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As the capital of Massachusetts, Boston has plenty of history. The city was founded nearly 400 years ago, and the streets certainly have character. For a city that existed almost three centuries before cars were invented, Bostonians have done a solid job of adapting the nation’s 21st-most populous city to motor vehicles. But Boston isn’t the only attraction in the Bay State. If you love driving, the more rural areas of Massachusetts offer some of the most beautiful fall drives.

Foliage drives

Motorcyclists travel the Mount Greylock Scenic Byway in rural Massachusetts
Motorcyclists travel the Mount Greylock Scenic Byway in rural Massachusetts | John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Foliage drives are a great way to experience the outdoors without leaving your car. In areas that experience dramatic changes in spring and autumn, a foliage drive is an exciting and educational way to spend an afternoon. In areas of the country that have to contend with harsh winters, the fall colors can be a sight to see beforehand. 

With help from Only In Your State and Boston Magazine, we’ve compiled a list of the top foliage drives in Massachusetts:

1. The Mohawk Trail (Route 2)

The Mohawk Trail runs from Greenfield to Williamstown in Massachusetts. You can comfortably drive this 42-mile route in only a couple of hours. The biggest attraction on the Mohawk Trail is the Bridge of Flowers.

In Shelburne Falls, about 10 miles into the drive from Greenfield, you can spot seasonal flowers blooming across the bridge at the right time of year. However, New England weather means the bridge is open only from April to October. Just watch out for falling leaves!

2. Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway

Running from Russell to Lee, Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway starts a few miles from Highway 90 (Massachusetts Pike) and ends nearly parallel with the highway as it winds west. Along the byway, you’ll spot keystone arches built before the Civil War. Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway combines nature and architecture in a way that few other drives do.

3. Mount Greylock Scenic Byway

If you’re interested in viewing Massachusetts from 3,500 feet of elevation without undertaking an exhausting climb, Mount Greylock Scenic Byway is the perfect option. The road climbs to the mountain’s summit, and the treeline is visible without leaving the car. The route is only 16 miles long one way, making it a great choice to spend an hour or two.

4. Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway winds along the coast and passes through New England’s largest salt marsh. It also passes through the town of Essex and features the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Celebrating one of America’s most prominent shipbuilding towns, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway takes drivers from Lynn to Salisbury and spans about 90 miles. You can expect to make the trip in about three hours at a leisurely pace.

5. The Connecticut River Valley Byway

Celebrating New England’s pastoral history, the Connecticut River Valley Byway cuts through some of Massachusetts’ biggest agricultural and farming attractions. The Hadley Farm Museum is a fun attraction to learn more about New England’s farming history, but plan your drive accordingly — the museum is open only from 2 to 4 p.m. on the weekends.

The Connecticut River Valley Byway begins at the MA 116/MA 47 intersection in South Hadley and travels all the way into New Hampshire and Vermont. The entire route stretches over 400 miles, but the Massachusetts section is enough to spend a day exploring.


The Best Scenic Drives for Leaf-Peeping In the Northeast