Midwestern and Mountain West towns garner much of the foliage acclaim each autumn, with places like Aspen, Colorado, and Michigan’s Great Lakes region lighting up in a crimson and gold blaze each year. The eastern United States reliably offers the authentic fall experience as well, featuring the comfort of chestnut-tinted maple forests with a cup of hot cider and apple spice donut. The coast’s many cider mills and apple orchards flourish in the extended crisp weather. Early October is usually peak foliage season east of the Mississippi River, and taking a tour of the color on foot, or by car, is sure to invoke that familiar nostalgia. Whether you’re a Halloween junkie, or an enthusiastic hiker looking for ways to extend the activities into a new season, these hot spots have it all. Grab your coziest sweater and check out these renowned destinations for foliage viewing on the East Coast.
Catskills, New York
When to go: mid-October
Best foliage hike: Catskill Scenic Trail
This 6,000 square miles of birch, maple, and oak forest makes for staggering views of rolling hills in the jarring southeastern New York. Viewing options are as simple as driving along one of the forests many scenic roads, or hiking into the leafy blaze yourself on the Catskill Scenic Trail, a flat, 26-mile out and back trail perfect for all skill levels. Many of the local villages host seasonal festivals in September and October, so be sure to check in and see what the weekends have to offer.
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont
When to go: early October
Best foliage hike: Cady Hill Trail near Stowe, Vt.
The state of Vermont has the most maple trees in all of New England, imparting it with universal fall appeal. The vermillion forests are hard to miss in this charming East Coast state, which offers visitors quaint Bed and Breakfasts and family-owned diners in nearly every town. For the best foliage views, drive the 11-mile stretch of Vermont’s Route 100 between the towns of Waterbury and Stowe, and if you’re looking for time spent in the trees, the easily traversed Cady Hill Trail near Stowe is quintessential for both mountain and forest views.
Lower Connecticut River Valley
When to go: early November
Best foliage hike: Gillette Castle Trail
This historic region of Connecticut is at the juncture of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. To see the state’s impressive peak foliage in a truly New England fashion, take a riverboat excursion in Essex, or view foliage from Gillette Castle high above the river in Gillette Castle State Park. The Gillette Castle Trail, a 2-mile loop near the town of East Haddam, is great for history buffs and leaf-peepers alike.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
When to go: mid-October
Best foliage hike: Brooks Trail
Portsmouth is the first stop on New Hampshire’s scenic foliage driving tour, State Road 1A to Seabrook Beach. It’s a great place to stop and grab dinner, or organize a romantic night in after a day spent in the autumn air. After taking a walk on the Urban Forestry Center’s Brooks Trail, check out Thirsty Moose Taphouse and grab some fresh seafood at Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe.
Acadia National Park, Maine
When to go: mid to late October
Best foliage hike: The Beehive Loop Trail
Acadia is considered one of the first places to see sunrise in America. During peak foliage season, the park can be understandably busy. Each season, its thousands of maples, poplars, and aspens irradiate in a plume of color, and given the park’s many high vantage hikes, it makes for a dazzling spectacle. The 1.3-mile Beehive Loop Trail is one of the best places to see the forest from above, kindled by the country’s first sunlight.