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10 Best Places to Visit in New England This Summer

Adventure Travel, New Hampshire, Travel, Trekking & Hiking, United States, Vermont

Summer in New England means one thing and one thing only: adventure. During summers in New England, something seems to shift—as if everyone lets go of that last bit of tension they were holding onto from the winter and gives into pure bliss. Memories of the bitter cold stashed away, we all relax, smile at our neighbors, and head outside to enjoy whatever it is that we love most about the hot season. The sun is blazing, the trees are green, and the ocean is calling. 

If you’re new to New England or are visiting this summer, there is an almost endless list of places to visit and things to do. It can get a bit overwhelming. If you’re like me, you’re looking for places where can you hike, swim, eat great food, drink delicious craft beer, and hang out with friends long into the night. Well, look no further. Here are my top 10 places to visit in New England this summer—trust me, I’m a local. 

I tried to get at least one in every state so, Connecticut, you don’t have to feel left out.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Photo by m01229 (Flickr)

1. Cape Cod and the Islands

Could any list of places to visit in New England not include Cape Cod? I grew up going to the Cape every summer. Around here, we call it “going down the cape” and it is as essential to every summer as beach days or afternoon margaritas. Something about the Cape is just better than everywhere else. Maybe its the slow pace of living, the small cape houses perched above the sea, or the way the sand dunes seem to stretch on forever. Whatever it is, one thing is clearly true: if you didn’t go to Cape Cod, it wasn’t really summer.

My personal favorite spot on the Cape is a little tiny town called Wellfleet. It’s way out on the outer cape, almost all the way to P-town. And because of that, very few people are willing to make the long trek out there. Sure, you’ll sit in some traffic on your way there but if you’re willing to make the journey, you’ll be rewarded with quiet streets lined with colonial-style cape houses, pristine beaches guarded by jaw-droppingly beautiful sand dunes, and long hot days spent surfing or just drinking summer ales on the beach. 

Have I convinced you? If you’re going to head to Wellfleet, here are a few things not to miss: drinks at the famous Beachcomber, takeaway lunch from Box Lunch (get the lobster roll), and fish from Hatch’s Fish Market. But most of all, you need to relax, hang out, try surfing (or at least boogie boarding) and soak in the laid back pace of life characteristic of the outer cape. 

Newport Rhode Island Lighthouse

2. Newport, Rhode Island

Imagine a long rocky path stretching into the distance. Down below, the waves of the sea crash into the wall of stone and the smell of the sea is rich on the air. As you walk, your gaze turns from the sea over to the magnificent green lawn that lays sprawled out in front of you, meticulously groomed and artfully designed. At the far end of this elegant lawn sits the most magnificent manor house you’ve ever laid eyes on. You stop, take it in, wonder at the family who had the money and power to build such a house. Yet it’s not alone. House after house, on and on in a parade of opulence and historic wealth. You walk for a whole afternoon taking in the exquisite architecture while the ocean plays below you. This is the oceanfront walk in Newport, Rhode Island.

To walk along this path is to take a step back into the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Great Gatsby. To throw yourself back to a time when robber barons and oil magnates were taking over the world. Sure it was a problematic time and they were problematic men—but the architecture they left behind leaves an imprint in your imagination that you won’t soon forget.

Little House Brewing, Chester CT

3. Chester, Connecticut

For many New Englanders, myself included, Connecticut is a bit of a throwaway state—roads too heavy with traffic till you get close to New York and then it just gets worse. I always wrote off Connecticut as a place not worth visiting. That is, until this past Spring when my boyfriend and I took a weekend trip and I was forced to confront and reject my preconceived notions.

We stayed in the village of Chester, Connecticut and I was legitimately floored by how charming it was. Built along a small river, Chester has all the allure of a colonial New England town with a wealth of dining options and even a craft brewery. The nearby Cockaponset State Forest offers trails for hiking in the quiet of the wood. If you’re planning a New England road trip this summer, I’d recommend adding Chester to the list. 

Hiking Mount Greylock up the Cheshire Harbor Trail

4. Mount Greylock, Massachusetts

The tallest point in Massachusetts and allegedly an inspiration for numerous writers include Henry David Thoreau, Mount Greylock rises high above the town of North Adams at the northern edge of the misty Berkshire Mountains. At a whopping 3,491ft, it’s no Mount Everest, but it is still a prominent peak with a quiet, noble beauty. Draped in hardwood forests and carpeted in pines, Greylock sits like a sentinel, staring out over the surrounding mountains and ridgelines, a commanding presence in an already imposing landscape.

