Fall Foliage Walks

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire
  |  Gorp.com

The secret is sugar maples.

In the spring, sugar maples are working trees, providing the sweet syrupy sap that keeps many a New England country store in business the rest of the year. If you look closely in the forest, you'll actually see the sap-collecting tubes running from tree to tree.

But in autumn, the sugar maples don their fall finery of fire-red foliage and become brilliantly ornamental. True, golden oaks and yellow birches play their supporting parts with panache. But it's the sugar maples that are the stars in this extravaganza, making New England's foliage one of the world's classic seasonal spectacles.

Walkers are in luck, because both the Green Mountains (in Vermont) and the White Mountains (in New Hampshire) boast not only brilliant foliage but a bevy of trails that will take you to the color, up close and personal. You've got your choice of streamside strolls, calorie-burning climbs, and hand-over-hand rock scrambles that will challenge even the fittest walker.

Two warnings: You need to make hotel reservations well in advance, because this is prime leaf-peeping season. And steer clear of weekends around North Conway. This outlet shopping center draws weekend crowds the roads just can't handle. If you're attracted by all the bargains available, do your shopping on a weekday. On a weekend, head to the hills for a hike!

Recommended Ramble
Start your trip with a drive on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway—one of the most scenic Autumn roads in the world. Look for a trailhead parking area just west of a bridge over a creek 4.7 miles from Lincoln N.H. The trail starts there, and heads north. After about 2.5 miles, you'll see a turnoff for the Black Pond trail. (Ignore it). A few minutes later, you'll see another turnoff to the left for a campers' shelter. Take the side trail, go past the shelter, and pick up an old woods road, which you follow for a third of a mile to beautiful Franconia Falls.

Special Extras
The White Mountains are a family-friendly destination with activities for just about every age and interest. A favorite for kids: climbing through the caves and canyons at Lost River in Kinsman Notch.

For More Information
Appalachian Mountain Club, (603) 466-2727. The nearest towns are Woodstock, Lincoln, and Conway, where accommodations range from backcountry shelters to quaint New England B&Bs. Prime foliage is usually around the first week of October.


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