When you think of Northeastern landscapes, you might picture Acadia’s iconic coastline or the Appalachian Mountains’ namesake trail. But come fall, pretty much every view takes a backseat to the explosion of fiery foliage that defines the region. Whether you’re hiking above treeline or pedaling beneath the canopy, visit these 18 places to appreciate autumn’s sweeping panorama by foot or by bike.
Bike the Carriage Roads │Acadia National Park, Maine
If you’re looking for a romp around a national park without the summer crowds, pump up your tires and head to gorgeous Acadia. One popular ride begins at the park’s visitor center and follows a 6-mile gravel carriage road around Eagle Lake. You’ll be surrounded by Mount Desert Island’s so-called mosaic forest for the entire route and treated to shimmering reflections of the canopy above on the lake’s surface.
DISTANCE: 6-mile loop
INFO: Discover Acadia (AMC Books), Acadia National Park
Hike in Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge│Baring, Maine
Take in a diverse landscape of northern hardwood, spruce-fir, and old-growth white pine forests, and keep an eye out for a variety of birdlife, including the endangered American woodcock. Don’t miss the hike up Old Bald Mountain.
DISTANCE: 5.4 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’S Best Day Hikes along the Maine Coast (AMC Books), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bike Franconia Notch State Park │Lincoln, N.H.
A challenging bike path wends its way up this notch, better known as a hiking destination. Whether you begin your ride at the base, in Lincoln, N.H., or partway up, at the Flume Visitor Center, prepare for some climbing. The trip is well worth the effort. Sheer cliffs and forested mountain slopes rise hundreds of feet above the path on both sides, creating a foliage-tunnel effect.
DISTANCE: 20 miles round trip
INFO: Discover the White Mountains (AMC Books); New Hampshire State Parks
Hike Franconia Notch State Park│Lincoln, N.H.
Even first-time hikers can appreciate Flume Gorge’s narrow cliffs tufted with brilliant foliage. The trailhead is accessible from the Flume Visitor Center and follows a boardwalk path for its entire route, making it ideal for beginners.
DISTANCE: 2 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains (AMC Books); New Hampshire State Parks
Hike Spruce Hill via Busby Trail│North Adams, Mass.
If a fall weekend in the Berkshires doesn’t sufficiently inspire you, the view from Spruce Hill should. This moderate adventure is a wonder for any foliage enthusiast. Beautiful birch, beech, hemlock, sugar maple, and striped maple trees line the trails, and hawks often circle above. The trailhead is located 3 miles from Route 2, at the intersection of Central Shaft Road and Old Florida Road.
DISTANCE: 2.6 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’S Best Day Hikes in the Berkshires (AMC Books)
Bike in Callahan State Park│Framingham, Mass.
More than 7 miles of trails wind through a prime example of suburban-Boston’s typical fall foliage showing. Watch for hikers, dogs, and equestrians on these mixed-use trails.
DISTANCE: 7 miles round trip
INFO: Massachusetts State Parks
Hike in Tillinghast Pond Management Area│West Greenwich, R.I.
Though Rhode Island lacks the dramatic high-elevation vistas of other New England states, it’s not without prime leaf peeping of its own. The Nature Conservancy maintains this 2,000-acre parcel, home to a lake and a small trail network. For an easy day hike, follow the 2.3-mile Pond Loop. The white-blazed trail is flat and offers views over the water. Note that the area is open to hunting, and hikers must wear fluorescent orange clothing from September 14 to February 28.
DISTANCE: 2.3 miles round trip
INFO: The Nature Conservancy
Bike the Blackstone River Bikeway│Lincoln, R.I.
This paved rail trail connects Lincoln to Cumberland along the historic Blackstone Canal. While the eventual goal, a contiguous path from Providence to the Massachusetts border, is still in the works, you’re sure to get an eyeful of color along the existing route.
DISTANCE: 11.6 miles one-way
INFO: Rhode Island Department of Transportation
Bike in Stratton Brook State Park│Simsbury, Conn.
