The ultimate Connecticut fall foliage tour

Peak foliage will arrive in the northeast and northwest corners of the state around Columbus Day and extend to the lower Connecticut River Valley and shoreline through early November. (Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism)

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A ferry away from the North Fork, Connecticut is bursting with colorful fall foliage this time of year.

Let these breathtaking views be your backdrop while embracing the experiences that define the season.

From taking a scenic drive and hike to strolling charming towns and enjoying local provisions, here is your guide to the ultimate eastern Connecticut foliage tour.

Union

Bigelow Hollow State Park is among the best places to see the fall foliage. (Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism)

Begin your road trip in the small town of Union, up by the Massachusetts line. It’s the only town in Connecticut with a population of less than 1,000, so there’s lots of open land to admire. Start on Route 190 and take a right on Route 171, also known as Bigelow Hollow Road. You’ll soon pass the entrance to Bigelow Hollow State Park. Don’t just drive by, the park is one of Connecticut’s gems and well worth a look.

When you get hungry from sightseeing, fill up at Traveler Restaurant. In addition to great food, Traveler can be your own personal library. Each person gets three free books with their meal.

In nearby Eastford, Buell’s Orchard is a worthwhile stop for fall fun. The family owned farm features 100 acres of u-pick orchards and pumpkins. Don’t leave without trying the homemade apple crisp ice cream.

Woodstock

Sip wine and watch the leaves change at Taylor Brooke Winery.

On to Woodstock… Head down Route 197, a.k.a. Old Turnpike Road. You’ll pass by farms and fields, ponds and rolling terrain, all in a blaze of fall color. This path leads to Taylor Brooke Winery. The family owned winery offers 20 selections, including estate grown dry wines, seasonal fruit-infused wines and dessert wines. Outside food is welcome, so bring along a picnic lunch from Sweet Evalina’s Stand. The quaint restaurant serves up classic American staples for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

More of a beer drinker? Taylor Brooke Brewery is open just down the hill from the winery.

National Scenic Byway

Scenic Route 169 is particularly picturesque as it winds its way through town to Woodstock. (Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism)

In north Woodstock, you’ll take a right onto Route 169, also known as the Norwich-Worcester Turnpike or the General Israel Putnam Highway. The road’s natural beauty and historic interest earned it the designation of a National Scenic Byway. In foliage season, it shouldn’t take you long to figure out why.

The Prudence Crandall Museum, the nation’s first Academy for African-American women, rests along the byway. A National Historic Landmark, the historic museum is home to exhibits, period furnishings, a research library and a gift shop.

Another pit stop worth making is the Vanilla Bean Café. In operation since 1989, the charming café features hearty sandwiches, homemade soups, baked goods and more.

Norwich

Uncas Leap, also known as Indian Leap or Yantic Falls, has historical significance to the community. (Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism)

As you proceed south to Norwich, there are many places to consider stopping off, including Scranton’s Shops, where you can find unique arts, crafts and antiques by more than 90 local artisans all in an early New England blacksmith shop setting.

Once you reach downtown, stretch your legs on the Heritage Trail. The 2.8-mile trail along the Yantic River connects Norwich to the breathtaking Uncas Leap waterfall.

End the day at Strange Brew Pub. Housed on the second floor of a 1742 colonial building in the Chelsea Landing District, it features an art wall, game room and more than 100 different beers.

The foliage is expected to last through mid-November. For a week-by-week guide to peak foliage areas, visit Connecticut Foliage Finder