Top 10 Fall Foliage Hikes

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This article is just one of many featured in the Fall 2016 issue of Explore, Mass Audubon's quarterly magazine exclusively for members.

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It’s no secret that New England in the fall is a sight to behold. People from all over the world flock to the region to take in the breathtaking array of colors that sweep over forests, fields, wetlands, and hillsides.

The season begins with vibrant reds and purples, as maple and white ash trees, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy show their changing colors amid their still-green, late-summer neighbors. As autumn progresses, you’ll see the bright oranges and yellows of oaks, aspens, and eastern larch, until finally, only the brilliant yellow-gold leaves of hickories and American beech remain.

The diversity of plant species across Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries means you can experience the radiance of fall foliage in an incredible variety of ways. Here, we’ve gathered together 10 spectacular autumn hikes at wildlife sanctuaries across Massachusetts to inspire you to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of the season.

Broadmoor © Brad Millman
Broadmoor © Brad Millman
 
Drumlin tree fall hike 320
Drumlin Farm
     

Greater Boston

1. Broadmoor, Natick

The wheelchair- and stroller-accessible boardwalk trail is an easy, quarter-mile stroll through gorgeous views in early fall. Red maple saplings set against the dark-green foliage of white pines in the distance make for a stunning, much-photographed scene.

2. Drumlin Farm, Lincoln

Crimson-colored sugar and red maples throughout the farmyard and fields lend themselves to a unique photo op; sheep and maple leaves at the Crossroads Barn are a one-of-a-kind combination.

Central Massachusetts

3. Broad Meadow Brook, Worcester

The Troiano Brookside Trail is an excellent place to find rich, red oaks and the glowing, golden yellows of hickories, sassafras, and poplars—all punctuated by the deep purple of shrubby dogwoods. Located at the sanctuary’s northern end, the trail offers a vista across a wetland meadow framed by forest.

4. Wachusett Meadow, Princeton

Hike the North Meadow Trail to Glacial Boulder Trail for sweeping views of the sanctuary and surrounding landscape atop Brown’s Hill. Vivid hues can be found on meadow edges and along woodland trails of oak, hickory, maple, and birch.

Broad Meadow Brook
Broad Meadow Brook
 
Wachusett Meadow - North Meadow
Wachusett Meadow
     

North of Boston

5. Ipswich River, Topsfield

A sunlit walk down Bradstreet Lane in fall is luminous with the yellow tones of the shagbark hickory, interspersed with the bright red-orange of the sugar maple. Walk west on the Drumlin Trail past the intersection of the Bunker Meadow Trail to look for the scarlet colors of the exotic Amur and Japanese maples in the woodlands.

South of Boston

6. Moose Hill, Sharon

The Billings Loop is a favorite and fairly easy for people of all ability levels. The red maple swamp turns first and early, followed by the sugar maples in stunning yellow. Look for tupelos and sassafras in the bee field and the brilliant reds of the poison sumac.

7. North River, Marshfield

The River Loop Trail to the Observation Platform on the sanctuary’s namesake river is especially beautiful this time of year. Sit and watch the river flow by, and quietly enjoy the fall colors of the trees and salt marsh.

Ipswich River
Ipswich River
 
Pleasant Valley boardwalk
Pleasant Valley
     

Cape Cod & the Islands

8. Wellfleet Bay, Wellfleet

Although Cape Cod is not known for iconic fall foliage, there are some hidden gems, especially if you like bright reds. The poison ivy and Virginia creeper are spectacular when they turn, as are the huckleberry heath habitat and the tupelo at the head of Silver Spring Brook.

9. Felix Neck, Edgartown

Fall at the expansive salt marsh means golden grasses and the dazzling scarlet of the tupelo, called “beetlebung” by the locals of Martha’s Vineyard. And if hiking isn’t your thing, try a guided or self-guided kayak tour of Sengekonatcket Pond and the surrounding salt marsh for a new perspective.

Berkshires

10. Pleasant Valley, Lenox

Hike to the summit of Lenox Mountain via the popular Overbrook Trail for spectacular views of Mount Greylock and the Taconic range. Along the way, you’ll encounter a colorful palette of sugar maple, white birch, eastern hemlock, white pine, and northern red oak. Make it a loop by going up Trail of the Ledges and down Overbrook Trail.