New England has some of the finest state parks in the country, with acres of forests, abundant outdoor recreation, and top-notch scenery. While these beauty spots are most popular in the summer, there are some we like best come fall, when the woods are ablaze, the bugs are gone, and the air is clear and crisp. Here are eight we love to visit when Mother Nature puts on her annual autumn show.

Discover Newport

Colt State Park, Rhode Island

This sprawling, 464-acre waterfront park, located in the charming town of Bristol, is arguably the finest in Little Rhody. There are sweeping landscaped lawns, orchards, shady picnic areas, and wide-open views of Narragansett Bay. In fall, the fruit trees show off their reds, yellows, and oranges, and the salt marshes turn golden. Bring your bikes; there are 4 miles of trails, along with walking paths. Or, pack a picnic, spread a blanket, and watch the boats come and go in the bay. www.riparks.com/Locations/LocationColt.html

Great Brook Farm State Park,



More than 20 miles of trails, from easy-peasy walks to tougher scrambles, take you through meadows and woodlands, ablaze with autumn color, at this 1,000-acre park in Carlisle. First, decide on a trail. We like the Pine Point Loop through open fields to the edge of Meadow Pond, or the Acorn Trail around Blueberry Hill. (Most of the trails are also groomed for biking and equestrian users.) Next, visit the working dairy farm, where you can learn about its operation (there are free guided tours on weekends), and pet the animals. Finally, hit the ice cream stand and enjoy a cone filled with your favorite flavor. It’s a great spot for a fall weekend outing with the family. www.mass.gov/locations/great-brook-farm-state-park

Lily Bay State Park, Maine

Yes, it’s a trek to Greenville, Maine — some 250-plus miles from Boston — but it doesn’t get prettier than this. Pack your camping gear and head north to this prime beauty spot on Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine. The spacious 925-acre park sits on the eastern shores of the lake, about 9 miles from Greenville, and has a plethora of facilities, including a campground, sandy beach, playground, picnic areas, grills, and hot showers. Book one of the rustic waterfront tent sites along Dunn Point, which are close to the beach and the playground, or stay at one of the sites near Rowell Cove for a little more peace and quiet. The park has several miles of walking trails, including a 2-mile trail that follows the shoreline between the beach and Rowell Cove. There’s also a lot to do nearby, such as guided kayak tours, moose safaris, seaplane rides, and fishing. Hike up nearby Mount Kineo for 360-degree views of Moosehead Lake, mountain peaks, and the northern Maine woods ablaze with fall color. www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/details.pl?park_id=17


Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park,


Think the best of two worlds. The park, with more than 200 acres, is a peaceful preserve with expanses of pine forests, salt marshes and rocky coastline. It’s nestled on a remarkably undeveloped and picturesque peninsula, where the Harraseeket River meets Casco Bay. There are more than five miles of nature trails, including the Casco Bay Trail, skirting the shoreline, with views of Eagle Island and Cousins Island. Also, take a short jaunt to see the giant osprey nest on Googins Island, which has been an active nest for many years. There are also year-round, ranger-led nature programs. The park is predictably busy during the summer tourist season, but come fall, the buzz (of people and bugs!) dies down. The other world: this tranquil seaside oasis is five minutes from bustling downtown Freeport. www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/details.pl?park_id=31


NH State Parks

Pawtuckaway State Park,

New Hampshire

Just try to find a quiet spot on the beach at Pawtuckaway Lake in the summer. Probably not happening. But, during fall, you’ll have a much better chance for elbow room at this gorgeous park in southern New Hampshire. Rent a canoe, kayak or SUP to paddle around the lake, before hiking trails through fiery-tinged forests and Atlantic cedar swamps. We like the Fundy Trail bordering Burnhams Marsh, where you might get a glimpse of deer, beavers, and herons. Don’t miss the trek up to the top of 908-foot South Mountain for sweeping fall foliage views from the summit fire tower. Consider a multi-day visit; the park has a campground with cabins and sites for RVs and tents. Some tent sites are located along the shores of the lake. www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/pawtuckaway-state-park

NH State Parks

Odiorne State Park, New Hampshire

Hiking and biking trails, rocky coves, sweeping ocean views, picnic areas, tidal pools, and a great science museum are some of the reasons we love this gem of a park along New Hampshire’s abbreviated coastline. Time your visit for low tide when you can hop the rocks and explore the rich pools brimming with sea life, like baby lobsters, tiny shrimp, and scurrying crabs. Look for the underground bunkers and other remnants of a World War II military installation, before heading into the fields and forests. There’s an extensive network of trails that crisscross the 135-acre park. Don’t miss a visit to the Seacoast Science Center, filled with touch tanks, aquariums, and interactive exhibits about New Hampshire’s coastline. Or, simply sit on a granite ledge and gaze out to sea; on clear, crisp cloud-free fall days you can see out to the famed Isle of Shoals. www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/odiorne-point-state-park


Alexandra Martin/Vermont State Parks

Green River Reservoir State Park,


Craving solitude and silence and the great outdoors? This unique, remote state park near Morrisville in northern Vermont delivers those goods. This true get-away-from-it-all park is spread over 5,503 acres of pristine, never-to-be-developed land, punctuated by the 653-acre Green River Reservoir. There are no powerboats allowed on the pristine reservoir (electric motors at 5 mph or less and nonmotorized boats only), dotted with islands and flanked by 19 miles of undeveloped shoreline, one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline in Vermont. You can launch your own boat to explore the lake and to access the remote camping sites (campsites are only accessible by boat.) Set up camp, settle in, watch the sun set over autumn-colored woods, and the stars come out in an unpolluted, inky sky. www.vtstateparks.com/grriver.html

Lovers Leap State Park, Connecticut

Who can resist a park with that moniker? As the story goes, this is where Princess Lillinonah, the daughter of Pootatuck Indian Chief Waramaug, and her lover plunged to their deaths. The princess fell in love. Her lover had to leave, but vowed to return. She waited and waited. When he didn’t return, she got in a canoe and headed for the falls. But then she sees him on the ledge! He jumps in to save her and they are both swept away in the current. Besides a good story, you’ll enjoy woods and water views at this popular, easy-to-access, walk-in park near New Milford. Walk over the 1895 Berlin Iron Bridge and up the trail to a unique rock formation and a fine view of the river. www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view


Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com.