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Vermont and New Hampshire Fall Foliage and Colors Tours

Things to do / Travel Guide

Click for Fall, 2010 foliage report and map, updated every three days.

Northern New England, New Hampshire and Vermont Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

There is almost no contest to New Hampshire and Vermont's claim of having the best fall foliage viewing in the United States, and maybe even in the world. The only competition might be between the two states themselves. Good advice is to visit both New Hampshire and Vermont and decide for yourself. The experience is different in each state and different between areas in each state. Most likely, your decision will be to go back next year for a better evaluation. That said - most people vote for Vermont.

The mix of hardwood trees (including maple, birch, oak, ash), are only one ingredient in the creation of this show that draws millions of visitors each fall. The crisp autumn weather, the quaint towns with their white-steepled churches, the covered bridges, the rolling hills and forests reflected in calm lakes, the festivities around the fall harvest, and the region's people, all come together to produce a world-class show from mid-September through October. In New Hampshire and Vermont, the color-changes start in the northern areas and in the higher elevations, progressing southward and downward into the valleys.

The Vermont Department of Tourism has provided some of the descriptions in this section, along with the following tips:
  • Make reservations well in advance - especially if you want to visit on a weekend.
  • Or book for mid-week. Properties that fill up on weekends often have vacancies during the week.
  • The first two weekends of October are Vermont's busiest of the whole year. Book these dates even earlier.
  • Consider a hotel or bed and breakfast in an alternate area - remember, Vermont is a small state and an hour's drive can take you from one side of the state to the other.
  • Consider a multi-night stay in a resort area with day trips to surrounding sites and attractions.
  • If you do not make advance reservations, the Vermont Lodging and Restaurant Association recommends securing a room by 4 p.m. each day. Vermont resort areas have ample lodging facilities, including inns, hotels and condominiums, during the foliage season. Lodging will often be available in these areas when beds are filled in large towns.
You can also expect weekend traffic on the more popular routes.

The listing below is not meant to be comprehensive - almost every park in the area is a showcase of fall color, almost every town can be the subject of a photo that will become your screensaver, and almost every drive is a scenic drive. And, get into the full spirit of the season by enjoying roadside produce, harvest festivals, and arts and crafts shows.

For a different perspective, try viewing the fall foliage from above in a hot-air balloon. There are several companies running flights throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.

Mix and match Vermont scenic drives and fall foliage views. For more information, check out the 20 pre-planned routes ranging from 40 to 200 miles prepared by the Vermont Department of Tourism.

State Road 100 runs the entire length of the state, from Wilmington to Troy, and it is scenic all the way. It also tends to be quite crowded and can be combined with other routes as side trips or loops. In Vermont, even the interstates are scenic. Good foliage views can in fact be had on much of I-91 and I-89.

Lake Champlain and Northern Vermont Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

Mt. Mansfield is the highest peak in Vermont, and it offers great fall foliage views on the way up to and at the top. The Stowe Mountain Resort is located on its slopes. For those not up to hiking to the top, the summit is accessed by gondola (approximately $20 per adult) or via the 4.5 mile gravel toll road (approximately $20 per car). An additional hike is required to reach the summit from the gondola terminal or the road parking lot. Popular leaf peeping routes north and west of Stowe include:
  • Smuggler's Notch Scenic Byway (State Road 108), between Stowe and West Berkshire, near the Canadian border, is considered one of the most scenic drives in Vermont.
  • State Road 14 between Montpelier and Irasburg
  • U.S. Highway 2, paralleling I-89 between Montpelier and Burlington
  • State Road 15 between Burlington and Johnson
  • State Road 104 between Cambridge and Underhill Center
  • State Road 105 running close to the Canadian border between St. Albans in the west and Jay in the east; State Road 242 between Jay and Montgomery Center; and State Road 118 between Montgomery Center and East Berkshire - all form a loop with State Road 105. At Jay Peak, take the aerial tram for panoramic views.
North Hero Island and South Hero Island in Lake Champlain, reached by U.S. Highway 2 from Burlington, offer lake-level views of the foliage in Vermont as well as the in Adirondacks in New York. U.S. Highway 2 continues north to the Canadian border at Alburg.

