Fall Road Trip in New England Itinerary
By Dawn S.
A campervan fall road trip in New England where you can take in the colors of autumn is a must-do! You can do this itinerary by picking up your Escape Campervan at the New York Depot and heading north.
Olympic Trail Scenic Byway, New York
From Watertown, NY, travel east across the mountains of Adirondack Park in Northern New York along the Olympic Trail Scenic Byway. There are plenty of small towns and lots of lakes, rivers, and hiking trails to explore. We enjoyed a short hike and picnic at a trailhead along the Oswegatchie Wild River. A highlight of our trip across upstate NY was taking in the views while driving the Veterans‘ Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface Mountain. They have a gondola, an elevator to the summit, and a nature trail. We camped at the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain KOA.
Side Trip: Thousand Island National Park
If you have the time, take a few days to explore the Thousand Island National Park on Lake Ontario in Canada before heading east. We camped with our van in a tent site at the 1000 Island/ Ivy Lea KOA.
Find other routes and scenic byways in New York.
Lake Champlain Ferry to Burlington, Vermont
Next, we put our campervan on a small ferry at Port Kent, New York, and crossed the picturesque Lake Champlain to Burlington, Vermont. We explored this fun college town and checked out a few breweries before heading South on the Green Mountain scenic byway, Vermont Route 100 South.
Have you always wanted to see a historic, wooden, covered bridge? Vermont has over 100! It’s fun to pick up or download a list of covered bridges to seek out and explore.
We asked a local where to camp for the night, and he sent us to the Chittenden Brook Campground in the Green Mountain National Forest. It was perfect! Rustic and wooded, with the opportunity to see deer, moose and possibly even a black bear. We found ourselves in Plymouth Vermont the next morning and had a scrumptious breakfast at the historic Rochester Café and Country Store.
Know before you go
Campgrounds and ferry schedules are seasonal, and many close after Columbus Day, so please check before you go.
Franconia Notch, New Hampshire
After our time in Vermont and checking out a few of the covered bridges, we spent the next three nights van camping in a reserved tent campsite at Franconia Notch State Park. We used this as our base camp to explore the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The weather turned cold and rainy. Thankfully, the campground store was open late and was a warm, quiet place to read, write, and play cards. There are numerous hiking trails to explore, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. We opted for an early morning hike on the Pemi Trail. We were rewarded with a peaceful time at the lake, which also had a beaver dam! Next up was a hike through the breathtaking, narrow, Flume Gorge!
After a day of exploring, we were ready to refuel with a hearty “breakfast” at Polly’s Pancake Parlor. The scrambled eggs with locally made cheddar cheese were the best eggs I have ever eaten in my life. The made from scratch pancakes and local maple syrup were also delicious and memorable. We bought pancake mix and maple syrup as souvenirs and gifts for our family back home in Florida. They only take reservations on weekdays, but if you find yourself there on a weekend or holiday, just call ahead to get added to the waitlist, it is oh so worth it!
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, New Hampshire
Next up was a drive along “The Kanc,” New Hampshire Route 112. This is one of the best, most scenic places in the world to check out spectacular fall foliage. Some great stops and viewing areas include Swift River and Lower Falls. Each day, there seemed to be more color on the mountainsides. The brilliant red and orange leaves were really starting to pop.
One cold, rainy evening, John drove me out to a marshy area at dusk. We waited patiently with a dozen photographers with their giant zoom lens perched atop tripods, for a moose to appear… but it was just another wild moose chase, nothing appeared that night. So we picked up some hot soup at a local Subway restaurant on the way back to camp.
Wildlife Park and Coastal Maine
Next, we headed southeast, stopping at the Maine Wildlife Park in Augusta. Here, we were able to safely view moose, beaver, fox and black bear, up close. We traveled south into Maine until we ran into the Atlantic Ocean. The small beach towns, calm harbors, and fishing boats were a contrasting site after being in the deep, colorful forests for so many days. We took the scenic coastal route and explored the towns of Portland, Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, Wells, and York. We camped at the Old Orchard Beach KOA.
Other highlights in this area were the lobster roll at Bentley’s Saloon and antiquing in Arundel. We also enjoyed the scenic, easy loop trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Next up was a sunset visit to the Cape Neddick light, or “Nubble” lighthouse in York.
Our trip itinerary was being cut short due to bad weather. We decided to go ahead and visit the Beaver Tail Lighthouse in Jamestown Rhode Island, and it was such a peaceful, beautiful place. A few families were hanging out on the lawn, an artist was painting the lighthouse station, and fisherman cast their lines from the rocky shore into the crashing surf.
Cape Cod and Boston, Massachusettes
We had planned on taking a whale watching tour from the New England Aquarium in Boston, then exploring Cape Cod, but the tours were already being canceled due to rough seas from the storm brewing out in the Atlantic Ocean.
Be Flexible During Your Road Trip
Even though our fall road trip in New England didn’t end exactly how we planned, it can’t take anything away from the wonderful things we had already seen. Our campervan trip through upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the Maine coast, had been all we wanted and more. The fall leaves were stunning, the wildlife was beautiful, and the coast was refreshing and fun.
Fall Foliage Timing in New England
Please keep in mind that there is no precise indicator for planning a trip to see the fall leaves during their peak. The further North you are, the sooner you need to go, such as Mid to late September, and early October. The further South you are, you may be able to wait until mid to late October, into early November. It’s best to check the online projections for the current year.
Don’t miss out. Plan and book your fall campervan escape soon!