The American Northeast is a land of cool green forests, deep clear lakes and sparkling waterfalls. Its wild coastlines and mercurial climate will test the mettle of even the hardiest traveler, and its brilliant autumn colors call to road trippers from all over the country. It’s hard to know where to start, so we’ve thrown together a list of sights you really don’t want to miss.
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Taughannock Falls State Park
The main attraction of this Upstate New York state park is the tallest single-plunge waterfall east of the Rockies. At 215 feet, the falls are worth viewing both from above and below. They are located along the Gorge Trail, which is open year-round. If you go in midwinter, you might get lucky and see the falls frozen in place. Besides the falls, there’s swimming or skating on Cayuga Lake, well-maintained hiking trails, RV campsites, and just outside the park, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, which features 16 of the region’s best vineyards.
The walls of this magnificent Vermont quarry are 600 feet tall. It has been a working quarry since the 1800s, so expect it to be different every visit. The sheer size will awe you. Take a guided tour of the quarry, then a self-guided tour of the factory to see artisans at work carving the granite. Rock of Ages Granite Quarry is one of the largest producers of granite headstones in the country. It also contains the prototype for a granite bowling alley. Traditional bowling balls will eventually break against the granite, so the concept never took off, but visitors can try it out using rubber bowling balls. And film buffs will be interested to know that the quarry was the site for the car chase scene in the 2009 Star Trek movie.
The flume, located within Franconia Notch State Park, is one of the best-known natural attractions in New Hampshire. Be prepared to share the experience with a lot of other people. That being said, it’s still worth a visit. The trail is mostly a boardwalk, with lots of stairs. Most able-bodied people can handle it. The spectacular rock formations, the vibrant plant life and the rushing waterfalls are all wonderful. If you have time, check out the Lost River, just a 20-minute drive away. Campsites abound in Franconia Notch State Park, and there’s an aerial tramway offering breathtaking views as well!
It’s an easy summer hike to one of New Hampshire’s prettiest spots. Diana’s Baths are a series of waterfalls and cascades fed by Lucy Brook, with plenty of ledges, rocks and pools for families to explore. The Baths are generally safe for swimming, but the falls are fed by a mountain stream, so expect water levels and intensity to vary, depending on the rainfall and snowmelt. The falls are at their most spectacular in the spring, but if you want to wade and climb, summer might be a better choice. The water will be icy cold no matter when you go!
Maine has a lot to offer when it comes to natural beauty, but even among such riches, Grafton Notch stands out. Hikers looking for a challenge can follow a particularly grueling section of the Appalachian Trail through the park, or climb Old Speck for incredible views. But there are plenty of other options for less rugged visitors. Frequent stops along the Grafton Notch Scenic Byway only require a short walk, and Screw Auger Falls, Moose Cave and the Table Rock are all easily accessible from the road. Drive slowly and keep your eyes out for moose, which are all over the area! A short drive away is Grafton Notch Campground, which makes the perfect home base for exploring Maine’s mountainous beauty.
One of the tallest waterfalls in Maine is only a short, easy walk from the parking lot. The wide path is not quite stroller- friendly, but it is definitely kid-friendly at only a mile to the falls. The views are amazing, but go early to avoid crowds. Bring your swimsuit to enjoy the swimming hole, and watch whitewater rafters from the picnic area.
Drive or hike to the highest summit in Acadia National Park in the fall or winter to see the country’s first sunrise (in spring and summer, the first sunrise is about 150 miles north). It’s the highest point on the Atlantic Seaboard, so no matter what time of year you go, the views are breathtaking. It can get crowded and parking is limited, so be prepared to wait. If you want the first sunrise experience, arrive extra early! It helps to book a reservation at a campground within the park— Seawall Campground is a great option. It’s so close to the ocean, the sound of the waves will lull you to sleep!
Located in Rockport, one the prettiest coastal towns in Massachusetts, Halibut Point is at the very tip of Cape Ann. The views stretch from the pristine Crane Beach in Ipswich all the way to Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire. The New England coastline is in a category of beauty all its own. The deep blues of the water, the foamy whitecaps of the waves as they crash into the dark glistening boulders, the cool wind and the warm tide pools…Halibut Point is indescribably beautiful at any time of year.
The main draw of the reserve is a granite chasm, a quarter mile in length, accessible by a reasonably easy hike. See ice hidden in the stone even during the height of summer, climb over sparkling boulders (due to the high quartz content), peep into caves and watch out for sudden precipices! There are a multitude of trails to explore of varying difficulty, but most are child-friendly. Be sure to wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes, as the rocks can get very slippery. Cool off after your adventure at one of the beaches at nearby Lake Manchaug Camping!
The hike to these Vermont falls in the Green Mountain National Forest is about 2.5 miles each way, using a relatively smooth trail with steady mild elevation. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the water level is high. Most of the trail is a walk in the woods, and you should be able to hear the waterfall almost from the start. It’s a beautiful spot well worth visiting.
Located in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts, this natural bridge is the only one made entirely of marble in North America. It curves over a natural gorge and the Hudson Brook, which courses through the gorge. It used to be home to a marble quarry, and you can still see the manmade marble dam. No special hiking gear is required, but don’t forget your camera. You’ll probably see a few professional photographers; it’s one of the most photogenic places in Massachusetts. Historic Valley Campground is a scenic slice of New England beauty run by the city of North Adams that provides everything needed for a quiet getaway within walking distance of town.
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