Fall Foliage Favorites in and around Boston

boston gardens

Urban Leaf Peeping

The air is cool and crisp, thoughts are turning to pumpkin spice lattes and our coziest sweaters, it can only mean one thing — autumn is upon us! It’s time to dress in your best fall flannels and indulge in New England’s greatest tradition of ogling the colorful fall foliage. The leaves start to turn in mid-September and hit their marvelous peak in mid-October. See our list below for our favorite spots to glimpse nature’s vibrant fall show in Boston and beyond.

Mount Auburn Cemetery

It may sound spooky to traipse through a cemetery in October, but Mount Auburn is anything but. This nearly 200 year-old Cambridge cemetery feels more like a peaceful forest, brimming with rich history, and the many varieties of trees, from oaks to fall-blooming witch hazel, guarantee a stunningly colorful autumn show. But if the ghostly Halloween vibe appeals to you, you can wander along centuries-old gravestones and tombs as you admire the lovely leaves.

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Arnold Arboretum

This 281-acre preserve in Jamaica Plain and Roslindale contains over 16,000 plant specimens, and is basically a living museum of trees, making it the perfect place to watch the fall colors explode. It’s easy to reach via public transportation, and the vast landscape of foliage makes you feel like you’re transported to a secret garden. If you don’t feel like taking a casual fall stroll through the leaves here, Arnold Arboretum is also a popular spot for a brisk jog or bike ride.

Public Garden

Adjacent to Boston Common and only a 20-minute walk from the hotel, the Boston Public Garden was built in 1634 to be America’s first public park, and is full of meandering pathways that are ideal for slowly strolling along and admiring the views. With dozens of varieties of trees that blaze with color from September through November, you’ll have much to admire as you walk the same scenic garden paths that America’s forefathers did.

https://www.instagram.com/bostonpublicgarden/Photo by @bostonpublicgarden on Instagram

Concord, MA

About a half hour northwest of Boston, Concord is home to Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond, symbolic for quietly communing with nature — the perfect place to take a day to appreciate all of Mother Nature’s glorious beauty. You can visit Walden Pond State Reservation and see the explosion of color serenely reflected on the lake, just as Thoreau did. Then stop by Concord’s incredible historic town center for lunch; you’re sure to peep more amazing foliage along the way.

Harvard Yard

Though the cardigan-clad co-eds may be absent from these esteemed quads this fall, Harvard Yard is still aflame with autumn’s boldest colors, and blanketed with huge carmine, yellow and gold maple leaves that you can tromp through with a satisfying crunch. The tree-lined path along the Charles River is particularly vivid for seasonal spectators, and without all the usual students and faculty about, you’ll likely find your visit preternaturally peaceful.

The Esplanade

This long, narrow, 64-acre park in the Back Bay on the Charles River has over 1,700 trees, promising a breathtaking leaf-peeping show of epic proportions. If you feel up to it, you can grab a cup of hot apple cider and amble along the entire 3-mile path, enjoying crunching leaves beneath your boots and bursts of scarlet and ochre everywhere you look, as well as the sparkle of the Charles River and the charm of sailboats drifting by. Click here to learn more. 

Or venture further afield

https://www.instagram.com/lalabland.art/Photo by @lalabland.art on Instagram

Kanacamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Colloquially known as “the Kanc,” this 32-mile stretch of New Hampshire highway, about 2.5 hours outside of Boston, is an extremely popular spot for New England leaf peeping — with good reason. These trees certainly know how to put on a show. The highway travels through White Mountain National Forest from Conway to Lincoln, with plenty of charming covered bridges, vista overlooks and opportunities for hiking and picnics.

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/kancamagushighway/Photo by @kancamagushighway on Instagram

The Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

Opened over 100 years ago as one of the first touring roads for cars in the country, the 69-mile Mohawk trail is located 2 hours away from Boston in central Massachusetts, and meanders through the heavily forested Berkshires, offering hugely dramatic views of the changing leaves from higher elevations. You’ll see plenty from the comfort of your car, but if you’re feeling outdoorsy, there are many majestic waterfalls to hike and beautiful, historic bridges to traverse along the trail.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Maine’s Acadia National Park is about a 4.5-hour drive from Boston, which may seem like quite a trek, but you’ll be treated to lots of gorgeous fall foliage along the way. Once you reach this tremendously lovely, densely forested National Park, you’ll see why the drive was worth it — you can stay in your car and drive the 26.5-mile loop around the park and up to Cadillac Mountain, for unbeatable views of the explosions of colors painting Mount Desert Island, or you can hike along any of the 120 miles of trails for a closer look at those fetching leaves.