Various Lake Champlain ferries and cruises provide good views of the surrounding mountains in their fall colors.

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

In this far corner of Vermont, the pace slows down and the crowds thin as you get out of the range of many weekenders. The starting point for fall foliage trips in this area is usually St. Johnsbury. Head north to Newport on U.S. Highway 5, detouring on U.S. Highway 5A for Lake Willoughby and Burke Mountain. Other recommended foliage viewing routes in the Northeast Kingdom are:
  • U.S. Highway 2 heading east into New Hampshire from St. Johnsbury
  • State Road 114 heading north to Norton on the Canadian border
  • State Road 122 paralleling I-91, north of St. Johnsbury
  • State Road 102, along the Connecticut River (and New Hampshire border) north to Beecher Falls on the Canadian border
  • State Road 105, cutting right across the Northeast Kingdom from Derby to Bloomfield
Bicycle-touring is a good way to see the fall foliage in the Northeast Kingdom, since the roads are quite empty, even during the fall season.

Central Vermont Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

The Killington Gondola offers fall foliage views from one of the highest easily-accessible points in Vermont. Killington is also centrally located near many of the popular fall foliage routes, including:
  • State Road 100
  • State Road 7 between Rutland and Burlington, towards the north
  • U.S. Highway 4 between Rutland and Woodstock, towards the east
  • State Road 103 between Rutland and Ludlow, towards the southeast
  • U.S. Highway 7 between Rutland and Manchester, towards the south
  • State Road 30 between Pawlet and Manchester
  • State Road 107 between Bethel and Stockbridge
The following Gap roads traverse the Green Mountains in an east-west direction, generally between State Road 100 on the east side of Green Mountain National Forest, and U.S. Highway 7 and State Road 116 on the west side. From north to south, the Gap roads recommended for autumn foliage viewing are:
  • Appalachian Gap (State Road 17) between Waitsfield and South Starksboro
  • Lincoln Gap between Warren and Lincoln
  • Middlebury Gap (State Road 125) between Hancock and East Middlebury
  • Brandon Gap (State Road 73) between Brandon and Rochester
The White River Flyer, a vintage railroad between White River Junction and Norwich, offers views of the White Mountain foothills from its route along the Connecticut River. Trains run on weekend only, three time a day in the fall, and cost approximately $17 for an adult.

Southern Vermont Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

Considered by many to be the prime area in Vermont for leaf watching, the Green Mountains of Southern Vermont feature sparsely-populated, maple-covered rolling hills. The winter ski-areas of Bromley Mountain, Stratton Mountain and Mt. Snow run lifts to the summit for expansive views of fall foliage. Some lifts run on weekends only. The views from Prospect Mountain and Hogback Mountain are recommended as well. Somerset Reservoir, in the heart of the Green Mountain National Forest, is a relatively quiet and remote spot for leaf-peeping combined with boating. Popular routes are:
  • Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive, a toll road (approximately $10), reaches the summit with a view all the way to Canada. The road is privately owned by Carthusians monks, a Roman Catholic monastic order.
  • State Road 7A between Bennington and Manchester Center
  • State Road 9, which crosses Vermont from Bennington to West Brattleboro, where the best section for autumn colors are between Bennington and Wilmington. Stop by Woodford State Park for pleasant trails.
  • State Road 30 from Manchester to East Jamaica
The Green Mountain Railroad, between Bellows Falls and Chester, provides for a scenic trip along the Connecticut and Williams Rivers on vintage trains. Trains run twice daily in the fall and cost approximately $17 for an adult.