For the adventurous, Greylock is crisscrossed by a network of trails that range from a moderate 6-mile out-and-back to overnight backpacking loops through dense old-growth forests. If you’re not here for a hike, there is an auto-road that you can take to the top (for a fee, of course) with a historic old lodge offering meals and a scenic overlook facing east.

For more information, trail maps, and most up-to-date pricing for the auto road visit the Mount Greylock official site.  

Acadia National Park, Maine, New England

Credit William Brawley (Flickr)

5. Acadia National Park, Maine

Because, of course. Because you can’t go on a summer adventure across New England and not visit it. Because if you’re looking for places to explore and you love adventure, you cannot in good faith ignore Acadia.

Situated on the coast of Maine, a five-hour drive north of Boston, Acadia National Park is a place unlike anywhere else in the world. Mountains rising up from the sea with dramatic, sloping rock formations worn soft by years of oceans spray. Quaint little villages offering lobster by the pound and clam chowder by the cup perch above the crashing waves. Bike trails meander through the park following carriage roads laid down by long-dead entrepreneurs.

It has mountains, it has the sea, it has forests, it has a coastline, it has fishermen, it has historic colonial architecture, it has everything. Hike Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise then ride a bike around the trails to explore some of the more hidden corners of the park that most of the tourists in Bar Harbor will never catch a glimpse of.

Welcome to Maine

Credit Renee Johnson (Flickr)

6. Ogunquit, Maine

Another Maine location makes the list, but are you surprised? When it comes to places to visit in New England, the coast of Maine is hard to ignore. Far, far to the south of Acadia on the southern coast of Maine is a stretch of charming, eccentric, quaint, and idyllic little towns that just beg to be explored at a leisurely pace.

Think of it as the slightly more rugged cousin of Cape Cod. Cape Cod of the North, if you will. Beaches here give way to long spines of stone that reach out into the sea. Red roofed lighthouses look out over turbulent seas as the waves crash against the rocks. And on the shore? Shops selling knick-knacks, antiques, and curios sit snug against cute little cafes and well-thought-out restaurants.

Spend a day exploring the towns or, if you’re more into active adventure like me, bring a bike and take yourself out for a long and beautiful bike ride. The coastal road from Wells down south to Nubble Point outside York is an unforgettable ride. Turn inland to explore the farmland and quiet communities that live in this coastal paradise year-round. Not into planning your own bike routes? If you’re looking for inspiration, you can use this route that I designed for my long weekend up in Maine this past Memorial Day.

If you do the ride, leave a comment and let me know what you thought! Or feel free to follow me on Strava, if that’s your thing.

Best Hiking Trail Near Lake Winnipesaukee

7. Lakes Region, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee. Say that ten times fast. Pronounced “Win-eh-peh-saw-key” it is an Abenaki word with a contested meaning. Some sources record Winnipesaukee as translating to “The Smile of the Great Spirit” while others recorded it as signifying “Beautiful Water in a High Place.” Though we may never know for sure what the Abenaki word means, one thing remains true: this is a special place.

The Lakes Region of New Hampshire is comprised of several large lakes, of which Winnipesaukee is the largest. Known for its boating, fishing, and motorcycle gangs, the region is actually home to a wealth of adventure for those willing to look for it. From little known hikes buried deep in the hills to full-day kayaking or stand up paddle board adventures, the Lakes Region offers outdoor adventures for everyone.

Hike outside Stowe Vermont

Credit Patrick (Flickr)

8. Stowe, Vermont

I love Vermont. From verdant green hills draped with farmland to the two parallel rows of green mountains running down the length of the state like a terrestrial spine, the Green Mountain State is perhaps New England’s best-kept secret. Picturesque villages perched among green and yellow fields, more hiking, mountain biking, and skiing than you could finish in a lifetime, and of course, an overwhelming number of microbreweries and nanobreweries cooking up some of the finest craft beer in the country (the Alchemist, anyone?)—Vermont really does have it all.

And if you’re new to Vermont and have to pick just one place to visit: make it Stowe. For the intrepid traveler, Mount Mansfield and Smuggler’s Notch offer hiking, mountain biking, and skiing (in the winter, of course) both in bounds and backcountry that is on par with some of what you can find out west (no, I’m not kidding). Once you’re done with the trails, head back into town and pick up some of the finest beer in North America from the Alchemist or try some of the headier brews from Vermont’s less well-known breweries at literally any of the stores and restaurants in town. My favorite Vermont brewery is Upper Pass. Try their Cloud Drop IPA, you won’t regret it. Need something to eat? Stowe has everything from five-star meals to cheap and tasty burritos.

