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Hometown Weekly’s favorite leaf-peeping spots

By Lauren Schiavone and Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff

New England autumns are famous for a reason, and it’s not just because of the pumpkin spice and perfect weather. While tourists from around the country flock to our neck of the woods for a glimpse of the fall’s most perfect foliage, individuals in Hometown Weekly’s communities need only open their doors and head out for a quick drive for a similar experience.

While we couldn’t possibly list all of the finest foliage locales in Hometown Weekly’s towns, we’ve selected a few highlights for your exploration at the season’s peak.

Charles River Peninsula, Needham

A secluded, shaded path by a wooden fence stretches out for a quarter mile at this Trustees of Reservations property. Leaves on the path, some already brown, guide the way to the railway beams which mark one side of the river. Following back in the opposite direction, a trail opens to a meadow — an autumnal scene where it’s golden hour nearly all month. 

Milkweeds scattered featherlike seeds on the open field on my visit, and guiding me to the open space between trails. The trail is spacious and spreads out across a 20-acre field for some incredible vistas. Back along the lower entrance, boaters geared up canoes and kayaks for an afternoon outdoors. Leaves fell gently into the river and into boats — and even onto my hand as I pulled my phone out of my pocket to take pictures.

Birds cawed and fluttered from branch to branch, and critters crawled across the dirt in the field, too (including an impressive caterpillar that caught my eye). The loop is only a mile long — a perfect spot for a quick afternoon walk, or a detour before heading home after a long day. With weather getting chillier, days getting shorter, and leaves rapidly falling, a quick trip to Charles River Peninsula is definitely worth it. — Lauren Schiavone, Hometown Weekly Staff

Pine Hill Cemetery, Sherborn

I was formally introduced to Pine Hill Cemetery through my work on an article about Sherborn legend Eliot Taylor, whose knowledge of local birds was unparalleled. Writing that article thankfully brought me to this corner of town, which remains beautiful at all times of year — but it’s especially stunning at the peak of autumn.

Don’t let the “pine” in its name fool you — Pine Hill Cemetery has an ample number of deciduous trees on its grounds for your viewing pleasure, and they’re at around peak coloring right now. It doesn’t get much better than a quiet, meditative stroll around the gazebo, complete with multi-colored leaves whipping in the wind. You really can’t go wrong with any wooded locale in Dover or Sherborn at this time of the year (or any time, really). But if I’m pressed to pick my favorite place for leaf-peeping, this peaceful spot is it. — Stephen Press, Hometown Weekly Editor

Noon Hill, Medfield

In the middle of the day, I headed to Noon Hill in Medfield for an afternoon walk. After a bout of rain, leaves scattered the walking path. Crickets chirped, and the raindrops falling on leaves produced a certain type of calm that I haven’t experienced in a while. The muggy conditions were especially perfect for spotting fungi and salamanders amidst the autumn colors.

Of course, the spectacular overlook is the most picturesque spot at Noon Hill. From the privileged perch, vibrant goldfinch yellows and auburns stood against the stark sky. Clouds moved quickly past and the sun even peaked out from behind clouds. My favorite spot, a few yards from a stone bench, is by a stone ledge and a small rusty red oak tree. Looking down, treetops pop in every shade from spirited yellow to worn-out brown. The flat lookout lets you witness the leaves from a glorious perspective. The peace and quiet becomes even more prevalent once you climb the lookout and hear nothing but leaves rustling in the wind and crickets chirping. — Lauren Schiavone, Hometown Weekly Staff

Jarvis Farm, Walpole

I had a great deal of difficulty with this one, if only because of the bountiful excellent foliage-spotting options in town. Off the top of my head, Bird Park, Adams Farm and the town common itself (especially framed by the Epiphany Pumpkin Patch) are A-level autumn haunts. My gut instinct, however, was to cast my gaze towards a different spot — and an affirmation from my colleague, herself a Walpole native, emboldened me to run with that initial impulse.

With all due respect to those aforementioned Walpole locations (which are very much worth visiting, both now and in all seasons), my pick is Jarvis Farm. Aside from the natural beauty — at this time of year, Charles A. Hershman Memorial Field is surrounded by a kaleidoscope of yellows, oranges and reds — there’s another autumnal attraction to the farm. Because it’s on the grounds of the former Sharon Country Day Camp (the cabins of which are still standing), there is a vague “haunted summer camp” vibe to Jarvis Farm that grows more and more appealing as the days edge closer to Halloween. Another added bonus for those seeking a more immersive outdoor experience: a boardwalk from the farm leads into the heart of Walpole Town Forest. — Stephen Press, Hometown Weekly Editor

Hale Education, Westwood

The open field by the Andrew Cucchiara Learning Center is a lovely spot to take in a cozy autumn moment. The Hale property houses educational classes, engaging concerts and plenty of events, year-round — but at this moment, its main attraction is outdoors in the form of the fall flora and fauna. Apple trees sporadically cover the path, accompanied by picnic benches and a fire pit. Walking along the orchard, a skyline of colorful trees grabs one’s attention.

Hale has stunning waterfront views, too. Noanet Landing is a perfect spot for canoeing, biking, taking a stroll — or watching leafy gems drop into the water. The Split Rock trail offers a way to take shelter from chill and winds from the water. The contrast between the water and massive trees is like something from a postcard. Both of these spots are especially excellent, and represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of idyllic autumn spots at Hale. — Lauren Schiavone, Hometown Weekly Staff

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