When summer winds down, kids go back to school and the leaves begin to turn, activity in the mountains keeps right on going. After winter’s white, spring’s blooms and summer’s lush green, autumn’s blaze of reds and oranges gives a whole new perspective in the mountain environment. Whether it’s ziplining, mountain biking, golfing or hiking, the fall season provides color and lighting like no other time of year. The often crisp air and the vibrant colors enhance the experience no matter what you are doing outdoors. Most northern New England resorts that offer summer activities continue their schedules right through mid-October, though hours may be scaled back.
In southern Vermont, Mount Snow’s Bike Park is a great way to be out in the fall air, get some exercise and be assisted by gravity. Berms, jumps, ladders and more have been integrated into the area’s trail system to provide a true mountain biking experience. From Trail 7, the longest introductory trail in the East, to the more hard-core runs, there’s plenty to challenge all abilities. Bike and gear rentals are available as well as mountain biking lessons. After Labor Day the park is open Friday through Sunday until Oct. 14.
If downhill biking is not your thing, the resort has a number of cross-country trails both on the mountain and in the surrounding countryside. You’ll find everything from easier family friendly terrain to tight singletrack for the more skilled or adventurous. The 18-hole championship golf course has won many accolades with its Geoffrey Cornish design and the spectacular backdrop of the Green Mountains, bursting with color in September and October.
A little farther north, Bromley continues operation of its three adventure parks from Labor Day to Columbus Day on weekends and holidays. The Mountain Adventure Park includes an alpine slide, trampoline, mini-golf, climbing wall, a water slide, space bikes and more to keep kids and adults plenty busy. The littlest set can be entertained all on their own in the Kidzone fun park. At the Aerial Adventure Park, you will be challenged by ropes courses, ziplines and bridges as you climb, glide and maybe scramble under the resort’s canopy and see the area from a whole new angle. If you feel the need for speed, hop on the Sun Mountain Flyer and drop 700 feet while ziplining down the half-mile course at 50 mph. Its four side-by-side tracks allow friends to zip together.
Looking for something a little different? Try Okemo’s Segway Tour. Segways are gyroscopically balanced transporters, eco-friendly, quiet, easy to operate and most of all tons of fun. Two tours are offered. Both start with a hands-on demonstration and safety talk followed by an obstacle course to build skill and confidence. The introductory tour then lasts about an hour, traveling around the Jackson Gore base area. For the more adventurous, the Off-Road Tour moves from pavement to trail and is about an hour and a half long. Both provide wonderful exposure to the natural world of Vermont. Challenge your grit, or perhaps scare yourself just a little, by ascending a stairwell to a platform 30 feet above the ground and leaping off into the Schweppes Air Bag. The 30-by-50 foot inflated air bag is ready to catch you safely. You can experience the same thing that freestyle jumpers and movie stunt men feel when they practice. For a less scary but still challenging and fun experience, try one of Okemo’s two disc golf courses. The Saplings is a 9-hole beginner course in the open space of the Inn Bound Trail at Jackson Gore. The 18-hole Maples course winds through field and trees with tournament-style baskets and offers more of a challenge. Bring your own discs or rent them at Jackson Gore.
These activities as well as a mountain coaster, tennis, golf, mountain biking and more are offered at Okemo on fall weekends from Labor Day to Columbus Day.
On the eastern slope of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Cranmore has long been known as a family resort. In addition to ziplining, a mountain coaster, giant swing, summer tubing, climbing wall, bungee trampoline and more, there are a couple of unique experiences to be had. New this year is Knockerball, fun to both play and watch. Each person has their own bubble, worn like a backpack while playing knocker soccer and other games.
The Summit Meister Hut provides a fun experience for all ages. Take a scenic chairlift ride to the summit where you will have a spectacular vista of the fall colors of the Moat and Presidential mountain ranges. Enjoy a delicious lunch or Sunday brunch at the Meister Hut. Everyone in your party will be happy with tasty treats at C-more’s Ice Cream Bar. And the adults in the group can enjoy a pint or a flight of local beer from Tuckerman Brewing in the Tasting Room. Top off the excursion with an easy half-mile hike around the summit loop. Or for a little more exercise, try the 2-mile traverse on the Black Cap Trail to the summit of Black Cap, which offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. The Meister Hut is open weekends Labor Day through Columbus Day.
Franconia Notch State Park offers some spectacular scenery in the heart of the White Mountains. Visit the Flume, an incredible natural granite gorge extending 800 feet, with walls rising as high as 90 feet. The 2-mile loop features waterfalls, glacial pools, covered bridges and more. The park, as well as the surrounding White Mountain National Forest, has many miles of great hiking trails. The Tram at Cannon Mountain offers one-way tickets, either up or down, for those who only want to hike in one direction. Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy fly-fishing only at Profile Lake, headwaters of the Pemigewasset River and stocked with trout. The somewhat larger 38-acre, spring-fed Echo Lake has a boat ramp and also is stocked with trout. The 8.8-mile Recreation Path is open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic only and winds and drops through the notch with hills and scenic vistas.
In the Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire, Winslow and Rollins State Parks provide a jumping off spot to hike up Mount Kearsarge. The 2,937-foot peak can be reached via several trails of varying length. From Winslow State Park in Wilmot, the Winslow Trail climbs 1.1 miles, first through the forest and then over bare granite ledge to the summit. The Barlow Trail is somewhat longer at 1.7 miles but ascends more gradually and offers vistas along the way. Hiking the entire loop by ascending via Winslow and returning on Barlow is a family friendly outing but not without its challenges, as there are some steeper sections on the ascent.
For a shorter walk, start from Rollins State Park in Warner and continue for an easy half-mile following an old carriage road on the Rollins Trail. A fourth option is a 5-mile route from Kearsarge Valley Road, traversing Black Mountain to the Rollins picnic area then continuing another half-mile through a rough section before reaching the summit. Mount Kearsarge’s summit offers sweeping views of the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee area with closer up views of Mount Cardigan, Ragged Mountain, Pleasant Lake and the Andover area.
If you think kayaking and canoeing is just for summer, think again. Fall paddling offers some of the best viewing for the changing colors. In West Groton, Mass., the Nashoba Paddler offers tours on the Nashua River through October. An easy 5-mile downstream paddle tour through the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge will take place on Sept. 9. You can view native wildlife and their habitat and take a relaxing lunch break along the way. The Fall Foliage Paddle is offered at the height of the foliage season on Oct. 7 and 13. The 3-mile round-trip tour explores channels and inlets into lily ponds and woodlands and is rated easy and family friendly. Equipment rental including kayak/canoe, paddles and flotation devices are included in the price, or bring your own if you prefer.
Paddle Boston offers paddling, rentals, tours and more in five locations around the Greater Boston area. Experience the city, the Charles River and Boston Harbor from a completely different perspective. Among the many options are the Skyline & Sunset tours departing from Kendall Square and accessible via the T. These tours are available weekends until Columbus Day. View herons, otters and other wildlife settling down for the night on the Moonlight tour from the Waltham location. This easy 2- to 3-mile tour on the Charles is appropriate for all ability levels and includes a history of the area, good food and conversation and a relaxing way to end the day. Moonlight tours will be offered this fall on Sept. 21 and 22.