Wetter-than-average summers mean a slow start to fall foliage season—which means you’ve still got plenty of time to plan the perfect escape. Whether you’re on the hunt for rare maples or just out for the pretty colors, here are six (all but guaranteed) brilliant destinations to hit.
New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee
The state’s biggest lake also offers some of its most prime leaf-peeping. Stay at the sprawling Mill Falls at the Lake in the ultra-picturesque Meredith, an all-season resort perched right along the lake’s shores. Take in foliage by land—a scenic and moderately heart-pumping hike to the peak of nearby Gunstock Mountain or while apple picking at Moulton Farm; or by water, via kayak or pontoon boat charter (the hotel can arrange). Or simply from an Adirondack surrounding a fire pit on Mill Falls’ sprawling lawn.
Newport, Rhode Island’s Ocean Drive
Rent a pair of wheels at Bike Newport’s The Annex, then cruise the 11-mile waterfront Ocean Drive Loop, past American yellowwoods, European beeches, and (tree-less, but equally stunning) Rhode Island Sound. End at Newport Harbor for an overnight at the in-town and waterfront twofer Hammett’s Hotel, with a modern take on a nautical design theme. In-house restaurant Giusto, led by Rhode Island native chef Kevin O’Donnell, serves to perfection New England-inspired Italian (and a not-to-be-missed negroni blanco). Annual festivals aplenty include the Harvest Festival at Newport Vineyards—a full day of grape stomping and pie eating—and Pumpkin Palooza at Frerichs Farm in nearby Warren.
Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine
The three-in-one destination in scenic midcoast Maine comes with views of both harbor and mountains. Stay at the Norumbega Inn, a recently-renovated 11-room boutique hotel affectionally dubbed by locals as “the castle by the sea,” where four acres of land offer plenty of opportunities for taking in nature. Nearby, the 66-acre park and nature center Merryspring offers ecology walks marked by natural springs and dozens of species of birds along nearly four miles of trails dating back to the late 18th century. For an alternative view, Rockland-based Maine Sport Outfitters leads daily kayaking and paddleboarding tours around the leafy Camden waterfront, as well as hiking, climbing, and canoeing trips further afield.
Vermont’s Route 100
The very-Vermont Route 100 winds through several quintessential New England villages, replete with cider donut and maple coffee offerings to fuel your journey. Start with a night in West Dover at the Hermitage Inn, in the foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains, with access to self-guided fall foliage hikes (through the requisite covered bridges) and nightly cider by the firepits. After that, follow 100 all the way to Killington. For peak views, hike to the top of the mountain. Then, continue northward. Your ultimate destination: The 11-mile Green Mountain Byway, which runs between Waterbury and Stowe, where The Lodge at Spruce Peak serves hyper-local food and beer (also hyper-local whiskey) alongside plenty of mountain views.
New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway
Call it the Kanc, if you want to sound like a local, and drive its 35 miles, starting in Lincoln, through the White Mountain National Forest, en route to The Wentworth, a 150-year-old inn that recently unveiled a major head-to-toe redesign, including 20 suites with private outdoor hot tubs (and all the views). Detour for a picnic lunch at Sabbaday Falls in Conway, a waterfall a half-mile in from the trail head, then head north to Whitefield, where the Mountain View Grand steals the show with a foliage hike offered alongside the property’s resident llamas and alpacas.
Maine’s Mount Desert Island
Maine’s largest island and the gateway to Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island (MDI to locals, who will also insist that it’s pronounced “dessert”) offers some of the state’s most breathtaking scenery. New England’s only national park offers the East Coast’s highest point and over 120 miles of trails to choose from—the Acadia Mountain Trail is one of the most popular, if not the easiest. But endure the doable 700-foot climb and be rewarded with sprawling views of Somes Sound and Southwest Harbor. Stay at the West Street Hotel, a four-story, 85-room boutique hotel overlooking the harbor and Frenchman Bay, with easy access to Bar Harbor’s bustling downtown as well as to the park’s entrance.