Great North Woods of New Hampshire - Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

The northernmost tip of New Hampshire is also the first to turn color, with the peak generally in mid- to late-September. The area is quite remote, with views of the towering peaks of the Presidential range to the south. Rent a boat in Pittsburg and paddle, or motor the four Connecticut lakes, linked by the northernmost sections of the Connecticut River.

There are only a few main roads in the Great North Woods, and these ones can be combined to form nice Fall Foliage viewing loops:
  • State Road 16, between Wentworths Location and Gorham. The road winds through the 13-mile woods and parallels the banks of the Androscoggin and Magalloway Rivers. Further south, State Road 16 continues through Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains.
  • U.S. Highway 2, between Gorham and Lancaster
  • U.S. Highway 3, which follows the route of the Connecticut River from the Canadian Border through Pittsburg and eventually to Lancaster. The side roads near the Connecticut Lakes are worth exploring.
  • State Road 26 between Colbrook and Errol, through Dixville Notch
Vermont's Northeast Kingdom borders New Hampshire's Great North Woods to the west, offering more leaf-peeping, away from most of the crowds.

New Hampshire White Mountains - Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

Peak foliage viewing time in New Hampshire's White mountains is generally the beginning of October.

What Wall Street is to finance, the Kancamagus Highway (State Road 112) is to New Hampshire fall foliage viewing. Also known as “the Kanc,” the 34-mile road cuts across the White Mountains with access to nature walks, hiking, scenic overlooks, and historic sites. There is a parking fee. The Kancamagus Highway can be combined for a comprehensive loop of the White Mountains with U.S. Highway 302 from Conway to Bethlehem, through Crawford Notch; and U.S. Highway 3 from Lincoln north to Twin Mountain through Franconia Notch. To avoid some of the crowds, consider Bear Notch Road, a scenic shortcut between the Kancamagus Highway and Bartlett on U.S. Highway 302. Other routes of interest to leaf peepers are:
  • State Road 16 heads north from North Conway to the Great North Woods via Pinkham Notch.
  • U.S. Highway 3 from Lincoln south to Plymouth
  • State Road 117 between Franconia and Lisbon
  • State Road 10 along the Connecticut River and Vermont border, between Orford and Woodsville
  • State Road 118 between North Woodstock and Rumney
Covered bridges in the area that go perfectly with the fall colors, include those in Albany, Conway, Plymouth, Campton, and Lincoln. The peaks of the White Mountains offer excellent fall foliage views. Getting there is half the fun, with the Mt. Washington Cog Railway being a popular stop on many itineraries. To complete the historic and colorful picture, visit the Mt. Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods.

Conway Scenic Railroad provides scenic rides through Crawford Notch and the Saco River valley aboard nostalgic trains. The one- to five-hour rides run about five times a day during peak foliage season. Prices range from $12 to $60, depending on route and class of service (dome cars are the most expensive).

Gondola rides to peaks of Wildcat Mountain near Pinkham Notch, and Loon Mountain near Lincoln, offer great views and hiking opportunities. The lifts operate until mid-October and cost approximately $12 for an adult ticket.

For a day viewing the foliage in the White Mountains from the water, kayak trips down the Saco River leave from near North Conway.

Lakes Area of New Hampshire - Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

The main fall foliage destinations in the Lakes area of New Hampshire are in and around Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake. Hiking, biking, driving, and boating each provide different perspectives of the water, the trees, and the mountains.

The road around Lake Winnipesaukee is almost 100 miles long, hugging the lake in places. Alternatively, pick part of the route on the way to or from viewing the foliage display in the White Mountains, further north. Beginning at the lake's southern tip in Alton, take Route 11 up its western side. In Glendale, turn onto Route 118, which hugs the shoreline. Route 3 then takes you north to Meredith. From there you turn east on Route 25. At Moultonborough, turn onto Route 109, which takes you to Wolfeboro. You're now near Route 28, which takes you back to Alton.

The covered bridges in Ossipee and Sandwich are worth a detour.

