Top Places To See Autumn Leaves In Connecticut

October 13, 2012 1:00 PM

(Beautiful autumn leaves / Credit: Bina Joseph)

(Beautiful autumn leaves / Credit: Bina Joseph)

(Beautiful autumn leaves / Credit: Bina Joseph)

(Beautiful autumn leaves / Credit: Bina Joseph)

Connecticut’s compact size allows options for fall trips that fit comfortably into a day of easy driving. The leaves start turning at summer’s end, reaching peak colors from mid-September until the end of October and fading into early November. Leaf peeping is guaranteed as the Connecticut Department of Parks and Recreation furnishes frequent, updated reports and maps as the foliage peaks and ebbs around the state in a flamboyant tapestry. Ash, oaks, maples, birch and sassafras sport vibrant shades of red, purple, yellow, brown and orange in an unending, fascinating vista.

Scenic byways are the best conduits for the most spectacular views. A leisurely road trip with stops for hiking paths and look-out points for inspirational gazing and photography is a perfect experience which comes around unfailingly each year, yet never gets old.

State Route 169, also known as The Last Green Valley Scenic Byway, is a 32-mile stretch paralleling the border with Rhode Island and traversing the famous Quiet Corner. This is an unspoiled area redolent of history, studded with colonial homesteads, farms, public buildings and churches, running through pastoral New England towns. Fiery maples contrast with evergreen pine tracts, interspersed with glacial rock deposits and bordered by dry-stone walls. All through the drive, there are many places of historic interest and architectural or natural beauty to explore.

Getting There

From Hartford, SR 169 is 43 miles and 45 minutes away. Follow CT-2 east and turn onto I-395. Connect with CT-169 at Exit 83A to Lisbon and the start of the byway. This will wind north through Canterbury, Brooklyn, Pomfret and Woodstock ending at the Massachusetts border. Not being a major highway, there are no rest stops but all facilities such as toilets, public phones, gas, eateries and eclectic shopping are available in the quaint towns along the route.

What To See

Prudence Crandall Museum
1 S. Canterbury Road
Canterbury, CT 06331
(860) 546-7800

The Museum is a National Historic Landmark. The first New England school for African-American women was established at this site by Prudence Crandall in 1833. She was designated a New England heroine in 1995, defying the established social mores of the times despite threats and oppression.

Brooklyn Green Historic District
Intersection of Canterbury Road and Hartford Road
Brooklyn, CT 06234

Just 6.5 miles north of Canterbury, the district is famous for its Greek Revival, Colonial and Federal architecture. It was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The focal point is the Brooklyn Green, uniquely landscaped and designed into four distinct triangles by intersecting streets. It sits at the center of 1.75 acres, surrounded by historic buildings. Visit the memorials to General Israel Putnam, best remembered for his leading role in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Audubon Bafflin Sanctuary
218 Day Road
Pomfret Center, CT 06259
(860) 928-4948

A former dairy farm, today the property is a habitat and sanctuary for bird life harboring more than 200 avian species as well as butterflies and wildflowers. Comprised of ponds, grass, shrubbery, ravines and streams, it has miles of walking trails. The facility features environmental education programs and exhibits. This makes for a great place to pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic.

Palmer Memorial Hall
523 Connecticut 169
Woodstock, CT 06281
(860) 928-1035

Palmer Memorial Hall is the headquarters of The Woodstock Historical Society. Its mission is to collect, husband and promote all materials relating to the history of the town. Visit the Pulpit Rock Road Marker in North Woodstock that commemorates the original settlers from 1686 – the “Thirteen Goers.” Woodstock is the last stop on the scenic byway on its south-to-north trajectory, ending at the Massachusetts border.

Related: Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip to Thimble Islands, Stony Creek

Where To Eat

The Vanilla Bean
450 Deerfield Road
Pomfret Center, CT 06259
(860) 928-1562

Grab a sandwich to go or sit in the cute cafe and take a break from your sightseeing. The Vanilla Bean Cafe is a great place to grab some grub to bring on a picnic. If you feel like warming up from the autumn chill, order a latte or hot tea. These pair perfectly with the delicious cinnamon buns and muffins. If visiting around lunch time, choose from one of the eight specialty sandwiches and award-winning chili.

The Harvest
37 Putnam Road
Pomfret, CT 06258
(860) 928-0008

This fine-dining restaurant is a delightful surprise in this small town. Combining both country charm and sophisticated elegance, it offers great food, wine and a standard of service worthy of big city establishments.

Bina Joseph, a resident of Glastonbury, CT is a freelance writer covering all things travel-related in Connecticut. A passionate veteran of the travel industry, Bina has visited more than 40 countries, giving her a unique, global perspective. Her work can be found at