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A Tank Away | Fall Foliage

Go out and get some color

A roundup of great getaways and scenic treks for leaf-peeping in New England

Fall color near Bethel, Maine, in the often-overlooked western part of the state. Fall color near Bethel, Maine, in the often-overlooked western part of the state. (Hilary Nangle/File)
September 21, 2011

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One of the best things about New England is that you don’t need to go far to savor vibrant fall color. Some are happy just to take walks and rake leaves, but others want one last hurrah before the snow falls. Here are some great leaf peeping routes that offer themselves up as enticing options for a weekend getaway.

MAINE

Often overlooked, western Maine glows in autumn. Byways noodle through forested mountains, edge rippling rivers and placid lakes, and pass though villages peppered with white-steepled churches and ivy-covered prep schools. Rural barns brim with antiques, farm stands overflow with produce, and opportunities for outdoor play are numerous. Follow Route 26 north from Gray, perhaps visiting the Maine Wildlife Park (56 Game Farm Road, 207-657-4977, www.mainewildlifepark.com, $7); the world’s last inhabited Shaker community (Route 26, 207-926-4597, www.shaker.lib.me.us, $6.50 tour); or Poland Spring’s heritage sites, the Maine State Building and Preservation Park museums and All Souls Chapel (Route 26, 207-998-4142, www.polandspringps.org, donation). Grab lunch at Café Nomad (450 Main St., Norway, 207-739-2249, www.cafenomad.com, $5-$8), then head west on Waterford Road to Waterford, a 19th-century lakeside village frozen in time, before taking Route 5 north to Bethel to finish your day. Reserve ahead at the Bethel Inn Resort (800-654-0125, www.bethelinn.com, rates from $160 with breakfast) or Crocker Pond House (207-836-2027, www.crockerpond.com, $125-$150 with breakfast). HILARY NANGLE

RHODE ISLAND

If you’re looking for a scenic trek head to Route 102, a 42-mile country road starting in North Smithfield, where the spire of a church on Slatersville Green juts into blue sky. This roadway cuts through rural towns like Burrillville and Glocester, and the more suburban West Greenwich before ending at the waters of Wickford. A great jumping-off point is Grace Note Farm (969 Jackson Schoolhouse Road, Burriville, 401-567-0354, rate $155 per person, includes three full meals, reservations only. Take Route 44 west off Route 102 for 2 miles, then right onto Jackson Schoolhouse Road. www.gracenotefarmweb.com), a working farm next to the George Washington Management Area. Owner Virginia Sindelar often makes dishes using recipes of Thomas Jefferson. If you feel like stretching your legs, stop and take a hike through the colorful Parker Woodland Preserve (1670 Maple Valley Road, Coventry, 401-295-8283, www.asri.org/refuges/george-b.-parker-woodland.html), 800 acres of old forests, fields and brooks. If you’re more of a mountain bicycling fan, next to Route 102 in West Greenwich and Exeter is the 14,000-acre Arcadia Management Area (www.riparks.com/arcadia.htm, 401-539-2356), where trails through the hilly terrain offer outstanding foliage views. PAUL E. KANDARIAN

MASSACHUSETTS

The hills of the northern Berkshires offer magnificent vistas, top-notch cultural venues, and farm-to-table eats. Wake up at the Red Lion Inn (30 Main St., Stockbridge, 413-298-5545, www.redlioninn.com, $175-$389) and start the day with caramelized apple pancakes or eggs-any-style ($7.50-$15). You can make a beeline to Lenox on US 7, but I prefer looping north on Route 183, stopping at Chesterwood (4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge, 413-298-3579, www.chesterwood.org, $15), the studio, home, and gardens of sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), and the Norman Rockwell Museum (9 Route 183, Stockbridge, 413-298-4100, www.nrm.org, $16). Ooh and ahh at the views across Stockbridge Bowl (a lake, not a sport center) before connecting to US 7. Hungry? Get a caffeine boost and whoopie pies at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge (444 North St., Pittsfield, 413-443-1792, www.dottiescoffeelounge.com) before tackling trails at Mount Greylock State Reservation (www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/mtGreylock/). Hike or drive to summit at 3,491 feet, the highest point in Massachusetts. Enjoy a locally-sourced dinner at Mezze Bistro (777 Cold Spring Road, Williamstown, 413-458-0123, www.mezzerestaurant.com, $20-$32) before resting your weary bones at the Orchards Hotel (222 Adams Road, Williamstown, 413-458-9611, www.orchardshotel.com, $299-$359). NECEE REGIS

