Published Online: Sept/Oct 2003

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Fall Foliage in Massachusetts

Fall is a glorious time to visit Massachusetts. Nature’s color palette comes alive with crimson, scarlet, bronze, and gold. From the picturesque display in the treetops to the colorful autumn farm crops, this magical season of foliage usually begins around mid-September and ends by late October. Peak colors often coincide with Columbus Day weekend, making it an excellent time for a vacation getaway.

Nature’s Color Show

What causes the leaves to change color? Various colors are already present in new leaves but are hidden by green chlorophyll during spring and summer months. As the cooler weather of fall approaches, the trees produce a corky substance that blocks water flow to the leaves. This lack of water causes the chlorophyll to break down and reveal the vibrant orange, red, and yellow hues that draw visitors from around the world.

AAA Southern New England suggests the following routes for some of the best foliage viewing throughout Massachusetts:
Greater Boston/Merrimack Valley

It’s easy to see why this area inspired many tributes to the great outdoors. The Old Manse, situated on the eastern shore of the Concord River and adjacent to the North Bridge, is where Ralph Waldo Emerson drafted his essay "Nature." And, of course, Concord’s Walden Pond is where Henry David Thoreau penned his thoughts.

For the best in leaf-peeping, take Route 2 and then Route 4 from Boston to Lexington, then follow Route 2A to Concord’s famous North Bridge and the Minute Man Statue. From the center of Concord, bear left at the fork on Sudbury Road. At the Sudbury line, the road becomes Concord Road and takes you through Sudbury and onto U.S. Route 20. Return via U.S. Route 20 through Waltham to Boston.

Bristol County

Bristol County is steeped in seafaring history, particularly the whaling industry. This picturesque area features museums, historical homes, cobblestone streets, wineries, and breweries, plus fresh seafood and spicy Portuguese fare.

The best fall-foliage route for this area begins at the intersection of I-495 and I-95, from which you head south on I-495, then take Route 140 south through Norton and past Wheaton College. Remain on Route 140 south to New Bedford. You can then take Route 6 either east or west. Route 6 east takes you to the charming seaside town of Fairhaven. From Route 6 west, take Route 177 to Westport, then Route 88 south to Horseneck Beach State Reservation.

Cape Cod

While Cape Cod evokes thoughts of lighthouses, sandy shores, and quaint houses, fall colors both bold and subtle abound on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster offers several woodland-to-beach trails on the surrounding preserve. A large historic jam kitchen is still in operation at the Green Briar Nature Center in Sandwich.

To enjoy a relaxed route for foliage viewing, start from the Sagamore Bridge and take Route 6A, the Old King’s Highway, which winds through the historic villages of Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster.

The Berkshires

The mountainous Berkshires region is an area of unsurpassed beauty and activity. In addition to autumn’s natural beauty, the Berkshires abound with outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, canoeing, and fishing.

There are numerous itineraries in this region that offer spectacular foliage viewing. Route 7 north from Sheffield to Williamstown features breathtaking vistas. Route 8 runs from Sandisfield to Dalton and is a superb route between two state forests. Route 183, from Great Barrington to Lenox, follows the Housatonic River and passes through small villages. Take Richmond Road, off Route 183, just south of Tanglewood, and stop at the overlook for views of Stockbridge Bowl and the southern Berkshire Hills. Route 43 east, off Route 7, is the lower road to Williamstown and passes through lovely farmland. Route 23, from Great Barrington to Monterey and then right onto Tyringham Road, takes you through the Tyringham Valley to the town of Lee.
Mohawk Trail

The Mohawk Trail, which runs 63 miles along Route 2 from Orange to North Adams, is one of the state’s most popular foliage routes. Excellent viewing sites include the Whitcomb Summit, the hairpin turn before North Adams, the 10-mile drive to the summit of Mount Greylock, the French King Bridge at Millers Falls, the Bissell Covered Bridge in Charlemont, and the enchanting Bridge of Flowers at Shelburne Falls.

Fool-Proof Vacation Planning

Relax and enjoy the fall-foliage experience — take an escorted tour and let someone else do the driving. An experienced tour director can make all of the arrangements for you, including comfortable motorcoach transportation, first-class accommodations, fascinating excursions, and guided tours of the historical landmarks, national treasures, and natural beauty Massachusetts is famous for.

To plan a picture-perfect fall foliage vacation to the Massachusetts area, or anywhere in North America, just call or visit your local AAA Travel office today.

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