Acadia National Park in Maine is the only national park in New England, although the region is packed with other federally run recreation areas, including national monuments, seashores and forests. Picturesque state parks, with hiking trails, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, beaches and historic sites, are scattered across the Northeast.

The best time for a road trip in New England is late spring through fall, with a special nod to autumn, when the foliage turns brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. Of course, this is no great secret, meaning you'll be sharing the roads and accommodations with other visitors: be sure to book lodging and any tours in advance.

Mud season in New England is the soggy transition period between winter and spring, typically in March and April. This is not a great time to visit, and many outdoor attractions will be closed.

Fall colours in Franconia Notch State Park White Mountain National Forest New Hampshire USA

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

White Mountains & Waterfalls

Approx. distance: 425 miles

Duration: Five days

Suggested route: Boston, Lincoln & North Woodstock, Franconia Notch State Park, Bretton Woods, Crawford Notch, North Conway, Kancamagus Hwy, Holderness & Squam Lake, Meredith, Lake Winnipesaukee, Boston

The sharp-edged beauty of the White Mountains juts in from all sides as you twist between jagged peaks and wild waterfalls on this double-loop drive.

Just south in the Lakes Region, the beauty turns tranquil, eliciting easy oohs and ahhs as you drive along the shores of Squam Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee.

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Acadia National Park Maine USA

Winding coastal drives through Maine's Acadia National Park

Coastal Maine Route-1

Approx. distance: 400 miles

Duration: one week

Suggested route: Boston, Portsmouth, Ogunquit, Fort Williams Park & Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Rockland, Camden Hills State Park, Bar Harbour, Acadia National Park, Boston.

This breezy road trip on US 1 brakes for lobsters, lighthouses and L.L. Bean, but it also stops for maritime history and coastal water sports.

Carriage trails, ladder trails and vanishing trails keep hikers happy at Acadia National Park at the end of the drive.

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White Mountain National Forest fall foliage on Kancamagus Highway near Hancock Notch aerial view Town of Lincoln New Hampshire NH USA

Fall foliage on the Kancamagus Highway, in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest

New England Fall foliage

Approx. distance: 700 miles

Duration: one week

Suggested route: Boston, Berkshires, MA, Mohawk Trail Scenic Drive, Vermont Hwy 100, Littleton, NH, Franconia Notch State Park, Kancamagus Highway, Wolfeboro, Lake Winnipesaukee, Boston

When to go: Foliage season runs from mid-September through mid-October

Foliage across New England puts on a brilliant display of colour in fall, with yellow, orange and deep red leaves shimmering across forested hills.

This loop passes leaf-peeping hotspots across Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Foliage season runs from mid-September through mid-October.

Read more: New England fall foliage road trip

About the author

The Best New England Road Trips

Amy Balfour

Amy has authored or co-authored 26 books on the USA for Lonely Planet. Her articles and essays have appeared in Backpacker, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Houston Chronicle, Redbook, Southern Living, Women’s Health, Vegetarian Times, the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

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