As fall sweeps into the Northeast, the entire region transforms into a swath of red, yellow, and orange, but each state has particular places that offer the most stunning views of the autumn colors. In Connecticut, the best places to see the foliage are in state parks and forests, which also offer viewing towers and lookouts so that you'll be able to treat yourself to a panoramic view of nature's vibrant display.
Colors start to appear in late September and they can last through early November, but the peak time around Connecticut tends to be mid-October. The exact timeframe depends on the weather and other variables, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection keeps a handy weekly update so you can know exactly when to go.
If you want to check out other fall colors throughout the state, you can also take a scenic driving tour of the foliage.
Talcott Mountain State Park
Heublein Tower is a 165-foot tower located within Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, Connecticut. When you visit in the fall, the top of the tower offers sweeping views that take in the Farmington River Valley and, on a clear day, several neighboring states. To get there, take Route 18 toward Simsbury. Once inside the park, park along the road near the trailhead of the hike. Hike the 1.25-mile trail to the ridge and bear left to get to Heublein Tower.
Until September 30, the tower is open Thursdays through Mondays. From October 1 through October 29, it's open Wednesdays through Mondays (closed on Tuesdays) and the opening hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mohawk State Forest
Make the Lookout Tower in Mohawk State Forest a stop on your fall foliage route. From the top, scenic views to the north and west include the Catskill, Taconic, and Berkshire mountain ranges. Hikers can pick the Mattatuck or Mohawk Trails, which cross the site. You can also see ample wildlife here, such as deer, fox, and bobcats.
From Torrington, drive west on Route 4 for 14 miles to the park entrance, Toumey Road, on the left. At the "T" intersection, turn right onto Mohawk Mountain Road. The lookout tower is at the end.
Haystack Mountain State Park
At Haystack Mountain State Park, you can drive a windy mountain road and hike a rugged trail to reach the top of Haystack Mountain, where you'll be rewarded with 360-degree, stunning views of the Berkshires, New York, and the Green Mountains. The road only goes about halfway up, so to get to the 34-foot lookout tower at the summit, you'll have to hike the rest of the way up from the road's end, which is about a half-mile.
To get there from Norfolk, Connecticut, at the junction of Route 44 and Route 272, take the latter north half of a mile to the park entrance on the left. The entry road leads to the parking area.
Peoples State Forest
The Peoples State Forest offers a few lookouts to see stunning colors. In particular, take the Jessie Gerard Trail (1.3 miles), which offers two paths to the Chaugham Lookouts. At the fork, the right path leads you through the lighthouse sight to the lookouts. The left path is a more direct route to the overlooks by way of 299 steps. Either way will lead you to the overlook that offers some of the best views in the state.
At the junction of Route 318 and Route 181 in Pleasant Valley, Connecticut, travel east over the bridge and take the first left onto East River Road. The Jessie Gerard Trailhead is 2.4 miles ahead on the right. The yellow-blazed trail leads to two lookouts.
Pachaug State Forest
Pachaug State Forest, established in 1928, is the largest one in Connecticut, comprising 26,477 acres spread across six towns. When you get to the forest, there are two main areas you can explore—the Champman Area and the Green Falls Area. For foliage, your best bet is to explore the first, as the Chapman Area is where the Mount Misery overlook is located, which is the highest point in the area at 441 feet. You can reach the overlook by car or by trail.
The forest entrance is on Route 49, about a half-mile north of Voluntown. Turn left into the entrance and drive two miles west, bearing left at the fork to the parking lot. The woods access road on the left leads to the overlook.
Macedonia Brook State Park
Make your way to Macedonia Brook State Park, in Kent, Connecticut, to view a splash of fall colors from the top of Cobble Mountain. From this vantage point, you'll be able to view the Harlem Valley into the Taconic and the Catskill Mountains.
From the intersection of Route 341 and Route 7 in Kent, take Route 341 heading west, and then stay left at the intersection of Macedonia Brook and Fuller Mountain roads. From the parking lot, head to the Cobble Mountain Trail.
Shenipsit State Forest
Shenipsit State Forest offers you a chance to view beautiful fall foliage. Take the Shenipsit Trail, which will lead you to the top of Soapstone Mountain where the observation tower is located. The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum is also located within the park, but it's only open in the summer and closes after Labor Day.
To get there from Somers, take Route 190 east for a little over a mile to a blinking yellow traffic light. Turn right on Gulf Road and drive about two miles to Soapstone Mountain Road (the first right after Mountain View Road). The road leads to the tower parking lot, and the Shenipsit Trail runs by the tower.