Even if you’re not comfortable calling yourself a leaf peeper, you won’t want to miss the glorious fall foliage in Massachusetts.
The season starts in mid-to-late September, and peak color often coincides with Columbus Day weekend. Be sure to make hotel reservations well in advance, as this is one of the most popular times to visit New England.
Every region of the state enjoys gorgeous color, and you’ll see some popular routes listed below. But don’t be afraid to explore off the beaten path, where you’ll find fewer cars and surprising colorful vistas.
Greater Boston/Merrimack Valley From Boston, take Rts. 2 and 4 to Lexington, then Rt. 2A to Concord’s famous North Bridge and Minute Man statue. From Concord Center, bear left at the fork on Sudbury Road. At the Sudbury line, the road becomes Concord Road and takes you through Sudbury Center and onto U.S. Rt. 20. Return via U.S. Rt. 20 through Waltham to Boston.
North of Boston Route 133 is a gorgeous route that winds along charming country back roads and the picture-perfect New England towns of Essex, Ipswich, Rowley and Georgetown. Route 1A from Beverly to Newburyport travels through beautiful open spaces and farms via Ipswich, which boasts more pre-1725 houses still standing than any other town in the USA. Route 127 winds along the coast through Beverly, Manchester By-the-Sea, Gloucester and up to Rockport.
Bristol County From the intersection of I-495 and I-95, head south on I-495, then take Rt. 140 South through Norton and past Wheaton College. Remain on Rt. 140 South to New Bedford. Then take Rt. 6 East or West. Rt. 6 East takes you to the charming seaside town of Fairhaven. From Rt. 6 West, take Rt. 177 to Westport, then Rt. 88 South to Horseneck Beach State Reservation.
Plymouth County Just south of Boston, pick up Rt. 24 South, then take Rt. 104 to Bridgewater. Continue on Rt. 104, then Rt. 106 to Halifax. Rt. 58 South will take you to North Carver, where you’ll see cranberry bogs flooded with pools of crimson berries as the harvest gets underway. From North Carver, continue south on Rt. 58 to Rt. 28 East to Rt. 6 West and the towns of Wareham, Rochester, Marion and Mattapoisett.
Cape Cod From the Sagamore Bridge, take Rt. 6A, the “Old King’s Highway,” which winds through the historic villages of Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis and Brewster.
Central Massachusetts Enjoy superb color at a relaxed pace when you drive along the less frequently traveled routes to the Quabbin Reservoir: From Rt. 128, follow Rt. 117 to Stow, in the heart of apple country, then Rt. 62 South and West to Princeton. Turn north on the unnumbered route to Wachusett Mountain Reservation. There you can drive, hike or take a “skyride” to the summit for a sweeping view of the countryside. Return to Rt. 62 and head west to Barre, then south on Rt. 32 to Old Furnace Rd. Follow the unnumbered road west to Hardwick. Turn north on Rt. 32A, which runs along the Quabbin Reservoir to Petersham. At Petersham follow Rt. 101 East through Templeton, Gardner and the Ashburnhams to the junction with Rt. 119. Head east on Rt. 119 through the Willard Brook State Forest in Ashby and Townsend.
Greater Springfield/Franklin County The secondary roads of Rt. 116 and Rt. 9 wind through rolling countryside and hill towns. Rt. 116 passes through the picturesque towns of Conway and Ashfield; Rt. 9 leads through the village centers of Cummington and Goshen and the college towns of Northampton and Amherst. Scenic routes 143 and 112 travel through rolling New England countryside in the towns of Goshen, Chesterfield, Worthington and Huntington.
The Berkshires Follow Rt. 7 North from Sheffield to Williamstown. Rt. 8 runs from Sandisfield to Dalton and is a superb route between two state forests. Rt. 183, from Great Barrington to Lenox, follows the Housatonic River and passes through small villages. Take Richmond Rd., off Rt. 183, just south of Tanglewood, and stop at the overlook for views of Stockbridge Bowl and the southern Berkshire Hills. Rt. 43 East, off Rt. 7, is the lower road to Williamstown, and passes through lovely farmland. Rt. 23, from Great Barrington to Monterey, and then right onto Tyringham Rd., takes you through the Tyringham Valley and eventually to Lee.
Mohawk Trail The Mohawk Trail, which runs 63 miles along Rt. 2 from Orange to North Adams, is one of the state’s most popular foliage routes. Excellent “up-country” viewing sites include: the Whitcomb Summit; the hairpin turn before North Adams; the 10-mile drive to the summit of Mt. Greylock; the French King Bridge, Millers Falls; the Bissell Covered Bridge, Charlemont; and the enchanting Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls.