Fall Foliage out East

1/3

Acadia National Park, Maine

Fall Foliage out East

2/3

The Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

Fall Foliage out East

3/3

The White Mountains, New Hampshire

New England Fall Foliage Road Trip

September and October are special months on the East Coast and in particular, New England. The leaves begin to turn colors, the temperatures drop to a comfortable chill, and Americans begin to embrace the Danish “hygge”—a mood of coziness and contentment. If there’s one place to be during the cozy fall months, it’s New England and the Northeast. Between the coast of Maine and Acadia National Park, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, you’re sure to get your fill of fall foliage on this road trip.
Prepared By:

Tobey Schmidt

Adventurer & Photographer

Fall Foliage Road Trip Map

Start / End

Newark, NJ; New York, NY; or Boston, MA

States Covered
National Parks

Acadia National Park

Total Distance

1,300 miles

Suggested Days

12-14

Suggested Seasons

Fall

#ThisIsMyRoute

Getting Started

As you may know, vibrant fall foliage can be found all over the East Coast. However, we are focusing on New England fall foliage for this itinerary. To begin, we recommend flying into Newark, New Jersey; New York City; or Boston, Massachusetts. From there, you’ll drive north up the coast of Maine, then west into New Hampshire, and finally down to the mountains in Pennsylvania. Other than fall foliage, this road trip will focus on outdoor adventure, city exploration, and good food—all of our favorites!

Choosing the right time to experience peak East Coast fall foliage can be tricky, as weather conditions are a big factor of when the leaves change colors. Coastal Maine typically peaks mid-October, while the White Mountains and Poconos tend to be at their boldest anytime from the end of September through the second week of October. We recommend planning your fall road trip between mid-September and mid-October. As always, weather is unpredictable, so don’t plan on it being perfect sweater-weather the whole trip. Rain and snow are definitely possibilities in these areas, so pack accordingly.

While this is the route we recommend, you can always skip or add days as you see fit. If you don’t have enough time to see it all you may just have to plan another road trip in the future! 

Itinerary

FLY IN AND DRIVE TO KENNEBUNKPORT, ME

Kennebunkport, ME is a great place to see New England fall foliage

From Boston: 1.5 hours/90 miles

From Newark or NYC: 5 hours/300 miles

To start, depending on where you decide to fly into, you’ll either drive a short or long distance the first day of your New England fall foliage excursion. Regardless, your first stop is Kennebunkport, Maine. We flew into Newark in the early afternoon and made our way to a gorgeous riverfront hotel in Kennebunkport—Nonantum Resort, where we spent two nights. You wouldn’t believe how quaint the town of Kennebunkport is until you arrive and spend some time roaming the streets! The town is situated right on the coast, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Kennebunk River. Grab a cup of coffee and explore town by foot or bike, then walk over to the sandy ocean beach just a mile away.

 

Find the marine life:
Go Whale Watching

 

Best fall foliage:
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

 

Best sandy beach:
Gooch’s Beach

 

Town activities:
Explore the antique stores

 

Best coffee and apple cider donut combination:
Dock Square Coffee House

 

Best photo op: 
From the docks at Nonantum Resort
PORTLAND, ME

Portland, Maine is a great place to see fall foliage in New England

36 MINUTES – 30 MILES

Next, just about 40 minutes north up the coast is the larger harbor city of Portland, Maine. Known for its fresh seafood and historic cobblestone streets, Portland is the most “city-like” experience you’ll get in Maine without feeling overwhelmed. It’s not all shopping and dining, though. Portland offers a ton of outdoor adventure from kayaking on the Scarborough Marsh to hiking up Bradbury Mountain. If possible, try to stay in a hotel in “Old Port”, where you’ll find the cobblestone streets and historic architecture. We recommend Portland Regency Hotel & Spa.

As you make your way north towards Acadia National Park, stay on Route 1, the highway in Maine that runs parallel to the coast. The drive takes a few hours, so consider stopping along the way for a night in Camden, Rockport, or Lincoln. You can get rustic and camp at Camden Hills State Park or treat yourself at the luxurious Inn at Ocean’s Edge—an infinity pool and oceanfront property?! Yes please!

 

A must-see:
Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth

 

What to do with the kids:
Take the Casco Bay Mailboat run

 

On the water:
Learn how to pull up lobster traps 

 

Get the local catch:
Portland Lobster Co.

 

Family-friendly activity:
Take the ferry to Peak’s Island and ride bikes around the island

 

Best sunset sail:
Portland Schooner Co.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK & BAR HARBOR, ME

Fall Foliage in Acadia National Park, Maine

3 HOURS – 175 MILES

Only a few hours from Canada, turn off Route 1 towards Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. Depending the time of year, finding a hotel in Bar Harbor can be difficult, so make sure you plan ahead for accommodations. That being said, we recommend staying in Bar Harbor during your stay as it’s the best basecamp for all of your Acadia adventures. Start your visit by walking through town and getting a lay of the land, then drive the Park Loop. Give yourself plenty of time for this loop so you can stop at the various overlooks and landmarks like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs. In addition, we recommend walking to Bar Island from Bar Harbor, which can only be done during low tide, so it must be timed just right!

