Is there anything finer than autumn in New England?
Shimmering leaves, cider doughnuts, hayrides, apples, pumpkin-spiced everything. It’s glorious. But if you’re anything like us, you want to immerse yourself in nature’s finery while it lasts, soaking up every last crimson and ochre-hued leaf before the cold, gray days of winter draw near.
So we’ve put together a list of outdoor activities sure to provide amazing foliage views. Whether you prefer your views with a side of crunchy leaves underfoot, amid gorgeous, salt-scented vistas, or from high up in the trees themselves, we’ve got you covered.
Foliage Views by Land
Whether you’re a hiker, biker or rail-bike (more on those later!) enthusiast, the Northeast is packed with options this fall.
Go right to the transcendental source and check out Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. You can wander around the same trails as Henry David Thoreau, while checking out a replica of his one-room cabin, the original foundation and the site of his bean fields. It’s a serene spot to witness nature’s finery – and you don’t have to stay for two years, two months and two days like Thoreau did.
For pure adrenaline and rewarding vistas at the top, scramble to the top of the Beehive in Acadia National Park in Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Traipse through 3 miles of granite stairs and iron rungs and ladders and emerge with stunning views of Sand Beach and the Maine coast. The summit also makes a perfect spot post-hike lunch or snack. Just a warning: It’s not for children or folks afraid of heights. It gets steep in many places.
City-slickers might want to take advantage of Central Park’s fall foliage tree map. It takes you through the most colorful of the park’s more than 20,000 trees, from ginkos and elms to cherries, crabapples, sweetgums, maples, oaks and more.
If you’re looking for something a little different, check out a rail explorer. These pedal-powered bikes on old railroad lines let you see the foliage in a whole new way. Rail Explorers has three locations in the Northeast: one in Portsmouth, R.I., where two trails afford gorgeous views of Narragansett Bay, one in the Catskills that skirts the Esopus Creek and another in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Want more mountain fun? You can’t go wrong with an excursion on the nostalgic Cog Railway, which winds its way up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. You can choose from a steam-powered train or the more conventional biodiesel. (No extra costs for the stunning views, however.)
Foliage Views by Water
Enjoy your outdoor fall activities with some water views and a mimosa in hand. SeaStreak offers an all-day foliage cruise that follows the Hudson River up to quaint, Cold Spring, N.Y., for an afternoon of shopping, dining and strolling. The cruise is narrated by a professional guide and includes a full-service bar and indoor and outdoor seating.
For more active city views, rent a kayak from Paddle Boston and ply down the Charles River. Or take a paddle through Waterplace Park and see the Providence, R.I., skyline from a whole new vantage point with the Providence Kayak Company.
For a nostalgic view of the Connecticut River Valley, combine a steam train ride with a riverboat excursion on the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.
Or head up north for a historic journey through the Portsmouth, N.H., harbor and inner river area with a Portsmouth Harbor Cruises tour. The cruise takes riders through the industrial waterfront area and historical shipyards before heading to inland estuaries and beautiful views.
Foliage Views by Air
If you’re looking for action-packed foliage views, Zoar Outdoor offers fantastic adventure packages in the Berkshires. The Zip & Dip Trip features a somewhat gentle whitewater rafting excursion down the Deerfield River, complete with a stop for a hearty lunch. You camp out in a raised cabin tent for the night (bring a sleeping bag!) and then head out on a zip line adventure through the trees that morning. A weekend spent rafting, camping and zip lining? Pure bliss!
Maybe a hot air balloon is more your style? You’ll find rides galore at Above the Clouds in Middletown, N.Y., where you can soar above the lower Hudson Valley to view the bejeweled trees from up high.
Or get right into the thick of things at the TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park in Vernon Township, N.J. Climb through aerial obstacles, rope walks, zip lines and more, all suspended amid the forest canopy.
What are some of your favorite outdoor fall activities and foliage views? Share them in the comments below.
Find more great outdoor fall activities in the Northeast at AAA.com/FallFest.