photo of Route 7 new england

Fly-fishing under a covered bridge in Litchfield, Connecticut (Rob Nicholas/Litchfield Hills Visitor's and Convention Bureau)

What to do in Ethan Allen Highway (Route 7)

When you picture chromatic canopies of fall foliage, covered bridges over blue-ribbon trout streams, and harvest festivals among Colonial-era homes around town greens, you picture Route 7. This winding, bucolic stretch of two-lane highway, also known as the Ethan Allen Highway, runs some 125 miles through the Berkshire Mountains' most lavish fall color country, starting at the Veteran's Bridge in New Milford, Connecticut (any farther south runs the risk of suburban New York traffic), to Bennington, Vermont, where it shoots into the Green Mountains. Of course, you can continue the trip up through northern New England college towns like Middlebury and Burlington, stopping at quaint bed-and-breakfasts and snapping an 8GB memory card worth of New England fall foliage pictures in the process. But that's a story for another webpage.

The southern reaches of Route 7 often get passed over for their northern neighbors. Don't make that mistake. In Connecticut, Kent Falls State Park in Litchfield County features a 250-foot waterfall pouring into a marble gorge, while the covered bridge in Cornwall has been photographed enough times to have its own museum. But if just stopping and saying "nice bridge" doesn't cut it, hook up with one of the fly-fishing outfitters in the area and pull speckled brown trout out of the Housatonic River until your arms are tired. Then continue north, into the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains and past boarding-school towns like Woodbury and Salisbury. Assuming you don't get stuck behind some Sunday-driving leaf peepers (a definite possibility), you'll be in Massachusetts in less than two hours.

Once you enter western Massachusetts, a region known for hardy, independent folk, it's about picking your spots. Savvy drivers stop and walk the hiking trails at Mount Greylock. Stockbridge has a number of good cultural stops, including the Norman Rockwell Museum. (Summer visitors will want to catch a show at Tanglewood.) Hit the accelerator around the big towns (Pittsfield, Great Barrington) unless you're into post-industrial charm. Williamstown, home to Williams College, is a must-see, with quaint eateries and coffeehouses perched below the red-, yellow-, and orange-tinted hills of the Purple Valley.

Once into Vermont, you'll be in the middle of the multicolored Green Mountain National Forest and Bennington County, home to another five covered bridges and countless New England hardwoods changing their stripes. Make your final stop one of Bennington's excellent bed-and-breakfasts. Or find your own way north into central Vermont.