Predicting fall’s color changes is part science and part luck; at least that’s what Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder is apt to say at the beginning of the leaf-peeping season.
“We know the science of color change and the factors that influence it, but we don’t know exactly how it will unfold in any given year,” Snyder said in 2015 about Vermont’s foliage.
It was also in 2015 that then-Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin declared the state to be “home to the World’s Best Foliage.”
“No one does foliage better than Vermont,” Shumlin said at a 2015 press conference. His reasoning? “Three-quarters of our state is forested, and we have the highest percentage of maple trees in the country. With our flaming reds, blazing oranges and glowing yellows, we have the most vibrant fall colors in the world,” he said.
Here at UpCountry, we tend to think that the foliage in Southern Vermont and Western Massachusetts is equally as beautiful. But don’t take our word for it; get out on the road this fall and see it for yourself.
To get you started, here are a few places to check out …
In Southern Vermont …
Mount Equinox Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive, Sunderland
At 3,848 feet above sea level, the summit of Mount Equinox, the highest peak in the Taconic Mountain Range, offers views of the Green, White, Adirondack and Berkshire mountain ranges. Travel to the summit via Skyline Drive, a 5.2-mile toll road, between Arlington and Manchester.
Pack a picnic lunch, as there are plenty of scenic vistas, complete with picnic tables made from marble quarried in nearby Dorset, along the way. Or, stop at the Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center to learn more about the only Carthusian Monastery in the United States, which happens to be located on Mount Equinox. Toll: Car and driver, $20; $5 for each passenger. Free for children younger than 10.
Hogback Mountain Scenic Overlook
Route 9, Marlboro
Stop for the 100-mile view; stay for the attractions.
Once you’ve taken in the views, check out the nearby Vermont Distillers, where the Metcalfe line of liqueurs and Catamount Vodka are made. Check out the tasting room in the Hogback Mountain Gift Shop. Also located in the general vicinity are Beer Naked Brewery and the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.
Mount Snow Resort, West Dover
When foliage arrives, Mount Snow offers scenic chairlift rides via its Bluebird Express to the summit, giving visitors a “frontrow seat to Mother Nature’s kaleidoscopic autumnal show.”
Visitors to the summit either can ride back down or tarry in the foliage a little longer with a hike down the mountain. Check Mount Snow’s website for scenic chairlift dates.
Enjoy a day boating, fishing, swimming and more on the Harriman Reservoir. Or soak up some sun, enjoy the foliage and a picnic on its shores.
But what makes this place extra special is what lies beneath the water. When water levels are low, foundations from the settlement of Mountain Mills become visible. Before the reservoir was built, the town included a railroad station with a store, post office, a hospital, brick office building, a boarding house, row housing and a water tower.
Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery
36 Bridge St., Brattleboro
Enjoy the fall foliage along the Connecticut River while enjoying a bite to eat and a brew on the riverfront deck at Whetstone Station. Enjoy brews from the on-site nanobrewery or one of the 60 craft brews available in the restaurant.
And while you’re there, you can drink a beer in two states at one time. The U.S. Geological Survey state line, separating Vermont and New Hampshire, runs through a portion of the restaurant.
In the Berkshires …
October Mountain State Forest
256 Woodland Road, Lee
Need we say more? Author Herman Melville is credited with naming the mountain, which he could see from his home in Pittsfield. He was so impressed with its brilliant fall colors, he penned a short story about it, called “October Mountain.”
And at 16,500 acres — it’s the largest state forest in Massachusetts according to mass.gov — there’s plenty of forest to see. You can drive through the forest or choose to stop and stay awhile. While there, you can hike, mountain bike, canoe, kayak, fish or just take a walk and enjoy the view.
1289 Richmond Mountain Road, West Stockbridge
Olivia’s Overlook offers fantastic views of the Stockbridge Bowl, but it’s also a trailhead for 6 miles of trails of varying levels. From Olivia’s Overlook, you can access the Charcoal Trail, with a connection to the Brothers Trail. On the other side of the road, the Burbank Trail loops along the Yukon Ridge and then down eastward to Monks Pond, with a connection to Old Baldhead Road.
81 State Road, Richmond
Enjoy the views of the Taconic mountains and Richmond Pond as you enjoy a wine tasting at Balderdash Cellars. The tasting room is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. (Check the website or call to confirm hours.) Tasting flights of six wines are available.
Hike to the top from the Cheshire Harbor Trail in Adams or drive up to the summit — it’s the state’s highest peak, at 3,491 feet — via access roads in North Adams and Lanesborough.
However you reach the summit, you’re sure to enjoy the foliage on your way there. Once at the top, take in the views that include the Green Mountains of Vermont, as well as the Taconic Range. While your there, be sure to stop in Bascom Lodge to grab a bite to eat.
Hairpin Turn and The Mohawk Trail
Route 2, North Adams to Greenfield, Mass.
Whether you’re starting your foliage tour of the Mohawk Trail in North Adams or finishing it there, you’ll have to navigate Route 2’s famous Hairpin Turn. The 360-degree turn, located in Clarksburg, has been a favorite spot of leaf peepers since the scenic byway opened in October 1914. We suggest checking out the views from the balcony while dining at the Golden Eagle restaurant or while enjoying a snack at the Wigwam Western Summit.
We’re highlighting the westernmost part of the trail, about 37 of the total 63 miles, for your viewing pleasure. (We encourage you to tour as much of it as your heart desires.) Be sure to stop at the Whitcomb Summit to snap pictures with the bronze Elk on the Trail memorial and check out the views. We also suggest stopping at Hail to the Sunrise Park in Charlemont, touring the Bridge of Flowers and viewing the Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls.