The Best Fall Bike Routes In the Northeast
Log some time in the saddle and score insane views in the part of the country that does autumn best.
There's something about autumn that puts out major "I just want to ride bikes with you" vibes. Cycling in the Northeast is one of the best ways to leaf-peep and see the colors change while also hitting peak fitness goals. Map out a few of these key routes with tips from the pros.
1. Palisades Park in Palisades Park, NJ
We're not knocking the beach, but Jersey is far more than the shore. One of its crown jewels is Palisades Park. It's located just west of New York City, off the George Washington Bridge. USA Triathlon Level II coach and athlete Andrew Kalley, of Kalley Fitness, says this is a good route for new riders: "If you're a beginner looking for a ride less than 45 miles, this is a beautiful stretch with good hills and stunning fall views along the Hudson River," says Kalley.
Pro tip: Once in the park, you'll want to hit Henry Hudson Drive, which is open to cars and bicycles.
Distance: 14 miles round trip
2. Peekskill Brewery Ride in Peekskill, NY
Want to go on a 60- to 70-mile beer run? That's about how long it takes to tackle the Peekskill Brewery ride from the Big Apple to this Hudson Valley spot. After descending and climbing the hills of Bear Mountain, you'll want to reward yourself with a cold beer, warm food, and maybe even some live music. Once you've had your fill, slip into immediate recovery mode with a ride back to NYC on the Metro-North. Fall views are just as gorgeous on the train ride back (but a whole lot easier to enjoy).
Pro tip: Do it for the 'gram. Kalley says, "If you're heading there through Bear Mountain, make sure to take a pic at the top with epic scenery as your background. Mouths will drop." (He's not lying. Just creep his Insta!)
Distance: 60 to 70 miles
3. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA
This trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, an uninterrupted 900-mile network of biking and walking paths from Maine to Florida. (Seriously, this is a thing! Unreal, right?) The Farmington rail trail is one of New England's longest. It chases history, running along a 19th-century canal through central Connecticut. It dips into Massachusetts ending in Northampton. Whether you're a PSL fan or not, this trail feels more fall than a pumpkin spice latte could. The best part? This off-road trail is car-free.
Pro-= tip: Don't be afraid to catch feels-but avoid getting chills. "Fall is the best time of year to ride in the Northeast with perfect temperatures and typically less rainfall," says Andrew Crooks, owner of NYC Velo. "[But] one of the tricky things about fall riding is the variety of weather conditions, especially in New England. My advice is to evaluate the day's weather and dress accordingly, using the layering strategy." (These winter run layering tips are handy for chilly fall days too.)
Distance: 84 miles
Peak fall foliage viewing: Mid to late October
4. The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée in Franklin County, MA
This is typically an organized, late summer ride benefiting the Franklin Land Trust. But you'll want to map its routes for adventurous autumn riding. You're going to feel like you're trapped in a Technicolor, all-American autumn Narnia. Take the dirt-road loop throughout the hilly towns of Franklin. It's old, quiet, and peaceful with minimal car traffic on connecting roads. You might even come across a llama or two. You'll bike past (and almost through) rivers, streams, mountains, cliffs, and valleys. One of the most alluring parts of the ride includes the area's adorable covered bridges. Cyclists range from elite road racers to casual mountain bikers and recreational riders. But don't let the quaint scene fool you-this can be a tough course with hard climbs. Choose the distance best for your ability; courses range from a 12-mile family ride to a 180km challenge.
Pro tip: Try the organized summer ride first (if you can) and case these trails for familiarity. "The ride is a big production, but that means there is a lot of food and support along the way," says Crooks. "The roads are very challenging, but there are a large number of participants to motivate you."
Distance: 12 to 112 miles
Peak fall foliage viewing: Mid October
5. Northern Rail Trail in Grafton & Merrimack Counties, NH
Hit this trail while fantasizing about what it must have felt like to play beer pong with Mindy Kaling and Shonda Rhimes during their Dartmouth days. This route is easier because its converted railway bed makes for a flat ride. Be prepared to roll over cinder, crushed stone, dirt, grass, and gravel, and to share space with horseback riders. It's located in the Dartmouth–Lake Sunapee Region, where you'll also find a winery near the Enfield Shaker Museum. You'll even encounter an old railroad station. The area is also riddled with historic inns, making the bike trip perfect for an overnight stay or weekend getaway for locals.
Pro tip: It may be fall, but winter is coming. Powder turns this trail into a great training ground for cross-country skiing. It's also a great spot to bust out a snowmobile. (Die-hard cyclist? Try fat biking on the snow if you try the trail in winter.)
Distance: 58 miles
Peak fall foliage viewing: Early to mid October
6. East Bay Bike Path in Providence, Barrington, Warren & Bristol, RI
This is another section of the 900-mile car-free East Coast Greenway (the aim is to create 3,000 miles of protected paths spanning the Eastern Seaboard). It's built from an abandoned railroad line constructed in the 1800s. Take in sweeping views of the Providence River and Narragansett Bay. This is America's smallest state, so you'll see A LOT of it in a short ride. (Just think of it as the unofficial bike tour of RI.) Your ride sails into the America's Cup Hall of Fame when the ride ends in Bristol.
Pro tip: If you're an iPhone user, slide it into "portrait mode" when you hit Narragansett Bay. You won't regret it.
Distance: 28 miles round trip
7. Carriage Trails in Acadia National Park, ME
If you've ever been a fan of Anne of Green Gables, this place will make you feel like you're within striking distance-and it's because you are. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are just across the gulf. There's a reason why Lucy Maud Montgomery has Anne utter the famous line, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." *This* is the place for Octobers.
This Maine bike ride will take you into Mount Desert Island for 45 miles of unobstructed carriage roads. As you find Somes Sound (sometimes called the only fjord on the East Coast), you might even mistake yourself for being in Norway or Iceland. Waterfalls, lakes, ponds, and Atlantic Ocean waves crashing against granite cliffs might make city dwellers question their life choices (or just be insanely grateful for the atmosphere). Views, views, views.
Pro tip: Don't get lost in the woods. Invest in turn-by-turn navigation for your bike. "I typically use Ride With GPS to create routes and then download them onto a Garmin device that is attached to my bike to allow for on-the-bike navigation," says Crooks.
Distance: 45 to 57 miles
Peak fall foliage viewing: Mid to late October
8. Green Mountains Loop-East Alternate in Vermont
If there were a state made for biking, it'd be Vermont. Hello, maple trees! This surrogate route is part of a larger 379-plus-mile journey that takes cyclists through postcard-perfect scenery. The town of Peacham is a highlight of the route: It has appeared in more photos depicting Vermont life than any other part of the state.
You'll also bike through rich terrain and find yourself drinking in views of Lake Champlain. Be prepared for cool and sometimes brisk weather and SERIOUS climbs of 1,000- to 2,000-foot elevation changes. (See: How Cycling Makes You Tougher) On-road shoulder biking sees minimal traffic, but this is considered a route for experienced cyclists. Novice riders may want to book a guided cycling tour (around $600 for two-to-three day trips).
Pro tip: You are burning a ton of calories. If ever there were a time to fuel on pancakes and Vermont's famous maple syrup, it's now.
Distance: 68 miles
Peak fall foliage viewing: Late September to mid October