CONNECTICUT

A National Scenic Byway, Connecticut Route 169 is always pretty but never more so than in the fall. This 32-mile stretch of road begins at the Massachusetts border in North Woodstock and ends at Interstate 395 in Lisbon, winding past picture-postcard town commons and churchyards. You could cover it in an hour, but then you’d miss out on the substantial offerings of the state’s aptly named “Quiet Corner.’’ Pomfret has several attractions worth a stop. Pour a glass of Ballet of Angels at Sharpe Hill Vineyard (108 Wade Road, 860-974-3549, www.sharpehill.com), then walk to the top of the property for a spectacular view overlooking parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. For a casual bite, stop at the Vanilla Bean Café (corner of routes 44, 97, and 169, 860-928-1562, www.thevanillabeancafe.com), specializing in creative sandwiches, local seafood, and homemade desserts. Pick up a memento of your visit at one of the area’s excellent crafts shops, including Hazelwood Fine Crafts (12 Putnam Road, 860-928-5888, www.hazelwoodgallery.com), featuring clothing hand-woven by the shop’s owner, Camille Benjamin, and Celebrations Gallery & Shoppes (330 Pomfret St., 860-928-5492, www.celebrationsshoppes.com), which highlights local artists and artisans in an 1885 Queen Anne Victorian. ELLEN ALBANESE

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Leaf-peepers once again have access to one of New England’s most beloved foliage routes now that the Kancamagus Highway has reopened. The White Mountains Trail is a 100-mile scenic loop that travels via the “Kanc,’’ which has been repaired following the damage caused by last month’s Tropical Storm Irene. Begin your morning in Lincoln with breakfast at the White Mountain Bagel Co. (25 Main St., 603-745-8576, www.whitemountainbagel.com, $2.89-$7.50), a small shack-like establishment serving a variety of breakfast sandwiches and melts. After navigating the winding turns of the Kancamagus, head north on Route 16 and spend some time in North Conway, noted for tax-free outlet shopping. At Settlers’ Green (Route 16, 603-667-9636, www.settlersgreen.com), you’ll find dozens of stores including Banana Republic, Stonewall Kitchen, and Bass. Stay north to merge onto Route 302 through the town of Bartlett. The majestic cliffs of Crawford Notch State Park soon follow, and heading south on Route 93 back toward Lincoln the trail leads to Franconia Notch, with sweeping views of the state park. If you plan on spending the night, the Woodstock Inn (135 Main St., North Woodstock, 603-745-3951 www.woodstockinnnh.com, rooms $89-$229), offers charming facilities, while the downstairs restaurant, Woodstock Station, provides mouth-watering options in both their brews and dining menu (entrees $8.99-$17.99). ERIC WILBUR

VERMONT

Flooding that washed out parts of roads throughout the state turned the old adage “you can’t get there from here’’ into a reality that’s slowly untangling. While making plans, be sure to consult the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s website (www.crisislanding.appspot.com/?crisis=2011_flooding_vermont) to ensure you don’t end up on a road to nowhere. Your safest bets will be Vermont’s two interstates, 91 and 89, which are among the most scenic in the nation. Interstate 91 runs from the Massachusetts border to Canada, offering views of the Connecticut River and sprawling farms. Jump off onto Route 5 to detour through cozy towns along the way, such as Putney or Hartland, which is about an hour north of Brattleboro. Interstate 89, heading northwest as it crosses 91 in Hartford, offers sweeping views as it cuts over the ridge of the Green Mountains. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock (www.nps.gov/mabi/index.htm, 802-457-3368, ext. 22. Tours $8 for adults, $4 for seniors, 15 and under free), with its focus on the history of conservation, has exhibits for all ages. Hotels book well in advance of foliage, but the flooding should bring cancellations, so don’t be afraid to ask. If you want a place to stay not far from the Massachusetts border, try the Putney Inn (57 Putney Landing Road, Putney, www.putneyinn.com, 800-653-5517, rooms start at $138), which is right off I-91. Once there, definitely check out the dining room (www.putneyinn.com/dining.html, 800-653-5517, organic roast chicken $22), which specializes in contemporary takes on traditional New England fare. BRYAN MARQUARD


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