Top Ten Fall Foliage Hikes in New England

These ten hikes deliver on the Northeast's best fall foliage, minus the expected crowds.
By Seth Levy
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Birch and Red Maple trees, fall foliage, Maine
Birch and Red Maple trees show their fall color in Maine  (Jake Wyman/Photodisc/Getty)

The American Northeast is a landscape built for fall. As soon as the sharp crack of autumn arrives in the morning air, chimneys give off their first puff, apple-picking season begins, and the leaves burst into flames of reds, oranges, and yellows. Home to some of the best "leaf peeping" in America, the Northeast is also home to some of the densest populations in the country. But our ten favorite places to take in the fall colors are a bit out of the way, so you can beat the crowds and enjoy some quality time with just the trees, the locals, and the cool fall air.

10. Camden, Maine
A traditional Maine fishing village nestled in a narrow cove, this bustling town maintains an honest mix of quality shopping, dining, and art with the seafaring tradition that has sustained it for more than 100 years. Set just back from the town is Camden Hills State Park, with miles of trails for hiking and a road so drivers can take in the scenery from the comfort of their cars. Suffering from scenery deficit disorder? Try this outing: From the top of Mt. Battie, look east to the ocean and watch the breakers crash into the rugged coastline, then rotate 180 degrees for an awe-inspiring view of the low coastal mountains bursting into fall color. Repeat as needed. When you've explored the trails and byways, check out downtown Camden or take a quick cruise to visit local populations of puffins and whales.

9. Portland, Maine
Mainers call Portland "the city." New Yorkers, hold your laughter, and take some time to appreciate Portland's ideal blend of Yankee bustle and laid-back style. The cultural center of this city is known as the Old Port, and you're just as likely to see a lobsterman knocking back beers at Gritty McDuff's brewpub as you are to get a great deal on artesian local preserves at Stonecoast Kitchen. As the tourists drain out in late August and a chill creeps in, the city comes alive with fall color. For a quick fix, wander the eastern promenade, with your back to the opulent captains' mansions, and feel your face stung by sea breeze. For a classic Maine experience, take one of the frequent ferries into Casco Bay to admire the foliage on Peaks Island, Little Diamond Island, or Chebeague Island.

8. Rangeley, Maine
Nestled in the high, rounded Appalachians is a town of unique balance. Rangeley has enough New England character to be authentic, and it has enough connection with civilization to be approachable. The modest downtown features a charming public beach (worth a dip if Indian Summer arrives in full force), and a good mixture of outfitters and local arts and crafts stores. For full immersion in fall scenery, drive west toward the village of Oquossoc to visit the sprawling Organon, the estate-turned-museum of eccentric psychologist Willhelm Reich, who thought Rangeley's balanced vibe was perfect for his unusual experiments in rain-making. This 160-acre natural area features a trail system, open meadows, and an appealing mixture of young pines and older hardwoods, plus it affords great views of nearby Dodge Pond and Rangeley Lake. If the weather doesn't cooperate for a fall foliage hike, visit Rangeley's micro-cinema that verges on doll-house quaint and shows discount movies months after first release.

7. Tyringham, Massachusetts
James Taylor once sung: "And the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of their frosting….10,000 miles behind me and 10,000 more to go." You won't have to travel 10,000 miles to visit this Massachusetts hill outpost; what you will have is a front seat to one of the best foliage shows in New England, and possibly America. Here in the Berkshires, cool nights and warm days produce one of the earliest and most vivid displays of fall colors: maples flash vivid red, and stands of pine provide green for contrast. Better yet, the famous Appalachian Trail winds through the center of the community, offering an easy day hike to the south, and a challenging but short walk to the north that skirts the shore of Upper Goose Pond, where a canoe is often available if you dare to ripple the incredible reflections of this mirror-like lake.

6. Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Great Barrington rewards the patient adventurer. June and July bring swarms of vacationers from Boston and New York, not to mention swarms of mosquitoes. By fall, both disperse and the spectacular New England leaf show begins. Though Great Barrington's bustling downtown is plenty of fun, the real show is on the numerous country roads that head west off Route 7 into Beartown State Forest and Monument Mountain Reservation. Here, you can find numerous hiking, biking, and walking trails where the cool air and the soft, piney soil will paint your cheeks with some fall color of your own! Don't miss the historic church where Arlo Guthrie dined with Alice Brock in his famous "Alice's Restaurant," and head into nearby Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to visit the still-open Alice's Restaurant.

Published: 19 Oct 2010 | Last Updated: 20 Oct 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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