Golden foliage takes over Massachusetts gradually, starting with western areas, proceeding to central counties, and finally arriving at the east and southeast of the state. Generally, the season begins in mid-to-late September and peaks around Columbus Day weekend. Some routes and places are recommended as particularly scenic. However, venturing off the the beaten track has its rewards, as practically every corner takes on surprising fall colors.
The Berkshires (peak foliage: early October)
In Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts, the peak of fall leaf season reveals itself on the first days of October, and the magic continues for two weeks. The best thing about the Berkshires fall foliage is that you don't have to go to a specific place for a striking vista—the views are delightful everywhere in the highlands.
If you're at a loss for where to go, check out Route 7 packed with color. Set off from Great Barrington, through Lenox and Pittsfield, and finish in North Adams. For an extra portion of colorful foliage, drive to the summit of Mount Greylock in Adams. With the elevation of 3,491 ft (1,064 m) the mountain is the highest point in the Old Colony State. Additionally, there's another admirable foliage route leading to North Adams—Mohawk Trail. The route starts in Orange (Central Masachusetts) and runs along the charming 63 mi (101 km) of Route 2.
Central Massachusetts (peak foliage: early to mid-October)
Shortly after the Berkshires, the colors burst in Central Massachusetts, namely in the areas north of Worchester. Roam the beautiful network of trails in Leominster State Forest, a veritable paradise for leaf peepers. The forest is tucked between several towns, including Leominster, Sterling, Princeton, Westminster, and Fitchburg.
Pioneer Valley (peak foliage: mid-October )
Discover another off-the-beaten-path place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, stretching along the Connecticut River, known colloquially as Pioneer Valley. The unparalleled scenic beauty of the region becomes more hypnotizing during the autumn foliage season. Plan your itinerary so that it passes across the region's most popular destinations, starting with the largest city of Springfield, and proceeding north to Holyoke, Northampton, and Amherst.
Boston area (peak foliage: mid- to late October)
The city of Boston and the surrounding area celebrates a riot of colors in mid-October. The peak show usually occurs in the third week of the month. Some of the most attractive spots across the city feature the Public Garden, Charles River Esplanade, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and Mount Auburn Cemetery. Most fall foliage sites in the capital are free of charge.
There're plenty of opportunities outside Boston too. Pick Route 133 and let country roads take you north to the picture-perfect towns of New England. Save your awes for Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, and Georgetown. Or opt for Route 24 south and explore the marvelous landscapes of Plymouth County. Turn east to Route 104 and visit Bridgewater, then continue to Route 106 and Halifax, and then take Route 58 southeast to North Carver with flooded cranberry bogs.
Cape Cod (peak foliage: late October)
The last to put on color is the southeast of Massachusetts. The area praised as a beach holiday destination boasts a special and fairly secret beauty in late October. Not only does the foliage change colors, but also farmlands, bogs, marshes, and even beaches transit from lush green to vibrant yellow, orange, and red hues. A scenic ride is assured if you take Route 6A, also known as the ''Old King's Highway.'' The road winds along the bay side of Cape Cod across some of the oldest villages in the US. Take your time to explore the historic Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster. Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are also well-worth visiting. The best way to get to the islands is by ferry.
Where to stay
For more convenience, explore the Massachusetts fall foliage map and choose a place that is located close to your destination. Note that fall foliage season is considered by many to be the prime time to visit New England, so prices tend to stay high.