Places to hike or paddle for leaf peeping now

pawcatuck autumnFall colors are flowing through southern New England now. Along some streams and through many beaver ponds, autumn colors are at their peak, so it’s a great time to pck up the paddling gear and go for a boat ride.

In southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, the Pawcatuck River is aflame in some places. The stretch between the Bradford fishing area (pictured above) and the Burdickville Bridge is stunning, and the foliage should be even more brilliant this weekend.

In the Arcadia Management Area, near the Connecticut – Rhode Island border, Breakheart Pond is one of the first ponds to display color in the fall. Nearby, the shores of the Wood River are beginning to show their autumn colors and scarlet cardinal flowers are still in bloom in some spots.

Too shallow to paddle, the Falls River has a lovely hiking trail to Stepstone Falls, a scenic place for a picnic beneath fall foliage. It is off Route 165, a short way from the Connecticut – Rhode Island border.

Together, Pachaug State Forest and Arcadia Management Area offer thousands of acres and miles of trails and streams with free access for a autumn adventure.

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First day of fall is a beauty

Donn on Shaw Pond croppedThe first day of autumn dawned in rain in southern New England, but by noon, the rain clouds had disappeared. This afternoon is perfect for a hike or paddle beneath brilliant blue skies with a light breeze.

Tomaquag Trail first day of fallMy wife Marie and I headed for the Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI (at right) with our Brittany, Penny. It was lovely, especially now that all of last winter’s storm damage has been cleared. Several stretches of the white-blazed trail are wide enough for two hikers to walk side by side. The trails are all flat and easy, but exposed roots make them inaccessible to wheelchairs or strollers. Click here for great guide to many of Rhode Island’s trails and paddling spots.

To the north, foliage is beginning to take on its autumn colors. The first fall pastels are visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike near Jacob’s Ladder. And maples near streams and ponds are very red.

Friday, my brother Donn (pictured above) and I paddled Shaw Pond in Becket and Otis MA where we spent our summers as kids, and saw some lovely scenery. It will be even brighter next weekend. Click here for a guide to outdoor activities in the Berkshires.