Golden Hills

  • The vivid fall foliage around the picturesque Lake Waramaug in Litchfield County. Visitors can access the lake through the Lake Waramaug State Park. Photograph courtesy

Experience the ultimate American autumn in Litchfield Hills.

Each autumn, colorful foliage draws countless tourists to Litchfield Hills, Connecticut. But that’s not all this charming region, tucked away in the Berkshire Mountains, has to offer. Visitors can relax in sumptuous inns offering stunning views, shop for antiques and explore the area’s quaint New England towns. For those in search of outdoor adventures, there are many trails for hiking and lakes for canoeing and fishing. So next fall, take a trip and fall under Litchfield Hills’ spell.

From the beginning of September through late October, Litchfield Hills’ rolling farmlands and river valleys come alive with the harvest. The prime fall, or autumn, foliage season comes to full bloom during the first three weeks of October, when the rustic countryside and colonial villages transform into a palette of vibrant colors. Litchfield, the largest town in the area, boasts of boutiques, upscale eateries and stately homes that architecture fans won’t want to miss. Imagine white Colonial and Greek Revival homes peppering tree-lined streets. Also, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was born and raised in Litchfield. Washington and Norfolk—considered to be among the best-preserved towns in the Northeast—provide a glimpse of what village life was like in New England centuries ago.

Litchfield Hills offers the ultimate indulgence for antique aficionados—every town in the area has antique shops. The towns of Kent and New Preston draw avid antiquarians, but Kent is best known for its high concentration of art galleries, some nationally renowned. The Schaghticoke Indian Reservation is also located there; the tribe helped pass messages for the U.S. Army during the Revolutionary War. But Woodbury is considered to be the epicenter of vintage treasures. Local zoning laws allow houses to be used for commercial purposes in Woodbury. So, many antique dealers have set up shop in the 17th and 18th century homes on the Main Street. 

Litchfield Hills covers nearly one-third of Connecticut and is surrounded by several state parks, forests and reserves for nature lovers to explore. In addition, the Housatonic and the Farmington rivers, which attract anglers and canoeing enthusiasts, and Connecticut’s three largest natural lakes—Waramaug, Bantam and Twin—are all in the area. Also in the region are Bear Mountain, Connecticut’s highest mountain summit at 2,316 feet, and kilometers of the legendary Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which runs near the western border from Kent to Salisbury. The trail is recommended for hiking from May to October and offers spectacular views of the Housatonic River Valley and the Taconic Range. One section of the trail, near Falls Village, has wheelchair access too. The hike is mostly moderate, with shorter steep and fairly challenging sections. For a truly unforgettable 360-degree panorama, which is especially beautiful in early autumn, try the 1.6-kilometer uphill climb of Dennis Hill State Park in Norfolk.

After a day of trailblazing, rowing or shopping, Litchfield Hills’ diverse dining scene is sure to satiate your hunger. Everything, from Community Table’s sustainably sourced and local cuisine to The Cookhouse’s “slo-smokin’ ” barbecue, is available here. Don’t miss out on the two eateries regarded as institutions in Litchfield: West Street Grill, which caters to the fashion-conscious crowd with its art-filled walls and modern American dishes, and The Village, a pub-style restaurant that is popular among both locals and tourists. If you’re in need of a spot of tea, visit Chaiwalla Tea Room in Salisbury, whose sweet and savory treats and teas from India and China are heavenly.

When it comes to lodging, Litchfield Hills has many options. If it’s elegance steeped in history you’re after, then look no further than Rock Hall Luxe Lodging, just outside Norfolk. This award-winning, luxurious 23-acre estate was designed by architect Addison Mizner circa 1912 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guests can wander around the pristine grounds full of orchids and walking trails, visit the fitness and billiard rooms or take advantage of the inn’s pool, hot tub and tennis court.

There’s a reason why Litchfield Hills has captured the hearts of countless visitors: its historical charm and spellbinding fall foliage produce peace and stimulation that make for the perfect autumn vacation.


Anne Walls is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California.