Unusual fall foliage experiences include zip-lining from tree to tree on Barron Mountain, and ballooning over Lake Winnipesaukee.

Peak foliage viewing time in New Hampshire's Lakes are is generally in the middle of October.

Dartmouth and Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire - Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

The area around Lake Sunapee and Mt. Sunapee combines rolling countryside, quaint villages, hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities, making this a good choice for fall foliage viewing. South of the White Mountains it may be less crowded with leaf-peepers, though it is close to the popular foliage viewing areas in Vermont's Green Mountains. Peak foliage viewing time is generally in the middle of October. Popular routes are:
  • The loop around Lake Sunapee on State Road 11, State Road 103B, State Road 103A
  • State Road 103 from Lake Sunapee south to Warner
  • The drive along the Connecticut River on State Road 10 from Orford to West Lebanon, continuing on State Road 12A to Claremont.
  • U.S. Highway 4 between Salisbury and Danbury, closer to the lakes region.
Peak foliage viewing time in New Hampshire's Lakes are is generally in the middle of October.

Monadnock Area, New Hampshire - Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

This area of rolling hills, pristine woodlands, and charming rural areas, located in the southwest corner of New Hampshire, is popular on fall foliage itineraries.

Coming from the south, close to the Massachusetts border, U.S. Highway 202 at West Rindge, and State Road 10 at Winchester, both provide a good start to fall foliage drives.

Continue on U.S. Highway 202 to Hillsborough, passing through:
  • Peterborough, where you can head over to Keene on State Road 101, passing Dublin Lake; and
  • Jaffrey, where you can head north on State Road 137 or west on State Road 124 to Marlborough, passing the southern flank of Mt. Monadnock.
Alternatively, continue on State Road 10 to Keene, and then on the Old Walpole Road to (you guessed it) Walpole. From Walpole, continue south along State Road 12, State Road 63, and River Road for a pleasant drive along the banks of the Connecticut River. There are several covered bridges nearby.

State Road 119 completes a loop of the area, connecting to U.S. Highway 202 at West Rindge, and State Road 10 at Winchester.

The routes described have access to three state parks with notable fall foliage viewing. Mt. Monadnock regularly appears on lists of top leaf-peeping sites in the entire United States, and is in fact one of the most climbed mountain in the world. Therefore, there are many hiking trails available in Monadnock State Park, with the views going on for miles. The road to the top of Pack Monadnock Mountain in Miller State Park, features long-distance multicolored views as well. Pisgah State Park is the largest state park in New Hampshire. Preserved in an undeveloped condition, it includes seven lakes, several mountain ridges and valleys, and miles of biking and hiking trails.

Peak foliage viewing time is generally in the middle of October.

Merrimack Valley, New Hampshire - Fall Foliage Tours and Guide

Less than an hour north of Boston, there are a few worthwhile fall foliage destinations if time is limited, or if you are on the way to sites further north in New Hampshire and Vermont. To see the best fall colors in the region, stay off the interstates and out of the three major cities in the area.

Lake Massabesic, close to Manchester, provides some good fall foliage views. Driving trips include State Road 28 Bypass on the west side of the lake, and State Road 121 on its east side. Continue on State Road 121 to Chester, which is especially picturesque in the fall. Three scenic routes heading north from the New Hampshire/Massachusetts state border are:
  • Furthest to the east, State Road 121 from Atkinson, north to Lake Massabesic
  • State Road 28 Bypass to Manchester, parallel and east of I-93.
  • To the west of Manchester, State Road 13/77, from Mont Vernon to Pages Corner
  • Further north, west of Concord, State Road 127 from Pages Corner to Salisbury

New Hampshire Seacoast Area Fall Foliage Tours and Routes

This area offers scenic drives different from those further inland. The coastal road, State Road 1A (Ocean Boulevard), spans the length of the New Hampshire sea coast from Massachusetts to Maine. Avoid the entire 15 mile length of I-95 through New Hampshire, and save a $1 toll in the process.

