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Photograph: Shutterstock

The best fall foliage spots near Boston

It’s that time of year! The Boston area is brimming with color, and we’ve got the best places for leaf peeping this fall.

Written by
Tanya Edwards
Written by
Eric Grossman
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Every fall, eager leaf peepers descend upon New England, as the region lights up with the rich colors of nature. The swathes of orange, yellow and red can be breathtaking, even if you’ve lived here your whole life, so everyone should get out and enjoy the vibrancy of autumn as much as they can, before the city turns to gray for the winter. You’ll definitely want to book a weekend getaway from Boston to see the leaves in other areas of New England or, if you’re visiting, to try a stay in a cozy Airbnb cabin near Boston. And don’t forget to pair your foliage adventures with the best hot chocolate in Boston to really get in the autumnal mood.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Best fall foliage near Boston

1. Kancamagus Highway

Also known as “The Kanc,” this 34.5-mile scenic drive along New Hampshire’s Rt. 112 is brings you through the White Mountains and past jaw-dropping vistas of rivers, ponds and gorgeous vistas. You’ll see a variety of colors as the winding mountain road varies in elevation, and there’s plenty of spots to pull over for a hike and some photos (even though they won’t do the views justice). The Pemigewasset Overlook is a great spot to watch the sunset over the seasonal reds, yellows and oranges.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Boston Common

The Public Garden, one of America’s first public botanical gardens, is a natural oasis in the center of the city. As fall descends, the leaves in the Public Garden are some of the first to change. The Garden’s Japanese maples tend to turn a vibrant orange and fiery red early on in the season. With such a diverse array of trees throughout the Garden, leaves of the different species have their own time to shine, so you’re sure to see something different each time you walk through.

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3. Mohawk Trail

This quiet country route in Western Massachusetts is dotted with quaint small towns and spots for hiking. Stop at one of the more than 100 attractions along the way, from old pilgrim churches to the stunning Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. It’s a great drive to take in the fall foliage along one of the oldest roads in the nation.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Boston Common

Across from the Public Garden is the Boston Common, a perfect spot for an after-work stroll—even as the air becomes crisp. Oak, chestnut, maple and beech trees pop with stunning fall colors, providing beautiful accents for the majestic State House in the background. Take a stroll up the hill and duck into one of the bars on Beacon Hill for a perfect fall cocktail.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

Located just outside of Boston, Blue Hills is a 7,000-acre state park with plenty to do for the whole family, as well as stunning views at almost every peak. The best view for fall colors is atop Buck Hill, which is a moderate, three-mile hike in and out that will also take you past picturesque lake vistas.

  • Attractions

At this Dover park, which is part of the Trustees of the Reservation, you’ll find trails leading throughout a grand yet still quaint natural sanctuary. See the beauty of New England in fall by exploring the area’s woodlands and ponds, as well as a former mill site and Noanet Peak, which offers views of the Boston skyline—framed by flashy, fiery fall leaves.

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Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway
Photograph: Courtesy Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation

7. Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway

Head to the southern Berkshires for this 35-mile drive on historic Route 20, one of the first interstates, built back in 1910. Drive through forested hills, fields, small towns and the Chester-Blandford State Forest. Take a short 1.5-mile hike up to Sanderson Brook Falls to take in the foliage and stunning waterfall.

The banks of the Charles River provide the perfect backdrop for a charming, colorful stroll. Just meander along The Esplanade as it winds from Beacon Hill to the Back Bay and take in all of the yellow, red and orange colors creating gorgeous reflections in the water. For an iconic city snap, cross over to the Cambridge side and take a pic of the Boston skyline in all its autumnal glory.

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Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway

This lake in Western Maine—about a four-hour drive from Boston—presents a picture-perfect fall scene, with fiery foliage reflected in the water. The drive crosses the Appalachian Trail along the lake’s shores. Be sure to stop at the Height of Land for one of the most beautiful outlooks in Northern New England, with a panoramic view that stretches to the White Mountains.

Charming Beacon Hill—with its brownstone houses, cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways—is always photogenic. (You can’t miss the constant engagement shoots on Acorn Street). In the fall, the historic neighborhood is even dreamier when the leaves change color. Make an afternoon of it and peek into hidden gardens while sipping a latte from Tatte and browsing neighborhood boutiques and cafes.

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11. Green Mountain Byway

Vermont is generally a leaf peeping gem, but the Green Mountain Byway is extra special, offering scenic views of forests, waterfalls and state parks. Drive through Mount Mansfield State Forest and around Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. Stop in Stowe and Waterbury for farmers markets, local offerings and the Ben & Jerry’s factory. Sound of Music fan? You won’t want to miss a visit to the Trapp Family Lodge.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Jamaica Plain

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is both a botanical research institution and free public park, maintaining a world-class collection of trees. Each season offers a different experience, and fall might just be the best time to visit, offering a full spectrum of foliage. Free guided tours to the most brilliant areas are offered regularly, and you may find cider, apples and music throughout autumn.

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  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries
  • West Cambridge

Founded in 1831, this 175-acre wooded area features rolling hills and contains a wildlife sanctuary, arboretum and public park—plus a historic burial ground. Stroll amongst more than 600 species of trees and keep an eye out for migrating birds and wildlife, like foxes and wild turkeys. The cemetery hosts walking tours to view the best of the fall foliage.

Harvard Yard
Photograph: Courtesy GBCVB/Kyle Klein

14. Harvard Yard

Harvard University’s campus is a top tourist destination year-round and , in the fall, it’s a beautiful place to pause and take in the foliage. There are plenty of paths through red, yellow and orange trees, where you can sit down on a bench and relax. You can also visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History to explore the collection of glass replicas of more than 3,000 plant species.

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Concord
Photograph: Courtesy GBCVB

15. Concord

Immerse yourself in both nature and local history by heading out to lovely, leafy Concord. The well-heeled suburb’s historical sites, like the Minute Man National Historic Park, get flooded with leaf peepers every autumn, so plan for crowds or go on a weekday. To get the complete experience, take a stroll around Walden Pond, then venture over to the legendary Concord Bridge.

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