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10 of the best things to do outdoors in New England this fall


The pandemic has invited us to embrace the joys of nature. And in New England, autumn is a special time to enjoy the great outdoors. Leaves turn vibrant shades of crimson, gold and pumpkin.

Summertime heat and humidity are a memory, replaced by bluebird days and comfortably crisp nights. Fresh air enthusiasts are attracted to the spectacular scenery and variety of activities, from the adrenaline rush of zip-lining to a peaceful mountain hike. Aquatic adventures like fly fishing and kayaking are a good way to get acquainted with the region’s clear streams, pristine lakes and gorgeous seacoast.

Meet 10 of New England’s best outdoor activities to try this fall.

Mountain biking in Gorham, New Hampshire

Mountain biking is an invigorating fall activityMountain biking is an invigorating fall activity — Photo courtesy of White Mountains New Hampshire

Mountain biking on a bright autumn day is invigorating, and Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center is a perfect car-free spot to pedal. Trails and carriage roads traverse meadows and rivers, with a carpet of crunchy leaves in suggestive shades of red, yellow and orange. Purchase a trail pass, rent a bike and required helmet, and away you’ll go.

Stay: At the base of towering Mount Washington, The Glen House is adjacent to Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. Discounted trail passes, panoramic views, comfortable rooms and a restaurant with a fine selection of local beer sweeten the deal.

Falconry in Manchester, Vermont

Experience the majesty of a bird of prey on your gloved fistExperience the majesty of a bird of prey on your gloved fist — Photo courtesy of The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa

A bird of prey on a gloved fist is a majestic sensation. Falconry is an ancient field sport involving trained but still wild hawks. At Green Mountain Falconry School, a master falconer teaches fundamentals of hawk handling, allowing participants to get personal with a regal Harris hawk within minutes.

Stay: The Equinox Golf Resort and Spa is an ideal spot to savor Vermont’s technicolor foliage, conveniently located near Green Mountain Falconry School.

Kayaking in Kennebunkport, Maine

Crescent Beach is serene spot for a fall paddleCrescent Beach is serene spot for a fall paddle — Photo courtesy of Douglas Merriam

For an immersion in Maine’s stunning seascapes, a kayak is a winning perch. Kennebunkport has a wealth of beaches tailor-made for kayaking.

Goose Rocks Beach is a pristine stretch of white sand bordered by dune grass. Surf is usually gentle thanks to the buffer its crescent shape provides. When tides are favorable, paddle to secluded islands sprinkled with colorful changing leaves as migratory birds fly overhead. Kennebunkport Marina rents single and double kayaks with life jackets provided.

Stay: Tides Beach Club is an upscale hotel directly across from Goose Rocks Beach, with complimentary kayaks for guests. Relax on its old-fashioned porch with ocean views. Open through October.

Zip-lining in Jeffersonville, Vermont

Swing from the trees on a zip-lineSwing from the trees on a zip-line — Photo courtesy of ArborTrek Canopy Adventures at Smugglers’ Notch/Stowe, VT

Zipping across a series of suspended cables from treetop to treetop is an adrenaline-pumping aerial adventure. ArborTrek offers an autumn zip-line canopy tour that’s a vertigo-inducing sashay across eight cables surrounded by a rainbow of colorful leaves. As you glide, friendly guides inject tidbits of information on local flora and fauna.

Stay: ArborTrek is located at Smugglers’ Notch Resort. Roomy condo-style lodging and rambling grounds are perks.

Hiking at Mount Greylock State Reservation in Lanesborough, Massachusetts

Mount Greylock present's a painter's palette of fall colorMount Greylock present’s a painter’s palette of fall color — Photo courtesy of Ogden Gigli

Hiking to Mount Greylock’s summit, the highest point in Massachusetts, is a low-tech way to leaf peep. Trails lined with balsam fir and spruce evergreen trees present a verdant backdrop for vivid splashes of amber, orange and scarlet leaves from a wide variety of deciduous trees. Auto roads to the mountaintop usually stay open until early November.

Stay: Tourists is a riverside hotel situated in a forest that’s walking distance from Mount Greylock. Open Wednesday-Sunday in fall.

Surfing in Newport, Rhode Island

Surf's up in Newport, Rhode IslandSurf’s up in Newport, Rhode Island — Photo courtesy of Corey Favino for Discover Newport

Newport may be known for its Gilded Age mansions, but for those who dream of surfing, it’s a coastal plunge straight out of a Beach Boys song. Autumn is a fine time to catch a wave, as seasonal Atlantic storms often bring swells.

Sachuest Beach, locally known as Surfer’s End, is a popular spot to hang ten. Easton’s Beach, with its gently sloping sandy bed, is a good bet for novices.

Rent a board and wetsuit at Island Surf & Sport, open all year.

Stay: The Wayfinder is a boutique property with a casual vibe and a collection of surfboards. The onsite restaurant is top-notch.

Boating in Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic's maritime history makes it a perfect place to get out on the waterMystic’s maritime history makes it a perfect place to get out on the water — Photo courtesy of Connecticut Office of Tourism

With a seaport museum and world-class aquarium, maritime gem Mystic is a fitting place to go boating. The schooner Argia offers two-hour public sailing cruises in protected waters until mid-October. For late season boaters, Mystic River Cruises charters an antique picnic boat until mid-November.

Stay: Whaler’s Inn is a charming 45-room hotel in downtown Mystic near popular attractions.

Lobstering in Portland, Maine

Get up-close with a lobster on a Lucky Catch cruiseGet up-close with a lobster on a Lucky Catch cruise — Photo courtesy of Maine Tourism

Maine and lobster go together like milk and cookies. For experiential travelers, a ride with a professional lobsterman on Lucky Catch Cruises is a deep-dive into this delectable crustacean. Haul traps and chat with lobstermen as you soak in Casco Bay’s picturesque lighthouses and historic Civil War forts. Cruises run through October.

Stay: Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront is walking distance from many of Portland’s delectable dining options and top attractions.

Fly fishing in Woodstock, Vermont

Fly fishing in Vermont's cold, clean streams and riversFly fishing in Vermont’s cold, clean streams and rivers — Photo courtesy of Woodstock Inn & Resort

Part mental and part physical, fly fishing is a nuanced angling technique that hooks many who give it a try. Learn or perfect it in Vermont’s clean streams and ponds with Orvis-endorsed guides at the Woodstock Inn. Postcard-pretty foliage is a seasonal bonus.

Stay: Book an Angler Collection Room at the Woodstock Inn, decorated with antique fly rods and maps of nearby fishing locations.

Horseback riding in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Horseback riding at Bretton WoodsHorseback riding at Bretton Woods — Photo courtesy of Omni Mount Washington

At Bretton Woods Stables, equestrians ride along bridle paths lined with tall pines, with pops of saturated saffron, burnt orange and bold burgundy leaves mixed in for good measure. Group tours and private rides allow both novices and seasoned riders to saddle up, while pony rides should satisfy tiny travelers.

Stay: Omni Mount Washington Resort provides guests with striking White Mountain views and warm hospitality.

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