There are a lot of advantages to living in Connecticut (Here’s a look at seven great things about living here). One of the most visually pleasing parts of living in the Nutmeg state has to be the fantastic fall foliage.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in daily living that we can miss out on the spectacular show that Nature puts on every year. Sometimes the only way to keep that from happening is to be intentional about getting out and enjoying the beauty around us. But where are the best places to do that?
Here’s a look at the best fall foliage trips you can take in Connecticut. They are all trips well worth taking. And so (in no particular order) here are some of our picks for leaf peeping this fall.
Before when even get to “Where to go,” it might be helpful to think about “When to go.” Sometimes Mother Nature gets in a rush and sometimes she delays things—just to keep us on our toes. In general, however, here are some dates to keep in mind for the various parts of the state.
- Connecticut Northwest/Northeast Corners: October 9 – 16
- Connecticut Eastern and Western Mid-State Counties: October 17 - 25
- Shoreline and lower Connecticut River Valley: Late October to Early November
If you’re more of a visual person (and want a more up-to-date report on conditions) you may want to check out this interactive Connecticut Fall Foliage Map courtesy of the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). It color-coded to indicate very low, low, moderate, peak, and past peak times for viewing. It also lists scenic views and hiking locations as well as fall foliage driving routes.
The top 10 scenic views and hiking routes listed include:
1. Macedonia Brook State Park, Kent- Cobble Mountain
From Kent Center, take Route 341 west for approximately 2 miles. Take first right onto Macedonia Brook Road, which takes you into the park. (Bear left at the fork.)
Office and parking lot are located 1 mile inside the park. Trail maps are available. Take white blazed Cobble Mountain Trail. The overlook has views across the Harlem Valley to the Taconic and the Catskill Mountains.
2. Mohawk State Forrest, Cornwall
From Torrington, Route 4W (14 miles) to forest entrance (Toumey Road) on left. Take the road to ‘T' intersection and turn right onto Mohawk Mountain Road.
Scenic vistas to the north and west include the Catskill, Taconic and Berkshire ranges. For your hiking pleasure both the Mattatuck and Mohawk trails (blue blazed) cross the site.
3. Pachaug State Forest, Voluntown – Mt. Misery Overlook
Pachaug State Forest, Voluntown – Mt. Misery Overlook
From Voluntown take Route 49N (6 miles) to forest entrance on the left. Go west (2 miles) and bear left at forks to the parking area.
Take the woods access road on left to overlook.
This forest also contains miles of roads and hiking trails.
4. Peoples State Forest, Barkhamsted – Chaugnam Lookout
Peoples State Forest, Barkhamsted – Chaugnam Lookout
From the junction of Routes 318 and 181 in Pleasant Valley, go east over the bridge then take first left onto East River Road. Jesse Gerard trailhead is 2.4 miles on the right. The recreation area is opposite the trailhead.
Take the trail (yellow blazes) to two lookouts.
5. Shenipsit State Forest, Somers – Observation Tower
Shenipsit State Forest, Somers – Observation Tower(Please Note: Observation Tower closed until further notice.)
From Somers, Take Route 190E (1.25 miles) to blinking yellow light. Turn right onto Gulf Road (2.25 miles) to next right after Mountain View Road, which is Soapstone Mountain Road. Take the road to tower parking lot. For your hiking enjoyment, Shenipsit Trail (blue blazed) runs by the tower. The observation tower on Soapstone Mountain provides wonderful views of the surrounding and distant landscapes. PLEASE NOTE: Observation Tower closed until further notice.
6. Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden – Stone Tower
Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden – Stone Tower
From Hamden, take Route 10N (2 miles) to Mount Carmel Avenue. Turn right, main entrance and parking are located approximately .25 miles on left.
From entrance lot, take gravel path (1.5 miles) to Stone Tower. From the tower, you have a 360-degree panorama looking south to Long Island and north past Hartford. For additional hiking, Sleeping Giant has 30 miles of trails that form the giant's ‘head' to his ‘left knee' and ‘right foot.'
The park also has an extensive trail system for all levels of hiking ability.
7. Talcott Mountain State Park, Simsbury – Heublein Tower
Talcott Mountain State Park, Simsbury – Heublein Tower
From Bloomfield, take Route 185W (3 miles) to entrance sign on left after mountain crest.
Park along the road near the trailhead. Hike to the ridge, then left to the restored Heublein tower. View from the tower is over the Farmington River Valley.
Another nearby alternative is located at Penwood State Park (entrance is on left 500 feet east from Talcott Mountain entrance). From the parking lot, a hike up the gated road loops to an escarpment overlook.
8. Mt. Tom State Park, Litchfield
Mt. Tom State Park, Litchfield
Located off Route 202 – A stone tower 1, 325 feet above sea level can be reached by hiking a one-mile long trail.
9. Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk
Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk
Located off Route 272 – A summit pavilion located 1, 627 feet above sea level provides views of New Hampshire, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and more.
The drive to the summit is open weekends only from October 4 through October 26.
10. Goodwin Conservation Center, On Route 6 in Hampton
Goodwin Conservation Center, On Route 6 in Hampton
View autumn colors reflected in the water of Pine Acres Pond from the wildlife-watching platform (wheelchair accessible). You can also walk through the canopy along one section of the Air Line Trail in the Goodwin State Forest.
DEEP's Top Five Fall Driving Routes
If you prefer to stay in the car and take a leisurely drive through Connecticut’s incredible fall foliage, here are the top five foliage driving routes listed by the DEEP:
Loop #1 Scenic Fairfield - (Approximately 115 miles)
- Begin in Norwalk at Route 15 (Merritt Parkway) exit 38.
- Go north on Routes 123, 106, 33, 35 and 7 to I-84 exit 3 in Danbury.
- Then head east on 84 to exit 5.
- Take left on Starr Ave.
- Quick right onto Cowpertwaite St.
- Quick right to North Main Street.
- Quick left on Golden Hill Road to Route 39.
- Go north on Routes 39 to 37 to Route 7.
- Take 7 to New Milford.
- Go south on Route 67 to Roxbury, then Route 317 to Woodbury.
- From Woodbury take Route 6 south to I-84 exit 15.
- Jog west on 84 to exit 10, then southwest on Routes 6, 25 and 302 to Route 58.
- Head south on 58 and 136 to Route 15 (Merritt Parkway) exit 42 and head for Norwalk to close the loop.
Loop #2 Traditional New England - (Approximately 100 miles)
- Begin in Torrington.
- Go north on Route 8 to Winsted then northwest on 44 to Canaan.
- Turn south on Route 7 to Kent, then east on 341 to Warren and South on 45 through New Preston.
- Go east on Route 202 for about a mile then turn south on 47 to Washington Depot.
- Turn northeast on Route 109 to East Morris, then north on Route 63 to Litchfield.
- Head east on 118 for a few miles then north on Route 8 to close the loop.
Loop # 3 Hartford West - (Approximately 90 miles)
- Begin in Hartford.
- Take 1-91 north to exit 45 (Bridge Street, East Windsor).
- Head west on Route 140 to the airport, then south on 75 to Route 20.
- Head west through Granby, the Hartlands, and Riverton, picking up West River Road south through People's State Forest to Pleasant Valley.
- Continue south on Route 181 to Route 44 and head east through New Hartford, Canton and Avon to Route 10 - south to Farmington.
- Pick up Route 4 and head for Hartford to close the loop.
Loop #4 Yankee Roots - (Approximately 100 miles)
- Begin on I-84 exit 67.
- Go south on Route 31 to the junction of Route 44.
- Take 44 east to Route 195.
- Turn south on 195 to Route 6 and turn east to Brooklyn.
- Pick up Route 169 north to North Woodstock, then go west on Routes 197 and 190 to I-84 exit 73.
- Turn west to close the loop.
Loop #5 CT Heritage - (Approximately 90 miles)
- Begin in New London.
- Take I-95 north across the Thames River to left-hand exit 86.
- Go east on Route 184 to Old Mystic.
- Take Route 27 south to Mystic.
- Go east on Route 1 to Route 2, then north on Route 2, 184 and 49 to Route 14A to Canterbury.
- Head south on Routes 169 and 2 to Norwich then take Route 32 south to close the loop at New London.
Loop #6 Connecticut River Gateway - (Approximately 80 miles)
- Begin at Middletown.
- Go south on Route 9 to exit 10.
- Take Route 154 south to Route 148, then head east to a ferry boat crossing. (Note: ferry season in April - November; alternate crossing is the I-95 bridge between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.)
- From the landing, continue east on 148 and 82 to Route 156, then turn south to I-95.
- Cross the river on 95 to exit 69.
- Head north on Route 154 to Route 82 and re-cross the river at East Haddam.
- Continue east to Route 151 and turn north to Cobalt.
- Turn left on Route 66 and close the loop at Middletown.
Loop #7 New Haven & Neighborhood - (Approximately 70 miles)
- Begin in New Haven.
- Take I-95 north to exit 51
- Pick up Route 1, then 146 and continue east to Guilford.
- Turn north on Route 77 to Durham, then north on 17 and west on 147, 157, 68 and 70 to Cheshire.
- Take Route 10 south to New Haven to close the loop.
And if you're looking for a place where you can enjoy the fantastic fall foliage right from the comfort of your home, you'll want to check out two new communities. Bridgewater (in the Northford section of North Branford) gives you a great view of the trees—and of Totoket Mountain. Royal Oaks is a new neighborhood on Wallingford's picturesque west side surrounded by wetland beauty.