Find yourself a nice little farmhouse to rent in Airbnb and discover why people are leaving Colorado to come live in this tiny little state in New England. You won’t regret it.

Whately, Pioneer Valley

9. Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts

The Pioneer Valley is a region of Massachusetts that sits just to the east of the Berkshires, nestled among the foothills along both sides of the scenic Connecticut River and the considerably less scenic Interstate 91. It stretches roughly from Northampton to Greenfield, though the people to the north and south of those towns might contest that border.

What is there to do in the Pioneer Valley? Go tubing down the Deerfield river, take a hike up Mount Tom, spend the afternoon exploring breweries that line the Connecticut River, buy farm-fresh produce from one of the hundreds of farmstands that dot the roads, and explore the many college campuses that blanket the city streets of Northampton and Amherst.

As an added bonus, Northampton is one of the most LGBTQUIA+ friendly cities in New England, long known to be a center of the lesbian community complete with rainbow crosswalks. 

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10. White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire

It’s dawn. A warm, pink light has just begun to suffuse the sky as the birds begin to sing. You lay in your sleeping bag, warm and content, listening as the forest slowly comes to life. Soon, however, the sun streams in through the tent. You rouse yourself and exit your nylon shelter. You are deep in a forest of pine, not another soul to be seen. The air smells like Christmas and the ground is soft beneath your feet.

After a quick breakfast, you pack up your campsite, deftly fitting all of your supplies into your single backpack. Stepping out, you follow a narrow path as it winds its way through the pines. Soon you are walking up and up and up, the trail turns into a granite staircase and you start to sweat. Just before you decide you need a break, the pines shrink, fall away, and you find yourself on a rocky, exposed summit. Your breath catches in your throat as you stare around you with eyes wide with wonder. In every direction, as far as you can see, mountains and forest-clad hills roll off into the deep blue distance. You set down your pack, take a seat on a rock, and soak it all in. It is magnificent. It defies understanding. It is the White Mountain National Forest.

This is, without question, my favorite place in all of New England. A mountain wilderness so beautifully wild, so deliciously remote, it seems impossible that it’s only a 2-hour drive north of Boston. In the Whites, ridge after ridge of mountains hide dense valleys where the maples and oaks grow thick around bubbling streams. For the intrepid hiker, it could be the work of a lifetime to explore every last trail that winds through these mountains. 

But even for the less adventurous, the White Mountains offer something for everyone. From scenic drives to tubing down rivers, lavish hotels and rustic campgrounds, the Whites are perfection. They are my happy place, my refuge from the world, my wonderland that I cannot stop exploring.

These Places in New England Are Just the Beginning

For such a small part of the United States, New England is truly a treasure trove of places to explore. From wild rivers to scenic beaches, hip cities and rustic farmland, I honestly believe that New England has a little bit of everything (but I might be a little bit biased). Have you visited New England? Do you have places that were left off of the list? Let me know in the comments.


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10 places to visit in New England this summer for the adventure loving traveler from Into Foreign Lands

Hiking Camels Hump Via Monroe & Long Trail

Adventure Travel, United States, Vermont

The wind ripped through the trees and we stared up at the jagged peak just visible through the pines. I wasn’t aware that any mountain in New England could look that ominous. Maybe, I thought to myself, this wasn’t such a great idea for our first hike together.

My boyfriend Erich and I were climbing Camel’s Hump, a jagged and beautiful peak in Vermont’s Green Mountains. But what started as a simple day hike was turning into something far more strenuous.

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What Is Camel’s Hump Mountain?

Camel’s Hump is the third highest mountain in Vermont, standing at 4,083 ft. Though it sits lower than nearby Mt. Mansfield or Killington, Camel’s Hump is by far the most recognizable peak in the Green Mountains due to it’s intriguingly shaped peak. The mountain’s unique shape was carved by glaciers many, many years ago.

The first people to name the mountain were the indigenous tribe known as the Abnaki who lived in the Green Mountains. They called it “Ta Wal Be Dee Esso Wadso” which has been translated a number of ways but my favorite is “Prudently, we make a campfire in a circle near water (and rest) at this mountain.” But probably the more reasonable translation is “resting place”.

