New England Fall Foliage Tours

Your Guide to the Best Guided Trips for Leaf Peepers

Autumn trees along riverbank in New England

Ron and Patty Thomas / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

With leaf peepers descending on New England each autumn from all parts of the globe, it might be easier to leave the planning to someone else and enjoy a guided biking, hiking, walking, bus, train, cruise, or even an aerial tour of New England this fall. Even if you don't consider yourself the organized tour type, a group excursion might be your best bet for maximizing your time during New England's peak tourism season.

Tours range from day trips to full-week excursions where travelers are shuttled around across New England. Regardless of the tour duration, you'll be traveling with locals and fall foliage experts who can guarantee that you see some of the most scenic spots in the Northeast. Plus, once peak foliage arrives, New England fills with visitors and joining a tour keeps the stress level low.

Many organized tours have been cut back or canceled in 2020, so be sure to confirm with individual businesses that they are open this season. If you are unable to join a tour, you can always visit the best places in New England for fall foliage on your own.

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Bus Tours

Hairpin curve on a country road in autumn with bus driving
Thomas Winz / Getty Images

Bus tours are one of the most popular ways to explore New England fall foliage. Leave the driving to an operator such as Caravan Tours, which offers an eight-day New England Fall Foliage guided motorcoach trip leaving from Boston on a variety of September and October departure dates. Sit back and enjoy vivid views of changing leaves in all six New England states as you visit the region's most iconic attraction.

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Biking Tours

Cyclists on the Kancamagus Highway near Conway, New Hampshire
Cappi Thompson / Getty Images

If you're passionate about biking and looking to head out on a "last hurrah" trek before autumn yields to blustery winter, a number of New England fall foliage biking tour providers will lead you on a self-powered journey to remember. Book yourself, for example, on one of VBT Bicycling Vacations' scheduled outings this fall. This tour company offers a number of autumn trips in Vermont, Cape Cod, and Maine's Acadia National Park. Trip leaders provide support and encouragement all along the way, and your tour includes specially selected accommodations and great regional dining throughout your journey.

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Train Tours

New Hampshire railway in the White Mountains
Cappi Thompson / Getty Images

If chugging along the tree-lined tracks aboard a historic locomotive sounds appealing, then there are plenty of scenic options to choose from. Among the fall's best railroading adventures is the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat excursion, which is like taking two trips in one. Board a historic steam train and travel through the rural Connecticut River Valley, followed by a journey through the local wetlands on a steamboat. The entire trip takes about two and a half hours and is available on weekends from September 26 until October 25, 2020.

In neighboring New Hampshire, the Conway Scenic Railroad is one of the most romantic trips in the entire Northeast. Different rides vary in time from 55 minutes to over six hours, depending on how long you want your journey to be. Most train rides also include live commentary about New Hampshire's history and local folklore to complement the autumn views outside the window.

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Hiking and Walking Tours

Scenery of Kent Pond lake and forest in autumn

Carl D. Walsh / Aurora Photos / Getty Images

The crunch of leaves beneath your feet adds to the charm of fall days in New England, so consider claiming a spot on one of the region's best guided hiking or walking tours. You can even get a head start on the new year by making a resolution to get fit this fall, starting with an inspiring stay at Jimmy LeSage's New Life Hiking Spa in Vermont's lush mountains near Killington. With walks and activities for all levels, from beginners to walkers seeking a challenge, LeSage's programs are designed for more than just weight loss. You'll retrain your mind in healthy ways, too.

The travel company Backroads leads hiking groups around the world, including one through the forests of Vermont and another within Acadia National Park in Maine. Group trips in 2020 have been reformatted and now include fewer people, so you can have a more intimate experience with nature while also staying safe.

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Cruise New England's Waters in the Fall

Elevated view of Frenchman Bay from Acadia National Park, Maine
John Wang / Getty Images

A guided tour of New England's colorful coastline aboard a seaworthy vessel is sure to be a memorable outing, as is a riverboat trip as the leaves put on their annual show. Scenic tours from M/S Mount Washington are geared toward the best leaf-peeping opportunities, sailing around Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Boat trips are scheduled daily from mid-September until mid-October in 2020, and possibly longer depending on the duration of the foliage.

For a more immersive trip, the Maine Windjammer Association sails out on the Atlantic Coast for multi-day trips. You'll be able to travel along the scenic Maine coast and even further up into Canada, depending on which tour you choose and the number of days. Each day includes about six hours of sailing time, after which you'll drop anchor and be able to explore a local fishing village or uninhabited island in order to fully take in the scenery.

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Best Aerial Tours for Adventurous Leaf Peepers

Hot air ballooning. Quechee, Vermont. USA

Alan Majchrowicz / Getty Images

It's one thing to pick up the prettiest fallen leaves that catch your eye, but you could also soar above the foliage, tickling the treetops. Several aerial adventures offer the chance to do exactly that. When you set sail on a fall hot air balloon flight with Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides, for example, you'll enjoy views few other leaf peepers will never experience. This tour company flies regularly from its home base in Essex Junction (near Burlington), Vermont. All balloon cabins are reserved for private groups in 2020, making this one of the most thrilling ways to maintain social distance this fall.

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