One of the best things about New England is that it’s a destination with four different seasons, so you get a different experience depending on the time of year. Fall foliage season brings “leaf peepers” throughout the entire region thanks to the beauty the changing leaves brings to the landscapes.
The timing of foliage season in New England changes each year, but for the most part you’ll start to see signs of leaves changing by mid-September. By mid- to late-October, the peak of foliage season has arrived. This is one of the best times to visit Boston aside from the foliage, as the weather is nice and October is on the late edge of peak tourism season.
Read on for recommendations on the best places to take in fall foliage near Boston. This includes destinations right in Boston, as well as others within relatively short driving distance from the city, including the Berkshires and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Within these options you can walk, drive, hike and more, depending on where you are.
And while there are of course specific destinations that are ideal for seeing foliage, you may also find the below references helpful, as they are updated in real-time to show where you can see the best foliage on any given day.
There are several great places to see fall foliage right within Boston’s city limits, all of which are free to visit. You can access these points by simply walking or driving to them, or you can opt to rent a bike or take a Duck Boat Tour, which will allow you to see several areas with good foliage.
Boston Common & Public Garden: If you’re visiting Boston, you’ll want to check out this area anyway, as they are two popular tourist destinations. During the fall months, the trees change color, making them even prettier than they already are. These areas are free to explore on your own and Boston Common is where the Freedom Trail begins, so that can be your next step.
Charles River Esplanade: The trees along the Charles River Esplanade also create a picture-perfect scene, whether you’re walking, running, riding a bike along the pathway, or you're on a boat out on the river. October is when the iconic Head of the Charles Regatta takes place, bringing in rowers and crowds from all over the world, making for a fun event to experience during fall foliage season.
Commonwealth Avenue Mall: Referred to by Bostonians as “Comm Ave.,” this walkway in the Back Bay is lined with oak trees and makes for a beautiful walk when the leaves have changed color. Beyond the trees on each side, you’ll find streets of brownstones that add to the beauty of this neighborhood.
Back Bay Fens: The Back Bay Fens is an outdoor area with formal and community gardens, historic landmarks and more. This area transforms during foliage season as the colors of the trees change throughout.
Arnold Arboretum: Located in Jamaica Plain, the Arnold Arboretum is a popular park for walks with nice scenery. While May is an ideal time to visit thanks to the lilacs blooming, months like October are equally as good because of the foliage all around you.
Outside of Boston, Massachusetts has lots to offer when it comes to foliage. The best option is driving on Route 2, known as the Mohawk Trail, which was named New England’s first official scenic road and opened back in 1914. Along this route are the Northern Berkshire Mountains, along with Mount Greylock and Shelburne Falls, which is where you’ll find the Bridge of Flowers. Follow these directions to drive the Mohawk Trail. A nice town to explore in the Berkshires at this time of year is Lenox, where you can stay at the Canyon Ranch Lenox Resort, a luxury hotel.
You may not realize it, but the New Hampshire border is only about an hour north of Boston, so it’s easy to get up there to explore a whole new state. Here are the best places to see foliage in the Granite State:
White Mountains: Take Route 112, also known as the Kancamagus Highway, and drive along the 34-mile stretch as you take in the White Mountain National Forest. If you’re feeling extra adventurous and want even better views, spend the day hiking in this area. There are also several campgrounds along the way. Other points of interest include the Sabbaday Falls, Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves and the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area.
Lakes Region: Lake Winnipesaukee is another destination that you can simply drive around and see loads of foliage, which is particularly beautiful around the lake. This 75-mile road around the lake takes you through towns like Laconia and Wolfeboro. You can also board the Mount Washington Cruise out of Weirs Beach or head to Moultonborough to see the Castle in the Clouds with foliage all around you.
Portsmouth: This quaint town on New Hampshire’s Seacoast is just over an hour drive from Boston and is the perfect place to walk around and even stay for the weekend. While there isn’t as much foliage here as in the White Mountains or Lakes Region, the changing trees bring in colors that go perfectly with the crisp fall weather.
Connecticut may not seem like the best place to see fall foliage, but there’s one drive in particular—State Route 169—that will wow you during peak season. This is the first National Scenic Byway in the state of Connecticut and is considered part of New England’s “Last Green Valley.” This rural drive will bring you through old churches, fairgrounds and homes that date back to the 1800s, adding to the charm factor.