Leaf peeping season is just around the corner, and New Englanders are fortunate enough to have prime seating. There’s little in life more restorative and rejuvenating than taking time to attend to nature’s changes. It’s also worth noting that going on a short day trip to see the fall foliage in all its splendor is the perfect way to get out and explore while also remaining safe in accordance with the current social distancing recommendations.
While every year is unique, the best time to see the leaves at their peak in the Boston area is usually the middle of October. The changing of the colors can be seen as early as late September and may extend through the end of October, and sometimes even into November. Below, you’ll find ten of our favorite spots to see the leaves in all of their glory.
1. Boston Common
Not only is Boston Common easily accessible for anyone living in or near Boston’s downtown, but it is also a historic icon. Established in 1634, Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States and has been declared a National Public Landmark. As you stroll its 44 acres lined with an impressive variety of hardwoods, you can’t help but feel that you are witnessing the glory of nature in one of America’s most notable public spaces, and being cognizant of the fascinating history of the land-only enhances the beauty of the fall foliage.
The park was used as a camp for the British troops during the American Revolutionary War and has since been the site of everything from riots to speeches to concerts to sports games. Today, its mature hardwood trees tower over curated lawns and are reflected in Frog Pond.
2. The Esplanade
Walking the Esplanade is another iconic way to experience fall in Boston. As a green space following the banks of the Charles River, the Esplanade stretches from Boston University Bridge to the Boston Museum of Science. The park is open from dawn to dusk and measures three miles one way in length. As you stroll along the banks of the river, you’ll see gorgeous old hardwoods whose leaves are reflected in the water below. Other points of interest along the way include the Hatch Memorial Shell and other historical monuments.
3. Kancamagus Highway
New England also provides several scenic routes from which to observe the changing of the leaves by car. Among these is the 34.5-mile Kancamagus Highway in Northern New Hampshire along Route 112. While you will need to drive approximately 2 hours from Boston to reach the route, the scenery has made a name for itself as one of the best fall foliage viewing areas. In fact, its aesthetic appeal, culture, and history have made it an official American Scenic Byway. The road winds through the White Mountain National Forest and offers stunning views of the Rocky Gorge, the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls, and the mountains themselves.
4. Route 2 Highway
If you’re not up for the drive to northern New Hampshire, Route 2 Highway provides a great alternative. Route 2 was constructed in 1927, and although its primary function is one of utility, it also affords great beauty. The highway measures 142.29 miles and stretches all the way from Boston almost to Massachusetts’ northwestern border. In addition to the beautiful landscapes and the wide variety of fall foliage, Route 2 is known as a historic drive since it passes famous locations like the Revolutionary Battlefields of Concord and Lexington. It also winds through the popular vacation destination of the Berkshires.
5. Arnold Arboretum
It goes without saying that one of the best places to observe fall foliage is an arboretum, and Bostonians are lucky enough to have access to Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. Founded in 1872, the Arnold Arboretum boasts over 16,000 plants, each of which is an important horticultural specimen. While you may not be overwhelmed by the same grandeur of a forest full of blazing oaks and maples, you will get to see an incredible breadth of trees during a peak season.
6. Harvard Yard
While you’re on campus visiting the Arnold Arboretum, be sure to take a stroll in Harvard Yard. Harvard Yard, which was opened in 1718, is the oldest part of the University campus. This 10-acre grassy area is home to several magnificent trees and is enclosed by a fence with 27 gates. Buildings in Harvard Yard include freshman dormitories, Memorial Church, several classrooms, Harvard’s most important libraries, and the offices of the President of Harvard University, the Dean of Harvard College, and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. As you stroll the lawn, you’ll feel the quintessential thrill of the beginning of the academic year, which always goes hand in hand with the changing of the seasons.
7. Noanet Peak
Located about a half-hour from Boston, the Noanet Woodlands in Dover feature 595 acres and 17 miles of hiking trails with stunning views of both the blazing trees and the Boston skyline from Noanet Peak. You can easily customize the intensity of your hike, making Noanet Woodlands a family-friendly destination; bonus points: dogs are welcome! Be sure to arrive early since parking is limited and the destination is highly popular in spring and fall.
8. Blue Hills Reservation
Blue Hills Reservation is another nearby hiking location. Just over twenty minutes away from Boston, this 7,000-acre state park offers 125 miles of trails with options for both veteran hikers and those seeking a casual stroll. Great Blue Hill, the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills mountain range, reaches 635 feet and provides an expansive view of the surrounding countryside as well as the city of Boston. Parking is free at Houghton’s Pond, and the park is open from dawn until dusk.
Enjoying Fall Foliage From Your Own Home
Enjoying nature doesn’t have to be a special annual event. You can observe the changing of the seasons in intimate detail from the comfort of your own home by adding large windows in your home’s second story and watching as the leaves turn from vibrant green to bright yellow, flaming orange, and deep crimson. In the Boston area, almost every home is graced with gorgeous fall views right outside the window.