Then the French showed up in the colonial period and besides ruining everything with diseases and capitalism, they called the mountain “Le Lion Couchant” or the resting lion. And although we all should have quit while we were ahead, the English apparently didn’t feel the mountain was quite as majestic as a lion so they renamed it Camel’s Rump and finally, Camel’s Hump.

I personally am of the opinion that we ought to go back to “Prudently, we make a campfire in a circle near water at this mountain” because that’s what we all really want to do there, anyway.

Descend camels hump via the monroe trail

Our Adventurous Hike up Camel’s Hump

The morning of the hike to Camel’s Hump dawned clear and cool. It was Memorial Day Weekend and this would be my first time hiking with my boyfriend Erich, and his first New England 4k footer. I knew the hike would be 7 miles long over some rugged terrain and I wanted to get going early. I had fraught memories of the slightly stressful Franconia Notch hike with my mother last fall.

So, much to Erich’s chagrin, I was out of bed at 6:30, making coffee and preparing our lunch. Yet despite my best intentions, things never move as quickly as you think they should in the morning. We didn’t hit the road until 8:30.

We headed for the Monroe Trailhead, a great access point if you’re interested in a mix of moderate to challenging New England hiking. Arriving at 9:30, we parked in the overflow lot. I was a bit worried we’d end up behind the crowds but we found the main lot nearly empty. Clearly, the sense of urgency I felt in Franconia Notch was not to be found on the laid back slopes of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Erich and I headed into the woods.

Monroe Trail up Camels Hump

The Monroe to Dean Trail

Stepping onto the trail, the deciduous forest enveloped us and the world of cars, cities, smog, and corporate greed dropped away. My vision was imbued with the vibrant green of sunlight filtered through early spring leaves. Beech trees and oak rustled in the wind. Saplings reached up towards the sun.

The trail began to work its way up the mountainside gradually. There are a few steep spots at the beginning but nothing to fret about. The first mile passed by quickly and we found ourselves at a fork with the Dean Trail splitting off to the left, and the Monroe Trail continuing on ahead.

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Taking a seat on a rock to break into our first snacks, Erich asked me, “So, how close are we to the top?”

It was my first hint of that perhaps I hadn’t chosen the most sensible hike for his first. Perhaps someone with greater empathy would have chosen a lower peak, a less exposed mountain, a less challenging hike.

“We aren’t close yet at all.”

Hey. At least I’m not a liar.

Hiking Camel’s Hump via the Long Trail as an introduction to New England hiking was the rough equivalent of watching a child flounder in the deep end of the swimming pool.

Dean Trail up Camels Hump

From the fork, we headed for the far less trafficked Dean Trail, which continued the previous trend of gently heading up the mountain. The trail was narrow and overgrown. Easy to follow but clearly not much used. It wound through wetlands and reached up into the liminal area between deciduous and pine forests where both types of tree vie for the attention of the sun above. A few more gentle inclines, and we had entered the spruce forest: one of the most delicious environments in New England. The air smells like Christmas. The ground is soft and springy beneath your feet and the entire forest feels like it is holding its breath.

Coming around one curve we found a smaller offshoot peeling off to the right and into a small clearing. Directly across the field, we could see the peak of Camel’s Hump rising above the treeline. A bank of clouds rolled across the summit on the wind, obscuring the rocks from view.

I consoled myself that we still had at least another hour of hiking to go before we reached the summit. Hopefully, the cool air and fog would clear before then. I didn’t relish the idea of Erich’s first summit lacking the views.

Back to the Dean Trail and it wasn’t too much further before we hit the intersection with the Long Trail.

Long Trail to Camels Hump

Taking the Long Trail to Camel’s Hump

For the uninitiated, the Long Trail is America’s oldest thru-hike. A 270-mile relentless trek through the Green Mountains of Vermont. It famously lacks switchbacks and mercy. Still, somehow, I thought it would be a great introduction to hiking in New England.

This hike would be my first time setting foot on the Long Trail. I’d heard stories of this trail from my dad; how challenging it could be, how beautiful, how the old Yankees had cut the trail straight up the side of a rugged mountain without regard for future hikers knees.

Excitement bubbled up within me. I was finally here! Walking on the Long Trail.

The intensity picked up immediately. Where the Dean Trail had crossed a saddle on the side of the mountain, the Long Trail headed north, straight up the spine and onto the first ridge. Before long, we were scrambling up granite boulders taller than our heads.

