There’s something special about fall in New England. As hot summer days give way to crisp, cooler ones, the smell of dried leaves fills the air and sleepy towns are transformed into picture postcards as pumpkins and mums appear in doorways and the faint sounds of local fairs can be heard in the breeze.
But the real showstopper, of course, is the breathtaking display of colorful trees, which paint the region and provide the perfect backdrop for fun autumn adventures like these.
Massachusetts White Water Rafting
Autumn meets adrenaline in the Berkshire Mountains in the form of white water rafting offered by Crab Apple Whitewater Inc. With five trips to choose from, ranging from “mild to wild,” there’s a rafting adventure for just about anyone interested in seeing the foliage while careening down a river.
According to Jennifer Mooney, ownership family member and river guide, fall is a great time of year to come because it’s usually less crowded than the summer months and the scenery is at its best.
“Autumn rafting adds colorful splashes from the foliage to an exhilarating outdoor activity that already features plenty of real splashes,” Mooney said.
Thanks to hot summer days, the water temperature remains comfortable well into autumn and when the weather turns cool, Crab Apple Whitewater provides guests with wetsuits.
Rafting adventures are offered through the middle of October with locations in Massachusetts and Maine. For more information including dates, reservations and pricing, visit the website.
Connecticut Llama Hikes
There’s no doubt that llamas and autumn leaves go together like, well, uh, llamas and autumn leaves. OK, maybe you never put the two together, but perhaps you should. Rowanwood Farm in Newtown offers guests the opportunity to hike the scenic trails at nearby McLaughlin Vineyards with one of their adorable, rare-breed miniature llamas.
“It gives people a chance to bond and learn about living creatures,” said farm owner A.J. Collier.
During the two-hour session, participants first spend time learning about the animals before eventually being paired up with one and heading out to the trail.
“Llamas are great companions in the forest,” Collier said. “People are surprised at how affectionate, cuddly and well-trained they are.”
In addition to hanging out with llamas, it’s not unusual for hikers to spot bald eagles, wild turkey and deer along the trail. Once the hike is finished, guests can stay on at the vineyard to enjoy a glass of wine or listen to music (offered Sundays through Oct. 25).
“It’s a unique outdoor adventure,” said Collier, “something for the bucket list.”
Llama hikes cost between $10 and $40.
Tour de Rhode Island
Forget Lance Armstrong and do your own tour on Rhode Island’s Blackstone River Bikeway, one of the longest bike paths in the state. Cool autumn temperatures make for perfect bike days and cyclists of every skill level will enjoy this nearly 12-mile ride along the Blackstone River. The scenic bikeway offers views of waterfalls, marshes, wildlife and passes through historic mill villages.
Oh, and there’s plenty of fall foliage, too. “You don’t need to drive to New Hampshire or Vermont when we have it in our own backyard,” said Barbara Dixon, special events coordinator for the Blackstone Heritage Corridor.
The bikeway begins in Woonsocket and ends in Cumberland where riders can relax and get refreshments at the Blackstone Visitor’s Center.
In nearby Pawtucket, the Blackstone Valley Explorer, a touring riverboat, runs 45-minute nature cruises down the river and offers some of the best views of the valley’s colorful display.
Riding the Blackstone River Bikeway is free. The Blackstone Valley Explorer runs cruises on Sundays and some Saturdays (check schedule for details) through Oct. 18. Tickets, which can be purchased online, are $8 for children 12 and under and seniors; $10 for adults.
Smugglers’ Notch Zip-Line Adventure
Why just look at the leaves when you can sail high above them on a heart-stopping zip-line adventure? ArborTrek Canopy Adventures in Vermont’s Green Mountains provides 4,500 feet of zip lines, allowing guests to soar through the forest canopy with unparalleled views of autumn’s art show.
The nearly three-hour tour sends thrill-seekers through dense mountain forest, suspension bridges and high rappels. The family-friendly adventure is designed to accommodate riders ages 8 and up and groups are accompanied by knowledgeable guides.
According to ArborTrek’s president, Michael Smith, the forest canopy is a beautiful environment that can be uniquely explored by a canopy tour. “It is our goal to provide our guests a highly interactive experience with outstanding views.”
In addition to zip lines, ArborTrek also offers a Treetop Obstacle Course with wobbly bridges, balance beams and rope swings, as well as several climbing adventures that give enthusiasts the opportunity to navigate the treetops on a variety of elements.
ArborTrek is in Jefferson, Vt. Reservations can be booked online. Rates vary depending on age and adventure.
Dog-Sledding In New Hampshire
You don’t have to sign up for the Iditarod to get your “mush” on. And, for that matter, it doesn’t even have to be winter. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H., offers year-round dogsledding adventures through scenic trails providing positively fall-icious views of the White Mountains at their peak.
Tours range anywhere from 2 to 50 miles and are designed to be hands-on. “Participants ages 2 and up are given the opportunity to meet and greet our sled dogs, help harness and hitch their team and even help drive the sled,” said Muddy Paw owner Neil Beaulieu.
The kennel offers several different fall adventures, among them the Rolling Dog Sled Ride, which includes a sled dog meet-and-greet along with a short 1- to 3-mile ride. Fall Extended Rides last up to 70 minutes and are for riders “looking to enjoy the wonderful world of dog sledding without the bitter cold and snow of winter.”
Muddy Paw also offers kennel tours where participants can interact with the dogs, hear their stories and treat them with doggie cookies.
Prices start at $28 and vary by adventure.