Bright orange round-bellied pumpkins, steaming cups of mulled cider, festive fairs, locally-made apple cinnamon donuts, hay rides and crisp swirling gypsy winds are just a few things that come to mind when visiting New England in the fall.
Come September, Connecticut begins to shed its hot bright summer layers of greens and comes alive with the fall bursts of reds, yellows and oranges. This year, the estimated dates of peak fall foliage for all of those leaf peepers out there is Oct. 5 through Nov. 15.
The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) has a Fall Foliage website that helps residents and visitors determine “when and where the leaves are changing color and where to view them.”
The website features an interactive foliage map detailing the intensity of color at specific times, scenic views and hiking locations, fall foliage driving routes, information on why leaves change colors, the specific colors of trees found in Connecticut and tips for the leaf peepers.
Patch's picks for leaf peeping off-the-beaten path in central Connecticut include:
Dinosaur State Park: When you think of fall, dinosaurs naturally come to mind, right? If not, perhaps a hike along the wooded trails of Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill might change your mind. The park features four wooded trails, picnic spots and a scenic overlook area where you just might imagine a dinosaur of yesteryear set against the backdrop of CT fall folliage.
Hurd State Park: Tucked away in East Hampton along Route 151, the park is nearly 1000 wooded-acres of natural beauty. Hidden caves and waterfront on the Connecticut River add to its appeal. A pond, interesting rock formations and the remnants of an old quarry lend intrigue against the backdrop of fall colors.
Chatfield Hollow State Park: Indian caves, wooded trails and jagged rocky ledges make this park in Killingworth on route 80 a perfect fall foliage fun-filled day. Oak, beech and hickory trees lend themselves to the colors of fall and are the perfect location to sit under and enjoy a picnic of fall goodies.
Devil’s Hopyard State Park: Cascading waterfalls in this 860-acre park in East Haddam, off Route 82, offers spectacular photo opportunities for the ultimate leaf-peeping photographer. There's an overlook accessible from a short trail off the main orange trail that provides an amazing view of a U-shaped, glacially modified valley, filled with trees sure to be bursting in brilliant oranges and yellows.
Gillette Castle State Park: Located in East Haddam, just off Route 82, the park features wooded hiking trails and broad vistas over the woods to see all the colors of the autumn season. The patio at the castle offers a view of the lower Connecticut River Valley and along with it, a fall spectacular of color.
Hubbard Park: Head to the west end of Meriden to Hubbard Park. Walk (or drive) up to Castle Craig for views of brightly colored trees for miles around. With approximately 1,800 acres of woodlands, steams, cliffs, picnic spots and Mirror Lake, there are plenty of spots to get a great family fall photo for that scrapbook album.
Wadsworth Falls State Park: Prevalent throughout the park are reddish-brown rocks tinged with green that amplify the cacophony of fall colors in this hideaway tucked between Middletown and Middlefield. For the brave of heart, step into the cool waters of the swimming hole. Or, just enjoy a hike through wooded trails with meandering streams, a covered bridge and waterfalls.