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Your guide to taking a fall foliage road trip through New England

It’s never too early to start planning a scenic drive for the cooler months. Here, we share the can’t-miss stops from NoVA to Vermont.

© leekris / stock.adobe.com

While summer is typically a time for travel with the family—days spent outdoors and nights by the fire pit on a beach somewhere—the adventures don’t have to end when the season does.

In fact, according to a 2017 AAA survey, more than one in four Americans plan a vacation between Labor Day and Thanksgiving due to fewer crowds, more favorable weather and cheaper cost of travel. Plus, there’s nothing quite like driving your car down a winding road with the windows down, taking in the breathtaking views of red, yellow and orange hues of autumn leaves. And in the Northeast, New England is without a doubt the area to visit when looking for the most dramatized fall views.

While every year is different, the vibrant array of color typically starts in the northern New England states of Maine and New Hampshire in late September and makes its way down to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island around late October. Whether you are planning a weekend escape or a longer road trip up North this fall, here’s where to stop along the way. 

Gettysburg National Military Park (© jonbilous / stock.adobe.com)

Pennsylvania
Gettysburg National Military Park
Distance from Fairfax: about 1.5 hours
Less than two hours away from NoVA, this national park is home to the Battle of Gettysburg, a historic turning point in the civil war. The site serves as an educational-yet- enchanting stop, where visitors can explore over 1,400 memorials and monuments surrounded by the deep red hues of fall. Plus, due to its size, you don’t even have to get out of the car to take in all the sights. Simply stop by the museum to purchase a self-guided auto tour for you and your family to enjoy. // 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg  

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Distance from Fairfax: about 3.5 hours
Continuing the historical tour in Pennsylvania, travelers should park the car and take a stroll through Washington Crossing Historic Park, the very location where George Washington crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey in 1776. In addition to the scenic changing leaves in middle to late October, guests can visit the Colonial market and encampment hosted by park staff throughout autumn. Still looking for more views? Head over to the 125-foot-tall Bowman’s Hill Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the near 28,000 trees in Bucks County. // 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing

Macedonia Brook State Park (© spiritofamerica / stock.adobe.com)

Connecticut
Macedonia Brook State Park
Distance from Fairfax: about 6 hours
Located just a few miles off of Route 341 in Kent, this state park is a robust, 2,300-acre property, consisting of various hiking trails, mountain peaks and bases for overnight stays. On a crisp autumn day, adventure-seekers should climb across Cobble Mountain for one-of-a-kind views of the Catskill and Taconic mountains while they lay under a sea of bright colors. // 159 Macedonia Brook Road, Kent

The Last Green Valley
Distance from Fairfax: about 7-7.5 hours
Before heading further up North, be sure to visit The Last Green Valley, a scenic piece of land spanning across eastern Connecticut and just nine towns in Massachusetts. The entire region, which is 10 times the size of Acadia National Park, consists of 77% green fields and forests that turn to a beautiful mix of color in the autumn months, specifically middle to late October. Where did the name come from you might ask? At night from satellites or aircrafts, the region appears completely dark amid lights coming from the suburban and urban life that surrounds it, creating “The Last Green Valley” in the Boston to Washington Corridor. // 203 Main St., Danielson

Boston Public Garden (© Jill Clardy / stock.adobe.com)

Massachusetts
Mohawk Trail
Distance from Fairfax: about 7.5 hours
Extending 37 miles through Massachusetts, the Mohawk Trail, also known as Route 2, is a beautiful drive for the fall foliage season with various stopping points along the way. While it began as a Native American trade route, the trail now lies in parts of the Berkshires, a must-see rural region in the mountains featuring cultural hot-spots like Tanglewood, a concert venue under the stars. // Route 2, various sections

Emerald Necklace in Boston
Distance from Fairfax: about 8 hours
In the very heart of the city of Boston lies the Emerald Necklace, a park system that flows all the way through Brookline, a neighboring suburb of the city. In the fall season, guests can travel through any of the six parks within the area and take in vibrant yellows, bold oranges and bright reds from all sides of the trails. Whether you’re interested in walking along the three hubs of water that lie inside the region or simply want to take in the surrounding nature, this serene area inside a bustling city has it all. // various entry points available

Vermont
Molly Stark Byway and State Park
Distance from Fairfax: 8-8.5 hours
The state of Vermont is home to more maple trees than any other state in the country, and where better to see them change color than on a 48-mile stretch of highway? As you drive down the mountainous roads, take in the 360-degree views during the day and then pull off at any point to check out several postcard-worthy towns filled with museums, eateries and boutiques. Plus, the Molly Stark State Park, home to campsites and hiking trails isn’t too far down the road either. // State Park: 705 Route 9 E., Wilmington

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