Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

Three Terrific Trips for Festive Fall Color

When the weather chills and Mother Nature puts on her fiery coat of fall color, there is only one thing to do: Get out and enjoy it! So we planned an itinerary based in New England – the epicenter of leaf peeping in the United States. Variety is the spice of life, so our three trip picks mix it up with roads, rails, and water! You can take them one at a time, but if you’re really ambitious – and have some time – they combine into one epic fall color tour!

Road Trippin’

It’s no surprise that the most time honored way to go leaf peeping is in the family car. Winding through mountain highways and country backroads, you get a window full of beauty at every turn. As a bonus, you can pull over at any spot that looks promising for photo ops, or to stretch your legs with a hike into the woods. As a bonus, you’ll experience the charms of rural America: small towns, farm stands, and pumpkin patches!

Roadside Markets: Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

The best part of road trips: roadside markets and farm stands! (Image: Lake Champlain Region)

In the United States, chances are good that you are not too far from a great fall drive. There are remarkable fall drives, often with unexpected and delightful attractions, across America. Our pick for the road trip portion of this adventure is Lake Champlain, whose shores are shared by Vermont, New York, and Quebec. If you’re flying in, you’ll probably start in Burlington. Feel free to book a round trip flight, because this leaf peeping adventure comes full circle.

Leaving Burlington

The Roosevelt Highway (US2) will take you through some fall color on the way north to the Sand Bar National Waterfowl Area and State Park, then across to Apple Island. The Allenholm Farm is a little off the highway, but a good stop to pick your own apples, and enjoy a Maple Creemee or sweet cider. It’s the sort of fuel you’ll need for a traditional New England road trip.

Highway 2 continues island hopping almost all the way to Canada before turning west towards New York. In Rouses Point, a left onto US11 will take you south through town. The adventurous can continue to skirt the lake shore on Lake Street and local roads. Otherwise, US11 will take you out to Interstate 87, the Adirondack Northway. As interstate highways go, this is one of the country’s prettiest. It was once named America’s Most Scenic Highway. Whether you take the interstate or local roads, you’ll wind up in Plattsburgh.

Adirondack Northway in Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

Once voted America’s Most Scenic Highway, Interstate 87 is part of the Adirondack Northway. (Photo: Adirondack Northway)

If you’re going for a day trip around Lake Champlain, you can cross the lake back to Burlington from Plattsburgh. However, we recommend continuing down US9 for more fall color and views of historic Valcour Island, which played a role in the Revolutionary War. Stretch your legs at Ausable Chasm where a short hike takes you to beautiful waterfalls in “the Grand Canyon of the Northeast.” Stop at the North Star Underground Railroad Museum and learn how Lake Champlain became the Gateway to Freedom for runaway slaves. (Check the websites for seasonal hours.) Afterwards, Route 373 will take you to Port Kent, where you can take a ferry back to Burlington.

Ausable Falls in Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Northeast, Ausable Chasm features fall color and waterfals! (Photo: flickr user pickselated)

Depending on your route, the roundtrip to Burlington is about 127 miles, or 3.5 hours of driving time. Add in some time for stops to pick apples, take pictures, hike to Ausable Falls, and ponder the natural beauty of Lake Champlain in the autumn. At very minimum, it’s a full day adventure.

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From Roads to Rails

For the epic version of this trip, you’ll want to book a night or two in Plattsburgh to explore the area and enjoy the fall color. The Point au Roche Lodge at the Point au Roche State Park is a good base for exploring nearby attractions like the ELFS Farm Winery & Cider Mill, the War of 1812 Museum, and the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum. We love the rustic look and charming décor. Views over the State Park and Lake Champlain don’t hurt.

When you’re ready for part two of our fall color trip, be at Plattsburgh Train Station by 1:00 to climb aboard the famous Amtrak Adirondack. Amtrak partners with the National Park Service for Trails & Rails on this train. Volunteer guides narrate a portion of the trip, sharing the region’s history, nature and culture. (Although we’re catching the train in Plattsburgh, the route runs from Montreal to New York.)

It’s no surprise that this route has been named one of the Top 10 Most Scenic Train Rides in the world. The tracks skirt Lake Champlain and the Catskill Mountains, then wind through lush Hudson Valley vineyards. The trip ends among the bright lights of Midtown Manhattan.

Amtrak Adirondack in Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

The Amtrak Adirondack rides along Lake Champlain on one of the world’s most scenic train rides. (Photo: Amtrak)

What truly sets the Adirondack apart, though, is car number 10031, Amtrak’s only remaining dome car. The “Great Dome” car is an autumn tradition, in service only from late September to the first of November. The car’s upper level has windows on all sides and overhead for panoramic views of the magnificent scenery and splendor of Upstate New York’s fall foliage season. It’s the sort of trip train and leaf peeper dreams are made of.

