Travel

Get Your Heart Pumping This Fall With These New England Adventures

Climb a mountain, bag a grouse, soar through the trees—how to make this autumn epic.


Rock-climbing in Acadia National Park / Photo by Jerry Monkman

ROCK OUT

Harness? Check. Helmet? Check. Superhero strength and stamina? Not required. For mere mortals who’ve always wanted to rappel down a rock face with the Atlantic crashing down below, the instructors at Maine’s Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School have your back—but your Facebook friends don’t have to know that. The school provides gear and lessons for all skill levels.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: It’s worth trekking to Deer Isle for a well-earned breather at Aragosta at Goose Cove, a new restaurant and lodge with an ever-changing menu of farm-fresh veggies and just-caught fish, plus seven cottages and four suites.

OR TRY: A Maine adventure that flexes slightly different muscles: The October water’s juuust warm enough to set out on a two-day whitewater rafting trip down the Penobscot with Three Rivers Whitewater, based in West Forks. Class V (read: hazardous) rapids await.

Make like a bird at Boundless Adventures, in Berlin. / Photo courtesy of Boundless Adventures

ZIP THROUGH THE TREES

Wind in your hair, nerves in your belly: See the area’s crimson canopy from a whole new perspective this fall at Boundless Adventures, a Berlin-based aerial park where you can soar through the air like a real-life Spider-Man on a zipline. Adrenaline junkies are encouraged to tackle “Conqueror Courses,” which involve climbing ladders and crossing bridges while suspended four teeth-chattering stories above ground.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Cozy up with a cup of apple cider at nearby Berlin Orchards, then hop on a hayride to pick Mutsu, Macoun, and Red Delicious specimens at their prime.

OR TRY: The challenging aerial courses at Ramblewild, in the Berkshires, which incorporate hanging stirrups and rolling logs.

iStock

HANG-GLIDE OVER HILLS

Want to take to the air at even greater heights—no strings attached? The Insta-worthy knolls of New Hampshire’s Upper Connecticut River Valley are the perfect spot to hook into a hang glider and glimpse New England from above. At Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown, solo and tandem flights with an instructor let you sail through the sky like a Wright brother some 2,000 feet off the ground.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Unwind with mussels mariniere and a glass of something white at the Restaurant at Burdick’s, a French-inspired spot in Walpole co-owned by the filmmaker Ken Burns.

OR TRY: Soaring along the Quabbin with Hang Glide New England. Its home base in New Braintree is the only place to catch a bird’s-eye view of central Massachusetts.

SURVIVAL TIPS
How to Weather the First Frost Like a Pro
It’s all about the underwear. That’s wisdom a traveler in Iceland once bestowed upon me, and after putting that adage to the test last year while hiking around Massachusetts in frosty weather to write a guidebook, I can say with certainty: The hardiest among us know how to layer.Start with silk—always silk—for the first of many very important layers, as it wicks away moisture and stays comfy all day. Merino wool comes next for the same reason, followed by some durable fleece (we’re looking at you, L.L. Bean).

With a proper uniform on, there’s nothing stopping you from conquering New England’s backcountry when autumn’s chill strikes. Hiking Mount Katahdin in the early hours of the morning? Got it. Patiently waiting for a turkey to stroll by on a New Hampshire hunting trip? No problem. Fill a thermos with some piping-hot Dunkin’ before setting out, and consider the outdoors mastered.

BIKE A MOUNTAIN TRAIL

Is there any better way to glimpse foliage than in a multi-hued blur from behind the handlebars of a mountain bike? Winding through hardwood forests and old granite quarries filled with turquoise-tinted water, central Vermont’s Millstone Trails is an under-the-radar gem featuring some 60 miles of daredevil-friendly paths. Particularly adventurous bikers put the pedal to the metal in “Gnome Man’s Land,” a section of the trail network featuring gaps, jumps, narrow bridges, and steep inclines, among other utterly exhiliarating hazards.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Toast to perfectly blue fall skies at Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ shiny new Waitsfield taproom, which serves up tall glasses of its juicy IPA Sip of Sunshine.

OR TRY: The packed-dirt roller coaster that is the famed Kingdom Trails, a bucket-list trip for mountain bikers in East Burke, Vermont.

iStock

ENJOY THE THRILL OF THE HUNT

Nothing says fall like playing an age-old waiting game in the woods, trying not to crunch leaves underfoot. October kicks off grouse-hunting season in the North Maine Woods, while November is all about trophy whitetail deer. A guided trip at Chandler Lake Camps and Lodge, an old-school sporting camp in remote Aroostook County, can help you zero in on both—but not before a hearty breakfast made with local ingredients.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Head about an hour and a half northeast to Fort Fairfield to shoot golf balls at the course at the Aroostook Valley Country Club, which straddles the Canadian border.

OR TRY: Adding a little surf to your turf with a day of fly-fishing in one of Chandler’s ponds. The only thing more colorful than the brook trout darting to and fro? Reflections of foliage on the water’s surface.

Check out more New England adventures to take this fall