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11 Outdoor Activities to Help You Experience the Wonder of New England

Though it comprises some of America’s smallest states, New England serves up a veritable bounty of natural beauty to thrill any outdoor enthusiast.

There are numerous indoor activities to keep you busy in New England, but this is the land of the White Mountains, Lake Champlain, and Acadia National Park. So do yourself a favor and head outdoors to take in the rugged, and not-so-rugged, landscape, from its sweeping coastal terrain dotted with cranberry bogs and blueberry barrens to the majestic heights of its rolling mountain ranges and thick forests.

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PHOTO: SamaraHeisz5/Shutterstock
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Ski the Real Vermont

Just shy of the US-Canadian border, some of Vermont’s best ski slopes can be found at Jay Peak in the northern Green Mountains. The 272-mile Long Trail, which runs the entire length of the state, climbs its summit, which has an elevation reaching just shy of 4,000 feet. The surrounding area boasts a massive network of trails, a top-notch resort, and the most snow in eastern North America.

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PHOTO: Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock
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Explore Acadia National Park

Boasting around 160 miles of pristine coastal hiking trails and an extensive network of meandering carriage roads peppered with charming stone bridges, Acadia National Park is every outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, offering bountiful opportunities to experience the raw, natural beauty of Down East’s craggy costal landscape. Equally suitable for hardcore hikers and campers and those who prefer to bask in nature’s sublimity at a more relaxed pace, the summit of Cadillac Mountain—the park’s crown jewel—can be attacked via the rocky switchbacks that lead hikers to the top, or by exploring the scenic, winding paved road that leads more casual explorers to some of the most breathtaking views in a matter of minutes. However you reach the summit, you’ll want to plan on making it there in time for the sunrise—one of the first to unfold across the United States—for a spectacular play of color as the light trickles across the mountain’s pink granite rocks covered in sea-foam green lichen and reflects the many-hued blues of the Atlantic.

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PHOTO: Chris Hill/Shutterstock
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Visit Lake Champlain

Leaf peeping and Vermont are virtually synonymous, but most visitors don’t think about taking in the stunning blush of the Green Mountain State’s fall foliage from out on the water. What better way to experience a stunning panorama of the season’s painted landscape than from Lake Champlain? Best accessed from Burlington, where you can easily rent a paddle board, Vermont’s pristine, freshwater lake is surrounded by majestic mountains covered in forests that put on a colorful display of bravado in the autumn. Out on the water, far from the constant flow of leaf peeping traffic, you’ll feel like nature’s putting it all on just for you in every direction you paddle.

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PHOTO: Maureen Milliken/Shutterstock
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Surfing in Maine

Surfing isn’t exactly what comes to mind when considering a visit to the Pine Tree State, but serious surfers know Maine has some of the East Coast’s most dramatic breakers, with the best at Reid State Park in the state’s Midcoast region. Those who brave the brisk dip into Maine’s notoriously chilly coastal waters are rewarded with a steady flow of billowing white caps and swelling combers epic enough to send any diehard surfer howling “akaw!”

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PHOTO: drewthehobbit/Shutterstock
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Hike the Appalachian Trail

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is on the bucket list of most hardcore trekkers, but tackling the entire length of America’s most notorious hiking trail is nothing short of a commitment. Featuring 161-miles of the Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire’s leg is one of the most challenging and rewarding stretches along the route, with some of the steepest inclines leading to exposed areas with stunning alpine tundra and breathtaking panoramic views.

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PHOTO: Marianne Campolongo/Shutterstock
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Sailing in Newport

Often touted as one of the world’s prime sailing capitals, Newport, Rhode Island is filled to the brim with sailors and sailboats; you might say the port is filled just as much to the brim with rigs as the historic streets are with cozy taverns and antique shops. The largest fleet of America’s Cup 12 Meters drop their anchors here and most of these famous beauts can be chartered for day trips and longer journeys. Try your hand at sailing a rig yourself or leave it to the pros, but whatever you do in Newport make sure you get out on the water.

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PHOTO: Kate Sfeir/Shutterstock
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Kayaking on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway

The 92-mile-long series of rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes that comprise northern Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway ribbon their way through the delicate, tundra-like landscape of the magnificent Northern Woods. Famously lauded by Henry David Thoreau in The Maine Woods, his now classic book on the region, the waterway remains fairly rustic, with limited resources along the route, which seems to be one of the major draws for paddlers looking to actually get away from it all. Although water levels are highest and fishing is at its finest during the spring, the best time to hop in a kayak or canoe is during the autumn, once the notorious black fly season simmers down and before the winter ice settles in.

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Horseback Riding in Connecticut

Located on a narrow peninsula nestled between the Long Island Sound and the Poquonnock River Bluff Point State Park in Groton, Connecticut features more than 800 acres of impressive cliffs, thick forests, craggy beaches, and sweeping tidal wetlands. The combination appeals to equestrians looking for relatively moderate rides through varying landscapes. The 3.6-mile Coastal Reserve Trail makes a loop along the length of the peninsula offering fantastic views of Long Island.

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PHOTO: Vinoverde | Dreamstime.com
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Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Covering an impressive 22 miles of paved trail roads that pass through six Cape Cods towns, the Cape Cod Rail Trail is a delight for all levels of cyclist as the reliably level terrain allows for feasibly attainable long-distance excursions along the coastal landscape in a single day. During the winter months, exchange your wheels for skis to enjoy some of the Cape’s best cross-country skiing.

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PHOTO: Songquan Deng/Shutterstock
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Take a Leaf Peeping Cycle Tour

With its many nature preserves, green spaces, and hiking trails, the Green Mountain State shines in every season, but autumn finds Vermont at its very finest, when maple trees transform the landscape into a brilliant explosion of intense oranges, deep reds, and golden yellows that upstage any description in a Robert Frost poem. You’d be hard pressed to find a lovelier stroll through an autumnal Vermont landscape than in the charming village of Stowe, which is home to the Stowe Recreation Path, a paved, 5.3-mile greenway that leads you to picture-perfect village and mountain views. Not exactly off the beaten path, but hands down one of the most picturesque routes for a leisurely cycling trip, stops en route inlcude local breweries, orchards, farms, local shops, and restaurants.

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PHOTO: Ershovici | Dreamstime.com
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Hiking in Cape Cod

Cape Cod’s Great Island Seaside Trail offers more than 8 miles of sandy hiking trails that pass through salt marsh embayments, pitch-pine forests, and fragile dunes. Along the way take in commanding views of Cape Cod Bay and Wellfleet Harbor from Great Beach Hill and the heights of Great Island.