A must-do hike:
The Bubbles
Best spot for Italian food:
Mama Dimatteo’s
A hike for the daredevils:
The Jordan Cliffs Loop
Plan for the kids:
Have a picnic in the park
Best dinner with a view:
Terrace Grille at Bar Harbor Inn
WHITE MOUNTAINS, NH

Experience New England fall foliage in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

4 HOURS – 213 MILES

After getting a taste of coastal life, it’s time to head inland to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where we recommend spending at least two nights. Get an early start from Bar Harbor and arrive in North Conway around noon. Grab a bite at the Muddy Moose Restaurant & Pub before checking into your hotel. For the rest of the afternoon, drive west on US-302 exploring the incredible fall colors of places like Crawford Notch State Park and Mount Washington.

 

Best views:
Drive to the top of Cathedral Ledge State Park

 

For the whole family:
Ride the Cog Railway up Mount Washington

 

Best souvenirs:
Zebs General Store

 

For the very experienced hikers:
Summit Mount Washington

 

Explore a new town:
Jackson Village

 

Fine dining:
Thompson House Eatery
NORTH WOODSTOCK, NH (via the Kancamagus HIghway)

new hampshire

1 HOUR – 42 MILES

From North Conway, drive the Kancamagus Highway west to North Woodstock. This is a 34.5-mile National Scenic Byway—and that classification is an understatement! This highway had some of the best New England fall foliage we saw throughout our trip on this route. There are plenty of pull-outs along the highway for hiking and photographing. Stay the night in the charming town of North Woodstock. If you have time, Franconia Notch State Park is only a short drive from North Woodstock and definitely worth it!

 

Best picnic stop along the Kancamagus:
Lower Falls

 

Most unique dinner experience:
Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train

 

Best fall-colors hike:
Artist Bluff Trail in Franconia Notch State Park

 

Best hike along the Kancamagus:
The Sawyer Pond Trail

 

Best local spot for dinner:
Woodstock Inn Brewery

 

Most photogenic stop along the Kancamagus:
Albany Covered Bridge
KINGSTON, NY

The best New England fall foliage is in the Catskills, New York

4.5 HOURS – 248 MILES

Continuing south, the next stop on our New England fall foliage road trip is Kingston, New York. This quaint colonial town is quickly becoming a preferred bedroom community for weary New Yorkers. It boasts fascinating Revolutionary War history, as well as a charming downtown area. Here, you’ll also be within close proximity to the larger nearby cities of Albany and Poughkeepsie. Most importantly, Kingston is only an hour from the Catskill Mountains. Spend at least one night in the area and budget time for plenty of adventures in the Catskills.

 

Best hike:
Ashokan Rail Trail

 

Can’t-Miss in Town:
Art Galleries

 

Best local spot for dinner:
Front Street Tavern
THE POCONO MOUNTAINS, PA

The pocono mountains in pennsylvania have the best fall foliage

5.75 HOURS – 353 MILES

Lastly, continue south to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. While some may not consider Pennsylvania part of New England proper, it’s close enough (and scenic enough) to be included on your New England fall foliage road trip. We recommend spending at least three nights in the Poconos and driving along the scenic Route 6. First, drive into the quaint town of Milford, and stay at the historic Hotel Fauchere. You’ll find plenty of activities around Milford, such as exploring Greys Tower National Historic Site and hiking to waterfalls in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Next, drive up to Hawley and stay at Silver Birches resort on the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack. Kayak or canoe the waters and take in the views of the changing leaves all across the lake. Pop up to Honesdale for an afternoon before making a detour out to Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Depending on your time, the Poconos can be driven in a loop as shown on our map, or simply as an “out and back”. Other places we recommend stopping at include Jim Thorpe—the town known as the “Switzerland of Pennsylvania”, Lacawac Sanctuary, and Bushkill. If you’re looking to hit some local breweries, plan at least one night in the nearby town of Stroudsburg.

 

Hike to the tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania:
Raymondskill Falls

 

Best Local Brewery:
Here & Now Brewery

 

For a fancy night out:
Dinner at Bar Louis inside Hotel Fauchere

 

Hike with a view:
Mount Minsi via Appalachian Trail

 

For the whole family:
Go to Honesdale’s Harvest and Heritage Days

 

Best outdoor adventure near Jim Thorpe:
Hiking or whitewater kayaking in Lehigh Gorge State Park

Best Kept Road Trip Secrets

Sign up to receive our newsletter and get road trip ideas and tips to help you plan your next American road trip!

Find out the location of the hidden gem pictured below in our next newsletter!

Photo credit: @trip_with_hari via Instagram

Grinnel Glacier Hike in Glacier National Park has incredible hiking

Agree

Thank you for signing up for the "Best Kept Road Trip Secrets" newsletter coming to your inbox soon!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share Your Adventure