during the day. There are also many biking paths available in the area.
Day 5: Lake Placid
Lake Placid is such a stunning area that you can easily spend a full day exploring the lake. Check out the beautiful fall foliage from the gondola, go horseback riding for a new perspective of the changing colors, or check out the local fall festivals to get in leaf peeping mode in one of the best places to see fall colors.
Day 6: Woodstock
Leave early in the morning to head to Woodstock so that you can catch the beautiful sunrise over Sleepy Hollow Farm. Then, spend the rest of the day exploring the historic downtown area and trying the many available kinds of cheese.
Day 7: Manchester, Vermont
This seven-day trip finishes in Manchester, where you can enjoy the fall leaves and other fun fall time activities, such as apple picking. For the best views of the golden and red foliage, head to Equinox Skyline Drive. This is one of the best places to see fall colors in New England.
Where to Stay
During your weeklong road trip, you’ll need to find a spot to stay each night so you can recoup and be ready for the next day. These stays coincide with the fall foliage driving itinerary.
Lake Winnipesaukee Retreat
The Lake Winnipesaukee Retreat lies in Gilford, New Hampshire. It’s a budget-friendly option where you can view the lake directly from the balcony of each room, making it a great option for the first night.
You’ll also have a kitchen and dining area in each room, so you can save a few dollars by enjoying dinner in the hotel room.
This inn is a perfect spot for days two and three, as Kancamagus Highway is only about a two-hour drive from Franconia Notch State Park. By staying at the park on day two, you’ll have more time to explore the stunning nature views.
Franconia Inn is a mid-tier hotel that offers stunning views of the White Mountains and a warm breakfast each morning. You can also arrange a horseback riding excursion through the inn or rent a bike.
Alternatively, you can camp directly in Franconia Notch State Park.
Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain
After spending day three hiking and day four exploring Burlington, you can spend the night in the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain Hotel. This hotel offers a more luxurious experience, with each room having a breathtaking view of Lake Champlain below and two restaurants onsite. It’s nearby Burlington attractions, making it a convenient choice after a long day of exploration.
Lake House at High Peaks Resort
The Lake House at High Peaks Resort is another mid-tier hotel featuring many amenities, including a pool table, fire pit, pool, hot tub, and views of Mirror Lake. If you’re traveling with the entire family, you’ll enjoy staying at the Lake House. We recommend staying here after exploring Lake Placid on day five.
The Birch Grove
Staying at The Birch Grove is the perfect way to finish your trip before heading to Manchester on day seven. This bed and breakfast is located in Woodstock and offers a comfortable stay with free Wi-Fi and private parking. During this stay, you’ll also find a lovely garden visible via the deck.
Where to Go
Here are some top attractions to keep an eye out for while driving and looking for New England fall colors.
This spot is nearby Lake Winnipesaukee and is considered one of the best hiking spots in the area. It’s also an ideal area for viewing the changing fall colors.
Sabbaday Falls + Champney Falls
These falls reside alongside the Kancamagus Highway route, making them excellent spots to stop for additional photography and picnicking. If you don’t have time to do both, ensure you stop by Sabbaday Falls, as it’s the most famous waterfall spot in New Hampshire.
Artists Bluff Summit
While you’re exploring Franconia Notch State Park, make sure to stop by Artists Bluff Summit. This location offers the best viewpoint for photographs in the park. Ensure you bring your camera along for this stop.
Ethan Allen Park
This park, situated in Burlington, is one of the best places in the town for viewing the fall foliage. For a bird’s eye view of the surrounding nature, head to the tower in Ethan Allen Park.
John Brown Barn
This historic site doubles as one of the best leaf peeping spots near Lake Placid. John Brown Barn is surrounded by a lush thicket of trees, making it a stunning spot for the best fall colors.
Sleepy Hollow Farm
Set right outside of Woodstock, Vermont, this idyllic farm offers brilliant views of trees climbing up the nearby rolling hills. It’s one of the most photographed spots in Vermont. Don’t be surprised if you’re met with a line of photographers waiting to catch the sunrise over the farm.
Equinox Mountain Summit
Don’t skip this stop on day seven, as it offers incredible panoramic views of New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It’s one of the most breathtaking views of the trip, as you can see the mountains sprawling out before you.
Use the above seven-day itinerary as a starting point for exploring the best places to see fall foliage in New England. If you have more than a week, you can spend a few days visiting the nearby towns on the route. Or, you can add Maine to your itinerary to spend time at Acadia National Park and Green Mountain National Forest.