There are times when being there beats getting there by a long shot. We want our foliage vistas, and we want them now — so, onward and upward, in our cars. Herewith, a rundown of nine New England mountain summits attainable by auto road. Some are among the region’s loftiest and most majestic mountains; others are mere bumps on the landscape — but bumps with a view.
Mount Greylock, MA: Rockwell Road, the eight-mile route to the highest point in the Berkshires — and in Massachusetts — begins at the Mount Greylock Reservation Visitor Center in Lanesboro. Views from the 3,491-foot summit stretch across the Taconic Range and southern Green Mountains, and far to the east beyond the Hoosic River. This is mostly hardwood forest, and the colors are intense in early October. Bascom Lodge on the summit has both private and bunk-room overnight accommodations. At the tippy-top of Greylock is a 1932 war memorial tower that looks like an upside-down Art Deco golf tee.
Mount Greylock Reservation
413-499-4262 (413-743-1591 for Bascom Lodge reservations
Rte. 7, Lanesboro, MA 01237
Pack Monadnock Mountain, NH: The road in Miller State Park to the top of New Hampshire’s “other” Monadnock is only 1.2 miles long, but the 2,290-foot summit offers uninterrupted 360-degree views, carpeted with color in autumn. Climb to an observation platform on a radio tower to see Mount Monadnock, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and Mount Wachusett in Massachusetts. On a clear day, you can make out the Boston skyline, 55 miles distant.
Miller State Park
Rte. 101, Peterborough, NH
Mount Washington Auto Road, NH: Superlatives reign on the Northeast’s highest peak. At 6,288 feet you’ll find the strongest wind speeds on earth, the worst weather in New England, and the oldest man-made attraction in the United States. That’s the eight-mile auto road, which has been open since 1861 (horses took four hours; you’ll take about a half hour each way by car) and which can tug at the nerves of the squeamish with its narrow, guardrail-free route to the clouds. On roughly one day out of three, vistas from the summit range 30 to 40 miles; when it’s really clear, you’ll see beyond the Green Mountains to New York’s Adirondacks and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine. At the summit is the renowned Mount Washington Observatory and its interesting little museum. Foliage isn’t much of an issue up here, as you’re way above treeline, but the views of it from here rank among the best.
Mount Washington Auto Road
Rte. 16, Gorham, NH (Pinkham Notch)
Mount Agamenticus, ME: Located near the southern tip of Maine’s long coastline, 691-foot Agamenticus looms over the town of York and its beaches, offering views of the ocean and of the dappled forests of the Maine and New Hampshire hinterlands. The road is only a little more than half a mile long and ends at an odd stone cairn that is said to mark the grave of St. Aspinquid, a 17th-century Native American medicine man. If you’re not venturing farther north to our next two Maine coastal mountains, this is a great place to watch the sunrise.
Mountain Rd., York, ME (left turn off Rte. 1, north of York Beach, heading north)