There are a couple of ways to experience foliage season in New England: from your car stuck in traffic, or atop a mountain with way fewer people. For the second kind of leaf peeping, we’ve chosen three hikes, one each in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
Each site is about 2½ hours from Boston. We’ve given you easy-to-intermediate hikes and a range of peak foliage dates.
Mount Tom via Faulkner Trail, Woodstock, Vt.
Maybe you like the idea of a foliage hike but don’t want to spend your whole day climbing. The Faulkner Trail up the south side of Mount Tom is perfect. In less than 45 minutes of moderate climbing, you can reach the summit, which overlooks Woodstock Village and miles beyond.
This will leave you time to explore Woodstock Village or the 600-acre Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, which includes mansion and garden tours (open through Oct. 31) and the Billings Farm and Museum (open daily until Oct. 1 and then weekends only) next door.
If you’d like a slightly longer hike, there are a number of other routes up Mount Tom from other trailheads. Visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller site for options that include a 4-mile moderate climb around a 14-acre pond.
Peak colors: Oct. 1 to mid-October.
The overview: Moderate. The 2.75-mile round trip is the easiest of the routes up Mount Tom because it climbs gradually along switchbacks. There are benches along the way. And while the last 100 yards are steeper and rockier, there are handrails to assist climbers. Allow yourself an hour for the whole hike, up and back, plus time for lunch at the top. Dogs are welcome on a leash. This is a good hike for children.
Getting there: Once you get to the Woodstock Green on Route 4, turn right onto Mountain Road and follow it to Faulkner Park. The trail begins near the kiosk. Parking is free.
Provisions: The Woodstock Farmers’ Market, 979 West Woodstock Road, feels more like a co-op and sells made-to-order sandwiches, snacks, bread, and cheese. Basically everything you’d need for a fine picnic. The market is open Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 a.m., but sandwiches are only available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Mount Morgan-Mount Percival Loop, Holderness, N.H.
If climbing ladders and squeezing through caves are your thing, this loop hike with views over Squam Lake is where to start. And if not, good news: There is a detour to avoid both. On a clear day, the view stretches to Lake Winnipesaukee and Mount Washington.
Having a loop hike that begins and ends in the same parking lot is a plus.
Peak colors: Mid-October.
The overview: Moderate to intermediate. This 5.5-mile hike mixes easy and steeper terrain and rocky sections. The Boston chapter of the AMC led a family trip here last year and recommended five to six hours for hiking, lunch, and breaks. Good for children ages 8 and older. Dogs welcome if leashed.
Getting there: The Mount Morgan trailhead on Route 113 in Holderness is about a 2½ hour drive from Boston. Take I-93 north to Exit 24. Follow Route 3 south for about 4.6 miles to Holderness. Turn left onto Route 113 and drive for about 5.8 miles to the Mount Morgan trailhead. Parking is at the end of a short gravel road.
Provisions: The Squam Lake MarketPlace, 863 Route 3, Holderness, is reason enough to visit Holderness. You’ll find made-to-order sandwiches, baked treats, and other packable foods.
Jewell Falls, Portland, Maine
Disclosure: This hike takes you into a forest of foliage rather than above it. But what it lacks in elevation is outweighed by location — in the heart of Portland — and a super bonus: a 30-foot waterfall.
The Fore River Trail is one of many trails in the 85-acre Fore River Sanctuary, but it offers an easy-to-navigate 1-mile walk to the falls. If you want to extend your mileage, explore one of the other nearly 5 miles of trails, all accessible from the Fore River Trail.
And downtown Portland is less than 5 miles away for après-hike exploring.
Peak colors: The last week of October.
The overview: Easy. This flat “hike’’ takes you over stepping stones, across bridges, and along marshy areas that are great for bird watching. There are benches along the way. Dogs are welcome if leashed. It’s a great choice for children. There is a posted trail map at the trailhead.
Getting there: There are four trailheads that lead to the falls. You want the Fore River Trail route. Once you get to Portland, head to the Maine Orthopaedic Center at 1601 Congress St. and look for designated parking spots near the center’s Frost Street entrance.
Provisions: The Holy Donut, home of the Maine potato doughnut, is a must if you hit the trail early or want a smallish snack before a late lunch. There are two locations in the city, but the 194 Park Ave. one is about 2 miles from the trailhead and opens at 6:30 a.m.
For a more substantial picnic, Portland has many great options. There are a couple of sandwich shops along Monument Square, which is about 3 miles from the trailhead. Sisters Gourmet Deli opens at 8 a.m. and Big Sky Bread Company at the Public Street Market opens at 11 a.m.