The Adirondack is worthy of a trip on its own. The train runs daily between Montreal and New York’s Penn Station. Tickets are generally $69 per person. At ten hours, the journey makes another great stand-alone day trip, though you’d have to overnight in either New York or Montreal.

Read about Amtrak's Great Dome Car at

Read about Amtrak’s Great Dome Car on the Adirondack at

Setting Sail from NYC

So far, we’ve been on roads and rails. Time head to sea with a fall cruise! Setting sail gives us the chance to admire fall colors in port cities along Atlantic shoreline. With stops in New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces, port days offer excursions into the charming towns and surrounding mountains.

Saguenay Fjord in Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

The Saguenay Fjord is a featured stop on several fall color cruises. (Photo: flickr user Daniel Webber)

This part of the journey requires the most planning, as there are many options but relatively few dates every year. Most of the major cruise lines offer round-trip sailings from New York (or Quebec, if you’re going in reverse order). We promised to end up back in Burlington, though, so let’s look at a few top one-way options:

  • Royal Caribbean has a 10-night Fall Foliage Cruise with stops in Portland, Rockland, and Bar Harbor, Maine, Halifax and Sydney, Novia Scotia, and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, en route to Quebec City.
  • Holland America’s 10-day Colors of Canada & New England cruise takes in Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax and Sydney, and Prince Edward Island before disembarking in Quebec City.
  • Though substantially more expensive, luxury small-ship line Regentoffers a 10-night Canada & New England cruise aboard Seven Seas Mariner. This cruise stops at Newport, Boston and Bal Harbor, plus Halifax and Sydney, Corner Brook, and the Saguenay Fjord. There is a call in Quebec before ending in Montreal.
  • Our “Money is No Object” pick is Silver Sea’s Canada Cruise aboard Silver Whisper. The 11-night cruise from Manhattan to Montreal includes a myriad of port calls. Among the highlights are Cape Cod, Boston, Saint John (New Brunswick), Halifax, Gaspe (the Birthplace of Canada!), Quebec’s Saguenay Fjord, and finally, Montreal.
  • Silver Whisper in Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

    If money were no object…the Siver Sea fall color cruise aboard Silver Whisper. (Photo: Silver Sea)

    Average prices for cruise itineraries like these run from as low as $600 per person for the large ships, to as much as $7,700 on the luxury lines. If you are open to a roundtrip sailing from New York or New Jersey, there are many more options. That would mean you don’t return to Burlington, but it would still be one epic fall color trip!

    Back to Burlington

    We tend to be completists. We have to finish what we started. So, to close the loop, there are two options between Montreal and Burlington: A mini-road trip through southern Canada’s vast farmlands, or hopping back on Amtrak to ride the Adirondack back to Plattsburgh. Either option is great.

    Lake Champlain in Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

    A circuit around Lake Champlain is a great fall color day trip. (Photo: flickr user philny)

    While we planned this trip for fall color, it’s worth noting that these areas have stunning spring seasons, also. As we mentioned, this journey can be taken as a series of trips, lasting from one to ten (or more) days. When you put them all together, you’ll have spent a day around Lake Champlain, 10 hours on Amtrak, and at least 10 days at sea. The whole itinerary covers as many as four states and three provinces in the U.S. and Canada. That is a lot but, believe it or not, there are even more fall leaf peeping trips to take:

    We want to hear about your trips! If you’ve taken a fall getaway to see the colors, where did you go? What kind of trip did you take? And would you tackle two weeks…just to look at leaves? (Call us crazy, but we would!)

    Three Terrific Trips You'll Love for Festive Fall Color via

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    The Battle of Valcour Island via

    Learn more about Valcour Island’s role in the Revutionary War and the War of 1812 in The Battle of Valcour Island.

26 comments on “Three Terrific Trips for Festive Fall Color

  1. Autumn foliage is so beautiful, it almost makes me wish we had seasons here in the tropics. Almost. (Because I don’t like the cold, heh.) I’ve never taken a train ride or cruise in the US, but I can imagine how beautiful they would be with all those autumn colours. I guess I’d take the rail these days because it’s a more eco-friendly option than driving, unless you’re with a big group.

    • And that is a fantastic option for rail! Such a difficult balance to find in New England – there are thousands of road trippers throughout the area during the fall. Putting them all on buses helps reduce the carbon footprint (a little), but then there’s the impact of all of them in an even shorter period of time. Rail seems like a great answer, especially for the majority who are just looking for a ride through the colorful foliage. We can definitely imagine a day when the number of visitors – especially in the National Forests – is limited. The problem of being too beautiful! 😉 Thanks for your comment, Michelle!

