Mount Battie, ME: This is one of the finest vantage points on Maine’s midcoast — an easy, 1.6-mile drive through a state park to an 800-foot summit that looks out over all creation — or at least that part of it blessed with a Penobscot Bay address. Beyond the white spires of Camden, set against fall colors, you can look out across Vinalhaven, Deer Island, and Isle au Haut, with Blue Hill in the distance. For an even better vantage point, climb the squat stone tower that has stood on the summit for nearly 80 years.
Camden Hills State Park
Rte. 1, just north of Camden, ME
Cadillac Mountain, ME: Good morning, sunshine — this is the place to go when you want to be first in the United States to greet the first rays of dawn. The Cadillac summit road winds for just over two miles to the windblown, pink granite, 1,530-foot crest that stands as the East Coast’s loftiest spot. Along with that first glimpse of the sunrise (you’ll share it with a small throng; after all, this is popular Acadia National Park) are sweeping vistas of Bar Harbor, the islands of Frenchman’s Bay, the Schoodic Peninsula, and the vast Maine blueberry bushes, which in autumn turn fire-red. Mount Katahdin stands over 110 miles to the north-northwest, just in case conditions are optimal, but there’s nothing wrong with being content with that salt-sprayed realm directly below.
Acadia National Park
Rte. 3, Bar Harbor, ME
Mount Mansfield, VT: The rooftop of Vermont doesn’t belong only to Stowe skiers and Long Trail hikers; the 4.5-mile Toll Road, an intermediate ski trail in winter, snakes to a 3,850-foot elevation just under the “nose” of Mansfield, a mountain said to resemble the profile of a reclining human (the high point is the 4,395-foot chin). At the lower elevations, the surrounding autumn hardwoods are spectacular; higher up, they give way to distant panoramas with a muted, heathery palette. The nearer views include the forbidding rock walls of Smugglers’ Notch, with the adjacent ski trails of Spruce Peak and Madonna Mountain; beyond, north to south, are distant Jay Peak, Mount Washington, and Camel’s Hump. To the west, the Champlain Valley unfolds: The great lake sprawls north to south, framed by the high peaks of the Adirondacks.
Mount Mansfield Toll Road
Rte. 108 (the Mountain Road), Stowe, VT
Mount Equinox, VT: Southwestern Vermont’s most prominent peak is in the Taconics, not the Green Mountains — and it’s the property of a Carthusian monastery. The 5.2-mile Sky Line Drive traverses the monks’ mountain fastness, climbing to a 3,835-foot elevation that commands views of the Battenkill valley, the Massachusetts Berkshires, the Green Mountains, and — under superlative conditions — the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the Adirondacks to the west. Up top, there’s a skein of hiking trails and, occasionally, hang gliders are spotted overhead.
Sky Line Drive
Rte. 7A, just south of Manchester Village, VT
Burke Mountain Toll Road, VT: Tucked away in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is the most remote — and one of the most rewarding — of our summit drives. Burke Mountain, at 3,267 feet, is the training ground for many American Olympic skiers. It also offers a route to the top, replete with hair-raising switchbacks, knockout foliage (the yellows of birches dominate in these parts), and views that take in virtually the entire northern portion of the Green Mountain State. That’s Lake Willoughby over there to the west, nestled between mounts Pisgah and Hor; farther south is the profile of Mount Mansfield. Over to the east is Mount Washington; up north, it actually looks as if winter is about to come lumbering over that nameless jumble of Canadian hills.
Burke Mountain Ski Area,
Off Rte. 114 in East Burke, VT; follow signs, use the second (mid-Burke) entrance to the resort, summit road is the first left.