Other suggested short routes for foliage viewing in the seacoast area are State Road 108, State Road 155, U.S. Highway 202, and State Road 107.

Fall Foliage Spots in Burlington, Stowe, Rutland and the New Hampshire and Vermont mountains

Sort By: Rating | Name
Appalachian Gap (SR17; Waitsfield - South Starksboro)
Bear Notch Road
Brandon Gap (SR73; Brandon - Rochester)
Bromley Mountain
Burke Mountain
Chester, NH
Connecticut lakes
Conway Scenic Railroad
Covered bridges in Ossipee and Sandwich
Crawford Notch
Dixville Notch
Drive along the Connecticut River on SR10
Franconia Notch
Green Mountain Railroad
Hogback Mountain
Jay Peak
Kancamagus Highway (SR112; Conway - Lincoln)
Kayak trips down the Saco River
Killington Gondola
Lake Champlain ferries and cruises
Lake Massabesic
Lake Sunapee
Lake Willoughby
Lake Winnipesaukee
Lincoln Gap (Warren - Lincoln)
Loon Mountain
Loop around Lake Sunapee
Middlebury Gap (SR125; Hancock - East Middlebury)
Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive
Mt. Mansfield
Mt. Monadnock
Mt. Snow
Mt. Sunapee
Mt. Washington Auto Road
Mt. Washington Cog Railway
Mt. Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods.
North Hero and South Hero Islands
Ocean Boulevard (SR1A; Massachusetts - Maine)
Old Walpole Road (Keene - Walpole)
Pack Monadnock Mountain in Miller State Park
Pinkham Notch
Pisgah State Park
Prospect Mountain
River Road Foliage, New Hampshire
Smuggler's Notch Scenic Byway (SR108)
Somerset Reservoir
Squam Lake
SR10 (Orford - Woodsville)
SR10 (Winchester - Keene)
SR101 (Peterborough - Keene)
SR102 (Beecher Falls)
SR103 (Lake Sunapee - Warner)
SR103 (Rutland - Ludlow)
SR104 (Cambridge - Underhill Center)
SR105 (Derby - Bloomfield)
SR105 (St. Albans - Jay)
SR107 (Bethel - Stockbridge)
SR114 (Norton)
SR117 (Franconia - Lisbon)
SR118 (Montgomery Center - East Berkshire)
SR118 (North Woodstock - Rumney)
SR12 (Walpole - Westmoreland Depot)
SR121 (Atkinson - Lake Massabesic)
SR124 (Jaffrey - Marlborough)
SR127 (Pages Corner - Salisbury)
SR13/77 (Mont Vernon - Pages Corner)
SR137 (Jaffrey - Hancock)
SR14 (Montpelier - Irasburg)
SR15 (Burlington - Johnson)
SR16 (Gorham - Wentworths Location)
SR16 (North Conway - Great North Woods)
SR242 (Jay - Montgomery Center)
SR26 (Colbrook - Errol)
SR28 Bypass
SR30 (Manchester - East Jamaica)
SR30 (Pawlet - Manchester)
SR63 (Westmoreland Depot - Mass. Border)
SR7 (Rutland - Burlington)
SR7A (Bennington - Manchester Center)
SR9 (Bennington - West Brattleboro)
St. Johnsbury, VT
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stratton Mountain
US2 (Gorham - Lancaster)
US2 (Montpelier - Burlington)
US202 (West Rindge - Hillsborough)
US3 (Canadian Border - Lancaster.)
US3 (Lincoln - Twin Mountain)
US302 (Conway - Bethlehem)
US4 (Rutland - Woodstock)
US4 (Salisbury - Danbury)
US5 (St. Johnsbury - Newport)
US5A (West Burke)
US7 (Rutland - Manchester)
White River Flyer
Wildcat Mountain
Woodford State Park
Zip-lining from tree to tree on Barron Mountain