  2. I was in Burlington a couple summers ago but would LOVE to see it in its autumnal splendor. That Amtrak Adirondack sounds like a great trip, too. But most of all, it never occurred to me that Leaf Peeping Cruises existed. What a fantastic idea! Now, I really want to do that.

    • Right?!? We were in the same, uhm, boat. No clue that people would take a cruise to see the foliage. But they do! And there are some even more local, smaller ships that offer fall cruises on the Hudson and St. Lawrence, and on the Great Lakes. They look fantastic, and that’s the next fall trip we want to look into. It’s almost too bad fall is just a few short weeks every year! Thanks for your comment, Michelle!

  3. I love fall weather and colors and there’s no better way to experience both than by a good road trip. I’ve always wanted to see New England in the fall. Hopefully, I can make that road trip soon!

    • You will love it, but not just for the amazing colors. The farm markets and pumpkin patches, apple cider mills are all bursting with goodness and fun in the fall. It’s kind of like a Charlie Brown special come to life! (I think that’s really why we like it so much!) We hope you get to hit the road up in New England soon, too! Thanks for reading, guys.

    • Isn’t it? It’s a definite Bucket List train trip, and a great option for enjoying both, a relaxing train trip, and Mother Nature’s fireworks! Thanks for commenting, Shona!

    • Hi Sam – Leaf peeping road trips are pretty traditional, so we wanted to find – and point out – some different ways to enjoy the seasonal scenery. We are also great fans of turning a trip into something a little more adventurous with different ways of traveling, or linking a few local things together. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for your comment!

    • Hi Julie – It seems like New England gets all of the glory for fall color, but you’re right – there is no monopoly on leaf peeping! Blue Ridge Parkway is a great place for color, and pretty much anywhere in the Appalachian ranges. We found great colors in Virginia, too. We haven’t been in the Carolinas in the fall, but we can imagine it’s pretty spectacular! Thanks for your comment!

    • Oh, what we wouldn’t give to be able to take a day trip to those fabulous fall colors! Vermont is just so great, but really you can go just about anywhere in the New England region and be wowed. Enjoy the autumn, Anisa! And thanks for your comment!

  4. That train journey just made it onto my train trip bucket list!! Wow we will definitely be doing that one one day! #feetdotravel

    • We think there are two Must Do train trips in the USA: The Adirondack in Autumn, and the Coast Starlight down the west coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. Coincidentally, both are part of the Trails & Rails partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service. And both have stunning scenery! Thanks for your comment, Tracy – we hope you get to climb aboard soon!

    • It’s all so great, isn’t it? Although, we imagine you get lots of amazing Autumn colors in Germany too, no? Although the coastal cruise in the fall sounds cool, we would also like to take a cruise on the Rhine that time of year. We figure it would be just beautiful! (Not that it’s not just about any time!) Thanks for your comment, Lolo! Hope you get to New England for some leaf peeping!

    • We really enjoy road tripping in New England in the autumn. It’s just the quintessential experience: fall colors, pumpkin patches, apple cider stands – we just love it! But that train trip…holy cow! If only the train would stop at the apple farms… 😉 Thanks for your comment, Lara!

    • Hi Sally – We do love exploring in the Autumn (and we’re not sure why we call it Fall!), both because of the color and the weather. Although, it can get chilly in the Northeast US. A couple of years ago, we got a dusting of October snow in the higher elevations of our leaf-peeping zone. Which, of course, just made everything even prettier! It’s also a great time to head to the Western US, where it’s cooled off from the extreme summer heat. We have a hard time deciding which direction to go! Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  5. Isn’t New England awesome? I should do this trip by all means. I am in love with fall colors and when our son lived in Connecticut we used to go there every year to enjoy the fall foliage. I didn’t realize we have train cars with panoramic windows in the USA. I only saw them in Switzerland, but then I don’t travel at all by train. Well, even more reason to take a trip from New York to Montreal in fall. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • We have really fallen in love with New England, especially in the autumn. We’ve also fallen in love with train travel, but it’s not easy to do in the US. This route, though, is worth the effort. The Great Dome Car, as we understand it, is the last one Amtrak runs, and it’s on the Adirondack route in the fall. That’s a shame, since we have so much panoramic scenery across the country! Thanks for your comment, Anda!

  6. Wow, 3 great terrific trips to go Leaf Peeping! I would love to take the Amtrak Adirondack rides along Lake Champlain. I am excited to be taking the NCL trip in a couple of weeks like you mentioned to do some leaf peeping myself. Love your stunning photos and great information! Pinned this for later. #feetdotravel

    • We are SO jealous of your Leaf Peeping Cruise!!! We know you’re going to have a great time. Funny that we were looking at the same cruise, but just couldn’t make the dates work. Which makes us even more jeally! 😉 Thanks for your comment, Stephanie – Enjoy that cruise!

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