A Northeast Fall Foliage Road Trip in a Campervan
General, National Parks, Trip Ideas & Guides
By Carly Eisley
Fall foliage season is here in the Northeast, and that means miles of epic views to enjoy, in an Escape campervan. There are plenty of amazing summits that require hours of hiking to get to… but what if you just want to don a cozy fleece, pack a mug of hot cider, and have a less strenuous day of leaf peeping? Here are a few ideas for taking in the views without maximum physical efforts, while on a Northeast fall foliage road trip.
Start Off on the Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Begin your Northeast fall foliage road trip by picking up your campervan from either our New York or Calgary locations, and then head towards the Kancamagus Highway. This ~36-mile scenic stretch of road (the “Kanc”) running from Lincoln to Conway, NH is home to numerous trailheads and pull-offs with beautiful views. There are several hikes that are relatively easy and family-friendly, with great views of nearby peaks, waterfalls, and forest ponds. Feel like hopping out of your van and stretching your legs? Click here for a list of easy to moderate hikes that will immerse you in the White Mountain National Forest foliage. There are a number of Forest Service Campgrounds along the route that make a great basecamp for exploring the White Mountains region.
Hike New Hampshire’s “52 With a View” for a Short Peek
Many people come to New Hampshire during their northeast fall foliage road trip, set on hiking the popular (and often strenuous) 4000-foot peaks (yes that is tall… this is the East Coast, remember!). A great alternative for those looking for shorter or more family-friendly hikes is the 52 with a view. This is a list of peaks shorter than 4000 feet that are often less mileage, less elevation gain, and still have stunning views. Check out this guidebook for detailed information on each of the hikes to plan your outing and get to leaf-peeping in the mountains. These hikes are great year-round and make great snowshoe outings once winter hits!
Instead of Hiking, You Can Ride a Ski Lift
Want a slightly more adventurous but still relaxing way to get some mountain views? Many of the ski mountains in the region offer ski lift or gondola rides during the fall foliage season, which is a fun and easy way to take in mountain views. A few examples include:
New York – Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, Whiteface Mountain, Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks (click here for some more ideas).
Vermont – Stratton Mountain, Killington, Mount Snow, Okemo, Stowe, Mad River Glen.
New Hampshire – Loon Mountain, Wildcat Mountain, Cannon, Attitash, Bretton Woods, Cranmore, Gunstock, Sunapee, Waterville Valley.
Maine – Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Camden Snow Bowl.
Massachusetts: Wachusett Mountain, Ski Butternut.
For 2020, many mountains have changed their operating dates and hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so check ahead before you go!
Take a Short Drive to a Summit
There are several mountains in the Northeast that have auto roads to their summits, making stunning views often only accessible by hiking available to everyone. Take a drive up, up, up to reach beautiful views without ever leaving the comfort of your Escape campervan. Most require a fee and possible reservation and are all-weather dependent so plan and check the forecast before you make your drive.
- Mount Washington Auto Road – Route 16, Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire (White Mountains – New England’s highest peak!)
- Mount Ascutney – Brownsville, Vermont
- Mount Greylock – Lanesboro, Massachusetts
- Whiteface Mountain – Wilmington New York (Adirondacks)
- Mount Battie – Camden, Maine
- Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park Maine
- Mount Mansfield, Stowe Vermont
- Burke Mountain, Burke Vermont
Take a Little Time and Climb a Tower
Fire and observation tower hikes are a great way to get great views with much less effort. There are many scattered throughout New York and New England that are easily accessible by a short walk or hike in the woods. There are even some (Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, Mount Battie in Camden Maine, and Mount Ascutney in Vermont to name a few) that you can drive to.
While the fire tower hikes have some great scenery, the best views require climbing the tower – which for many of them isn’t for the faint of heart. If you can get yourself up a set of steep metal or wooden stairs, the payoff is a vista that rivals many larger mountain peaks, for a fraction of the effort. Check out this blog post for some details of favorite fire tower hikes to explore. Some of our favorites are Mount Arab in the Adirondacks (a relatively gradual one-mile hike from the trailhead) and Mount Olga in Vermont (a gradual 1.7-mile loop from Molly Stark State Park that is very family-friendly).
Hop a Train for A Unique Experience
Another unique way to explore the local landscape and take in the northeast fall foliage is from a comfortable seated position during a train tour. The Essex Steam Train in Essex, Connecticut takes riders on a 2 1/2-hour tour of the Connecticut River Valley – riders can view wildlife and breathtaking fall foliage in unspoiled tidal wetlands and preserves. The Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire chugs up the steep slope of the highest peak in the northeast, with sweeping views of the surrounding White Mountains. The Green Mountain Railroad offers rides through the stunning Vermont countryside, leaving from Burlington or Chester. In New York’s Catskill Mountains, the Catskill Mountain Railroad offers fall foliage tours from the town of Kingston.
Enjoy The Moment and Take a Picnic
Some of the most beautiful scenery can be found just off the road at roadside picnic stops. Look for areas along rivers and lakes or along roads labeled “scenic byways” for the best way to enjoy your Escape Campervan lunch with a view. Autumn is here and there has never been a better time to book your Northeast fall foliage road trip in an Escape campervan.