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Despite being the smallest region in the US, New England packs in a surprising variety when it comes to landscape. There’s rocky coastline and gold sand beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and green groves. In the autumn, visitors come for the foliage—bright gold and red leaves make for a spectacular treeline—and there’s no better way to see the best of the region’s natural scenery than on foot. Though New England has backpacking hikes that can last weeks or longer, there are also ample trails for day hikes, and even flat pathways designed for slow wanders through wilderness. Whatever your desires, here are nine hikes to show you the best of New England.
Related: The Best New England Towns to See the Changing Autumn Leaves
Moat Mountain Trail—White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
The first mile of Moat Mountain Trail leads to Diana’s Baths. The trail is mostly flat, making it an easy walk for young hikers. Once you arrive at the baths, you’ll be greeted by a waterfall and series of pools which offer a perfect spot for children and adults to cool off after the hike. If you are looking for a challenging hike, continue on Moat Mountain Trail, looping around on Red Ridge Trail to return to where you started. You’ll want to plan for a full day hike for this one.
The Long Trail—Green Mountains, Vermont
The Long Trail is 272 miles of path through Vermont’s countryside, stretching along the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts border at the southern end to the Canadian border on the northern. This isn’t a hike for the timid: it typically takes somewhere between 20 and 30 days to complete, which explains the six dozen or so campsites along the way. For those looking for something a bit less serious, there are sections of the trail that make for shorter hikes, as well as some 166 miles of side trails.
Boott Spur Trail—White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
On a clear day, the payoff for summiting New England’s highest peak, Mount Washington, can be views as far as New York, Quebec, and the Atlantic Ocean. The punishment for trying unprepared though, can be serious. The mountain is known as one of the most dangerous places to hike in the world, thanks in part to its extreme weather: the record for highest wind speed ever recorded here is 231 mph. Boott Spur is only 5.4 miles, but don’t let that number fool you. There are no easy trails here, and during the off season the park isn’t staffed, so preparation and experience are key.
South Taconic Trail—Southwest Massachusetts
South Taconic Trail winds through Taconic State Park, Mount Washington State Forest, and Bash Bish Falls State Park, and along the trail you’ll climb the 2,250-foot summit of Alander Mountain, take in views of the Hudson River Valley, and see Bash Bish falls. The waterfall holds the distinction of being the state’s highest single drop waterfall—that is, it falls in one stream from top to bottom, with no tiers along the way. The trail is 15 miles long, but Bash Bish Falls is also accessible in less than a mile from a parking lot on the New York side.
The Tunxis Trail—Central Connecticut Valley
Nearly 40 miles of trail runs from the town of Southington to the border of Massachusetts, with plenty of short side trails for day hikes. Take a short hike to Turkey Vulture Ledge to check out a glacial boulder split in half, or Indian Cave and Soapstone Quarry for a one-mile ‘out and back’ with a built-in history lesson on the soapstone carvings of 800 BCE. Highlights along the Tunxis Trail include hawk-watching, brooks, photogenic views of glassy Barkhamsted Reservoir, plenty of trees, and caves—a reasonably common feature of Connecticut landscape.
Block Islands Greenway Trails—Block Island, Rhode Island
In around an hour by ferry from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York, 30 miles of paths make up the Block Island Greenway Trails. The trails are perfect for all levels, and don’t require experience, but advanced hikers shouldn’t let that put them off. Block Island has 2,000 acres of protected land, and is home to flora and fauna long since extinct from the mainland. The island is also home to a less desirable creature—the deer tick—so stick to the paths.
Appalachian Trail—Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine
You can’t talk about hiking in New England without mentioning the Appalachian Trail. The southern end of the trail head begins at Georgia’s Springer Mountain and stretches a whopping 2,192 miles north, through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire to its northern terminus at Maine’s Katahdin Mountain. With more than 700 miles of trail in this region, there are countless options, but if you want a tiny bite of this legendary hike without the commitment, wander less than a mile along a flat path from Connecticut’s Falls Village to see a 50-foot waterfall.
The Beehive—Acadia National Park, Maine
The Beehive loop through Acadia National Park is part hike, part climb, thanks to the iron rungs placed at points along the trail to save hikers from scaling sheer rock walls. This trail, like many others, shouldn’t be attempted if the weather is bad. Granite throughout makes for a slippery hike, and exposed drop-offs make it dangerous. The payoff, however, is the rush of a hard climb, and a birds-eye view of the water and trees below, which is particularly breathtaking in autumn when the leaves are changing.
Sabbaday Brook Trail—White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire
It’s the first short section of this trail on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway that explains its popularity. Fifteen minutes from the trail head, along a flat, gravel path, is the main attraction, a cascade pouring over a series of mossy rock shelves. If you’re looking for a challenge, continue on the trail, then loop back on Pine Bend Brook Trail. The 11-mile hike offers views of lush greenery and Mount Tripyramid.