Coming up over the first scramble, I found myself on an exposed outlook, a ragged shelf of granite jutting out between the pine trees. The wind blew fast and hard into my face as I stared out over the Appalachian landscape. We were facing east, towards the parallel ridge of the Green Mountains and in the distance, New Hampshire.

I turned around to celebrate this first viewpoint with Erich only to find him sitting by the edge of the trail several feet away from the edge, looking shaken. I had forgotten he had a fear of heights and didn’t love the wind.

“I’m fine,” he asserted, “I’m just going to stay over here.”

green mountain photo

We continued. The trail remained rugged, cutting straight up the side of the mountain through jagged granite boulders. The footing and scrambling required no small amount of creativity. The trail ran mostly through the trees, sheltered from the wind, but at times the trail was wide open; granting stunning views of the surrounding mountains but exposing us to the increasingly high winds.

The Long Trail’s approach to the summit of Camel’s Hump accentuates a peculiar feature of the mountain’s geography: the trail ascends to a false summit before dipping down towards a saddle then ascending once more in a final, steep lurch to the top.

Just before that dip in the saddle, a clearing opened in the pines above us. We were granted a glimpse of the summit. It felt present. Imposing. It commanded respect and no small amount of fear. The wind howled around us. The jagged, sharp, dark grey granite rocks stood out ominously from the swirling gray sky. From this angle, it appeared we would need to scramble straight up the side of the cliff to reach the summit.

Quite an introductory hike you choose, Megan.

Green Mountain views from Camels Hump Vermont

We wound through the pines as the wind raged around us and we steeled ourselves for the final ascent. It would be exposed, windy, a little dangerous, and would involve plenty of scrambling. I had known when I planned the trip that this trail would be challenging but I’d had no concept of just how intense this final stretch would be.

We headed into the pines, climbing a giant’s staircase made of granite through the trees, sometimes reaching up to hold onto roots and trunks as we hauled ourselves up the steep trail.

With the summit in sight, the trees disappeared and we faced the final challenge: an exposed, wind-whipped scramble along sheer granite rocks, the white blaze of the long trail painted just often enough for us not to get lost. We clung to the boulders as we navigated sideways and upwards towards the summit.

Coming over the top of the final rise, we found a group of hikers cowering against the wind, tucked into crevasses and any sheltered place atop the windy, exposed summit. As we pulled on our jackets I looked over at Erich. I must admit I was moderately afraid I’d find him in shambles, cowed by the height and the wind. Had I permanently traumatized him?

He already had his phone out to take pictures of the view.

Wildflowers in Vermonts Green Mountains

The fog we’d seen from the valley below had vanished on the wind. The summit offered a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. Lake Champlain stretched to the west, with the distant Adirondacks a blue ridge beyond. To the east, the low lying Green Mountains sat closest while the White Mountains rose above them in the far distance. North, Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest peak, stood proud but shadowy, it’s summit wrapped in fog.

We sat for a few minutes, swapping encouragement and jokes with the few other hikers present, enjoying that strange camaraderie that comes from reaching the summit of a mountain at the same time.
Something about the mountain transforms you from strangers to companions, sharing an appreciation of the surrounding splendor and the struggle you went through simply to be there.

At last, buffeted about by the wind and more than a little worried that our accessories or even entire backpacks might be blown off the mountain, we raised ourselves into low crouches and headed down the rocky summit and back to the relative safety of the pine-covered trail.

Views from Camel's Hump Summit

Descending via the Monroe Trail

Since I have a strange aversion to out and back hiking, we descended via the Monroe Trail. This was starkly different from our Long Trail ascent.

On the way up we had been alone, the sole hikers on the trail. This descent was more like walking down a hill in a city park. The trail was crowded with rambunctious groups of college kids, young adults, avid hikers, and families bounding up the mountain.

The solitude gone, we walked down the trail with everyone else, pausing now and again to let the faster hikers pass us. As with most hikes, the descent always feels just a bit longer than the ascent. Legs are tired now, knees are starting to ache, feet to sting, and what should feel like the easiest part of the hike begins to present its own unique challenges as the pain of the day makes itself known.

Still, the trail was comfortable and not overly steep. We descended swiftly and were back at the car by 2pm.

All that was left for the day was to find a good spot for some post-hike pizza and craft beer.


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Hike Camel's Hump in Vermont's Green Mountains via the Long Trail