Secret New England fall foliage routes
The real secret to finding great fall foliage routes in New England is simple. All you have to do is just get out and explore the back roads of New England.
This article isn’t about giving you a bunch of “secret” routes. I’m going to show you how I explore and find those routes. If you want to skip my tips and rules in the middle, you can read about a 12 mile stretch of route 4 around Danbury, NH. There I explore via Google maps what you can find there. Also you’ll find good info on my art of getting lost page.
These are among the best (popular) fall foliage routes in New England. Why? Because they are easy.
- Route 100 in Vermont From Smuggler’s notch south
- Route 112 (the Kanc) in New Hampshire
- Route 2 (the Mohawk trail) in Massachusetts (Lexington to the Berkshires)
- Route 169 (the quiet corner) in Connecticut
These routes are the best fall foliage routes for a reason. They have it all, from scenic outlooks, a thousand feet above the valley floor with vistas as far as the eyes can see, to old barns, waterfalls and charming historic towns.
Next, if you are a seasoned fall foliage leaf peeper, you will be wondering how I left off about 20 or more popular fall foliage routes.
Like routes 5 and 7 in VT and 2 and 302 in NH and… I could go on since we all know of great fall foliage routes but what I want you to focus on is ignoring the well-traveled routes and see what else is out there.
The biggest downside to these well-known routes is that everybody writes about these routes. Then hundreds of thousands (maybe millions…) of leaf peepers travel these routes from Sept 25th to Nov 1st in a given year.autumn photos
This is why if you don’t want to go to the trouble of exploring then you should stay on the established fall foliage routes and you will have a nice scenic fall foliage trip. On the other hand if you read on, I will impart a few rules/tips that I try to follow when I’m out exploring.
Fall foliage prime directive:
The first thing I want you to do is to explore like a 7-year-old. They have an all-consuming curiosity about the world around them. You should try for this also. It doesn’t matter what you find, just get out there and have fun doing it…
Here are some simple rules that I follow when I go searching to find great fall foliage routes. Or, at least interesting ones.
Rule #1: Look for roads that pass near, ponds, rivers and streams which often reflect the fall colors. No downside there! (don’t forget the puddles after the rains).
Rule #2: Great fall foliage routes will often pass through cemeteries which have well-tended trees and usually have been around for a hundred years+, so they have very mature foliage trees (like maples).
Rule #3: Look on the side of the road for a metal bar across a path with red, black, yellow bands on it. This is a conservation rail trail. This is where an old rail system used to pass between towns and now is a bike/walking path. This is the perfect time to get out of your car to stretch your legs. Remember that in the days of steam trains, they needed water for the boilers and you could find a pond near the trail where the train filled up during its journey.
Tips that I suggest
Tip #1 Tools.
First I’ll mention this again, for finding fall foliage routes, I travel with the DeLorme Gazetteers and a GPS. The map book is great for planning the trip and seeing what might be in the immediate area. The GPS is for telling you exactly where on the map you are and they usually have a built-in database of things like gas stations and of course the nearest coffee-house.
Tip #2 Watch for unusual names of roads.
No matter where you are, look at the names of the roads around you. If you are on route 4 in NH then you are on a more modern road then what was in use 100 years ago or even 50 years back. Look for the keywords like “Old main road” especially if the “main road” is this straight and well paved road then there may be this curve filled road that in the late 1800s buggies traveled here because most roads ran along rivers and rivers never run straight.
Tip #3 Google Maps is a great tool for planning
You’re going to say if I have the map book why Google? Very simply the Gazetteers don’t have every street on them (a lot, yes) but not all and in that light I want you to take a little trip with me. I’m going to show you what I do when I research a trip.
Secret fall foliage Route 4 in New Hampshire
Many of you reading this may say, “I know that road and it’s no secret!” Well get on the computer and follow along via Google maps. And you tell me if by the end if you haven’t learned something new on finding fall foliage routes.
First I want you to go click on this link [Danbury NH map] which will take you to a Google map centered on Danbury, New Hampshire. OR you can use the map embedded into the page above) We are going to take a virtual trip along this section of route 4 via Google maps.
I want you to look at this route and you will see just west of route 4 (it will now be referred to as “4”) is “Old Turnpike road” (OTR). I’m drawn to any “Old” route because it will be slower and less traveled. Now I want you to follow “4”, south to where OTR leaves route 4 to head north. You might click the terrain or satellite
view and see what is to either side of OTR. I see what might be farms, barns or just homes, you won’t know until you get there and see for yourself.
Now you have run the short length of OTR and get back on route 4 at high street. We are now traveling north and west along “4” and if you go back to map mode, you will see a big green area on the Google map to the north, Mt Cardigan State Park.
If you now turn on the terrain option (to see elevation) by clicking the satellite box in the upper right corner and click terrain. If you started your trip counter where you go back on “4” you should find at 3.7 miles a road named Lower meadow Rd. I don’t know the condition of the road but assuming it’s maintained its OK to travel on. Let’s follow it a short distance before getting back on “4”. It turns to Gillford Hill Rd and then Burnt Hill Rd. Once it changes to “Sky land trail” the road is at about 1200’ in elevation and when you pass below Hoyt hill which peaks at 2000’ elevation you will have almost a vertical rise in this valley to the mountain tops on both sides of the road. I love fall foliage routes that have walls of color. This trip should be included in your fall foliage routes around the 10-15 October time period.
Now we’ll get back on “4” and head west until we are 6.7 miles from Danbury. About this time you should see on the left, Riddle Hill Rd on the left and just up the road is the Ruggles mine. Don’t know what that is? Google/Bing it and let me know what you find… Ok click here as I did the work for you.
Now we get to 12.5 miles and on the left you have Ball Park road. Take the left and follow it up the hill to Grist Mill Rd and Height of Land Rd. Hang a right and you will travel down the hill and at the bottom of the hill will be where a Grist Mill was. I called the Cannan post office and asked them what was there (just a foundation).
I’ve been on “4” but I never traveled these side routes. So I just added to my fall foliage routes for myself and if you do this trip during this coming fall then why don’t you come back and post a comment on whether you found these tips useful.Jeff "Foliage" Folger You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
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but people call me Jeff Foliage.
I have several pages that I write blogs for such as: http://www.4cornersnewengland.com/
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I live in Salem, Massachusetts and work as a blogger and Travel Photographer. I'm also the founder of the New England Photography Guild.
Feel free to visit me on my blogs and see what life in New England is like.
I started with Yankee Magazine as their first blogger on everything fall foliage. Now I blog on my own blog on my favorite subject, telling leaf peepers where the fall foliage is showing up in New England and helping them (to some extent) plan their fall foliage vacations.