Here shaded trails and covered bridges combine in an idyllic New England foliage experience. Plus, Stratton Brook is the first entirely wheelchair accessible state park in Connecticut, welcoming multiple modes of transportation. For a longer ride, head northeast through the park and connect to the 8-mile Farmington River Trail. When you’ve had enough exercise, enjoy a picnic next to the lake.
DISTANCE: 16 miles round trip
INFO: Stratton Brook State Park
Hike in Rock Spring Preserve│Scotland, Conn.
This short hike with big views over Little River Valley is a great place to see eastern Connecticut’s foliage. Find trailhead parking on Pudding Hill Road (Route 97).
DISTANCE: 3.6 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut (AMC Books); The Nature Conservancy
Hike Cat and Thomas Mountains│Bolton, N.Y.
Forest trails and abandoned logging roads connect this pair of summits on the western side of Lake George. Follow the logging road uphill from the trailhead then turn left at the junction, toward Cat Mountain. Enjoy the views from Cat’s bald summit before heading down the trail to Thomas Mountain, where another set of views awaits. Descend to the trailhead to complete the loop.
DISTANCE: 6.5 miles round trip
INFO: Discover the Adirondacks (AMC Books)
Bike the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway│Albany, N.Y.
Jump on any portion of the 86-mile Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway for a scenic riverside ride. The trail’s south end follows the Hudson River, while the northern segments run along the Mohawk River. Expect stunning foliage in both spots but plan ahead: There are several gaps in the trail.
DISTANCE: 86 miles one way
INFO: Capital District Transportation Committee map PDFs
Hike in Cheesequake State Park│Matawan, N.J.
A family-friendly path traverses rolling hills and fragrant marshlands with the assistance of several boardwalks. The park’s unique mix of ecosystems includes fields, fresh- and saltwater marshes, a white cedar swamp, a hardwood forest, and pine barrens, providing a varied display of fall color. The park also features a campground and a nature center, although the latter is only open in summer.
DISTANCE: 1.5 to 3.5 miles round trip
INFO: Cheesequake State Park
Bike the Pine Barrens River Ramble│Hammonton, N.J.
Beginning near Batsto Village in Hammonton, N.J., the Pine Barrens River Ramble is a flat, 42.6-mile loop that weaves through pine and oak forests and along cranberry bogs, which add their own burst of color to the fall palette. Plan to park at the Batsto parking area on Route 542.
DISTANCE: 42.6-mile loop
INFO: Pinelands Alliance (also see a map PDF)
Hike in Big Pocono State Park│Stroudsburg, Pa.
Explore the peaks of the Poconos in this rugged, 1,300-acre swath west of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Indian Trail offers especially great views for a short and relatively easy hike. Those wishing to continue can connect to the South Trail, a steep route on the park’s eastern side.
DISTANCE: 1.3 miles round trip
INFO: Big Pocono State Park
Bike the Forbidden Drive│Philadelphia, Pa.
This flat gravel path runs alongside a creek for 5.35 miles, the full length of Wissahickon Valley Park. Forested slopes rise steeply on either side, leading to more challenging single track. (Permits are required for some routes). Forbidden Drive is closed to automobiles but open to cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians.
DISTANCE: 10.7 miles round trip
INFO: Friends of Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (permit information)
Hike Old Rag Mountain│Robertson, Va.
“Old Raggedy Top” is a popular hike year-round but particularly in the autumn months, when Shenandoah National Park staff post a weekly fall color report. The climb is challenging, with a 1-mile scramble toward the top, but the panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley are breathtaking. The trailhead is approximately 3 miles from Routes 601 and 602, where signage will direct you to parking.
DISTANCE: 9 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Shenandoah Valley (AMC Books); Shenandoah National Park
Bike Rock Creek Trail│Washington, D.C.
The capital’s spring cherry blossoms might grab more headlines, but you shouldn’t miss the fall color in urban Rock Creek Park. Cyclists can follow roadways and paths for 8.5 miles through D.C. neighborhoods; from there, the trail extends another 18.6 miles through Montgomery County, Md.
DISTANCE: Up to 54 miles round trip
INFO: Rock Creek Park (also see a map PDF); Montgomery Parks