If you’re looking for a unique way to check out the colors of foliage this season, don’t limit yourself to hikes in the wilderness or excursions down windy, country roads. While there’s no denying the pleasing experience those can deliver, there also are ways to actually turn leaf-peeping into an adventure of a sort.
How about viewing autumn’s kaleidoscope of color from the sky? In “Vacationland,” Katahdin Air has specialized in Maine seaplane fly-ins since 1947. Among the numerous itineraries the company offers, customers can take a 30-minute flight over Mount Katahdin to view the majestic colors littering Maine’s largest peak. Originating out of nearby Spencer Cove, the flight will climb up to 5,000 feet, where customers can experience a breathtaking overview of Baxter State Park. ($125 per person, visit www.katahdinair.com for pricing and more information. Weather requirements of 6,000-foot ceilings with 10 miles of visibility apply.)
If you’d rather not take off from the waterway and just enjoy the view from the surface, then an outfit like Mount Washington Cruises might fit the bill. The beauty of New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, surrounded by the colors of the changing season, will be on display in a narrated scenic tour. Check mtwashingtoncruises.com for a schedule. ($40 per person; Sunday cruises are $60 and include brunch buffet)
Then again, what could be more romantic than a hot-air balloon ride in the midst of a perfect Vermont fall day? Above Reality Balloons promises the best foliage tours in the state. Flights originate at the Essex Resort and Spa, where a shuttle will pick you up for the start of your journey above the blazing colors of the Vermont countryside. Shared flights on the October fall foliage tours run $375. Private flights run from $2,250 (small basket for 1-4 people) to $4,725 (large basket for 9-14 people). www.balloonvermont.com
Chairlift rides have always been a spectacular way to experience fall at your local ski resort. They’re also an excellent way to get stoked for the winter season. One of the best trips can be found at New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods ($21 through Oct. 11), where the 12-minute ride up takes you to the new Rosebrook Lodge. There, guests will find weekend dining at the Switchback Grille and can grab daily snacks at the Peaks Café
(brettonwoods.com). Just to the south, the Cannon Mountain aerial tramway is back in operation after being shuttered during the pandemic last fall. Reservations are required and the cost is $25 for a round-trip. cannonmt.com
In Vermont, the Stowe Gondola SkyRide gives access to Vermont’s highest mountain ($32, through Oct. 17, www.stowe.com). At Killington (www.killington.com), the K-1 Express Gondola carries you a mile-and-a-half to the top of Killington Peak, the second-tallest in the state ($28, through Oct. 11). In Maine, Sunday River’s Chondola will whisk you to the top of North Peak for sweeping views of the Sunday River Valley and Mahoosuc Mountains. ($20, sundayriver.com).
You also can whisk through the scenery in a different way. Ziplining tours at Berkshire East feature three different canopy tours featuring some of North America’s longest ziplines with great views of the surrounding Deerfield Valley. Tours range from 1 to 2½ hours. (Reservations are available through Nov. 7. Visit berkshireeast.com for booking information.) Just a hop and a skip from the western Mass. ski area, Zoar Outdoors offers guided zipline canopy tours through November (starting at $85 per person), winding through a variety of tree types. There’s also Zoar’s all-day zip and dip trip, which, in addition to the zipline tour, includes a half-day rafting trip on the Deerfield River’s Class 2 and 3 whitewater rapids (800-532-7483, zoaroutdoor.com)
There are old standbys along the railways of New England. Scenic train rides aboard the Mount Washington Cog Railway take about an hour to the summit and an hour back to the base station with an hour in between for guests to explore the dizzying views from the top. Check thecog.com for up-to-date pricing and schedule information. If you’d rather have the journey in your own hands, the Mount Washington Auto Road (mt-washington.com) remains open through Oct. 24. The fall foliage stretch is one of the auto road’s busiest periods ($45 car and driver peak rate Oct. 1-24; $20 adult passenger).
For a more genteel trip through the New Hampshire leaves, consider the Conway Scenic Railroad in downtown North Conway, which offers trips ranging from 55 minutes to 5½ hours. Conwayscenic.com has pricing and reservation details. In Vermont, the Green Mountain Railroad is offering a fall foliage train ride from its station in Chester ($25). The trip will take passengers to Rockingham and back while taking in breathtaking views of covered bridges, the Connecticut River, and the Brockway Mill Gorge. Visit www.rails-vt.com for reservation information.