Students, community members share best fall Upper Valley spots

Students and outdoor enthusiasts discussed their favorite trails during the fall season, as well as tips to view the foliage.

by Carly Retterer | 8/31/22 5:10am

View from Gile Mountain
by Emil Liden / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2022 Freshman special issue.

Of the many unique qualities of fall term at Dartmouth, observing the fall foliage is often one of the most anticipated and loved traditions. As incoming students arrive on campus – some for the first time – older students and local community members offer their tips on experiencing fall in the Upper Valley.

According to the New Hampshire Travel and Tourist Department website, leaves typically begin to change colors in late September, reaching peak color around the week of Oct. 10 for Hanover’s region.

Kellen Appleton ’20, a program coordinator for the Outdoor Programs Office, said that one of her favorite fall foliage spots near campus is Oak Hill. Located at the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center in the northeast corner of Hanover, the spot is a “couple hours walk [to complete], but definitely doable [and] is a really nice way to get outside in the afternoon and see the foliage.” 

Appleton added that the trails maintained by the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, just across the Connecticut River in Vermont, are good spots — in addition to viewing the foliage from the Connecticut River itself. 

“I think one of the best ways to do this is actually to rent a canoe from [Ledyard Canoe Club], while it’s still open for the season, and get to view the changing colors [on the Connecticut River],” Appleton said. 

Former OPO director Coz Teplitz wrote in an email statement that he recommends visiting Balch Hill – just four minutes from campus on East Wheelock Street at the intersection of Grasse Road and Trescott Road – for its “nice views to the south, especially as the leaves thin out.” 

Outside of the Hanover area, Teplitz recommended Gile Mountain in Norwich — a popular spot for students and community members alike.

“The Gile Mountain fire tower in Norwich is a local classic. It’s about a mile to the summit along a well-constructed trail,” Teplitz wrote. 

Mount Moosilauke and Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, while further out from campus, are also favored by students. Michael Mauricio ’24 said he and some of his teammates on the men’s varsity lacrosse team hiked up the mountain in October 2020, around peak foliage. 

“This hike will be some of the prettiest scenery you’ll ever see, but you just have to be prepared,” Mauricio said. “You need to start early and bring an adequate amount of water and snacks, and you will be chill.” 

For those less inclined to hike the 7-mile Mount Moosilauke loop, visitors can enjoy views of the mountains from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. Beginning in September, OPO will offer free van rides and free meals for undergraduate students at the Lodge, according to Appleton.  

“It’s definitely something that people should take advantage of, especially if you’re itching for the colors early in the season,” Appleton said. ”With the higher elevation and latitude, the colors at Moosilauke start changing a solid two weeks before they start changing down here in Hanover.”

Other off-campus trails with prime views of fall foliage include Holt’s Ledge in Lyme and French’s Ledges in Plainfield, according to Teplitz. He wrote that Holt’s Ledge “offers excellent views to the east and south” from the cliff at the summit. 

Teplitz also wrote that French’s Ledges is a “relatively mellow” hike with a steeper section at the very end. 

“The views from the rock outcropping are excellent. On the way home, make sure you stop by Mac’s Maple products in Plainfield for some maple creemees,” he wrote. 

For students interested in student or staff-led hikes and other excursions, the Outdoor Programs Office and the Dartmouth Outing Club run trips year round, Appleton said. These activities can be found on their website. 

“I think one of the challenges students often face in trying to go farther afield is that they do not have access to vehicles, and the DOC does a really good job of getting people off campus and digging into the surrounding areas,” Appleton said.

Correction appended (Sept. 2, 5:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the trails maintained by the Montshire Museum of Science are free to the public. The trails are free to use with museum admission. The article has been updated. 

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