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Chasing Fitness And Foliage On Foot In New England

Associated Press

Here's a novel way to enjoy autumn in New England: While the trees are dropping their leaves, you can be shedding some pounds and getting in your steps.

Activate the "Health" app on your iPhone, don a light jacket, unleash your inner multitasker and you're good to go. Powered by the same GPS technology your phone's map uses to give you directions, the app will tell you not only how many miles or kilometers you've covered but exactly how many steps you took.

Fitbit, Garmin and other trackers can give you more data than you can shake a poplar branch at, including how many calories you've burned. If you're a beginner, no sweat. Autumn is the perfect season to get outdoors: crisp and cool, with none of the strength-sapping humidity that can discourage even well-trained athletes.

Scenic trails abound across the region, and they offer some of the most drop-dead-gorgeous places to view foliage off the beaten path while getting in your run or walk. Plus, these places are far less crowded in the fall and are at their most beautiful. Win-win. Here's a guide to some of the more resplendent outside of Connecticut, and you'll find Connecticut fitness hikes here.

MAINE: Jordan Pond Shore Trail, Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Picture a narrow boardwalk hewn from logs, encircling a pinch-me-perfect pond mirroring birch, aspen and oak — all blazing with peak autumn glory. That's the trail around idyllic Jordan Pond, formed by glaciers in the shadow of Acadia National Park's Cadillac Mountain, not far from Bar Harbor and its playful puffins. Part of the trail is over graded gravel; about 4,000 feet of it follows bouncy log bridges. It's mostly flat and affords spectacular foliage-flecked views of the surrounding peaks. Après-hike, indulge in tea and popovers at the historic Jordan Pond House.

Distance: 3.3 miles, 6,970 steps. Easy.

MASSACHUSETTS: Cliff Pond Trail, Nickerson State Park, Brewster

One of Cape Cod's best-kept secrets isn't its beaches — it's the peninsula's often-overlooked autumn vistas. The foliage itself isn't always five-star, but it's framed by shimmering saltwater ponds and marshes, fieldstone bridges, and acres of crimson cranberries awaiting harvest. You'll find all that and more on a leisurely hike around Cliff Pond, the largest of four ponds contained within Nickerson State Park. The end of Flax Pond Road inside the park is a good place to start. If you're feeling a little more ambitious, the 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail can carry you as far as the spirit moves you.

Distance: 3 miles, 6,336 steps. Easy.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Boulder Loop Trail, Kancamagus Highway, Conway

Honestly, you don't even have to leave your car to have a religious experience along the serpentine Kancamagus as it winds and twists through the White Mountain National Forest, but you'll be glad you did.

There are numerous pullouts for trail heads, but some are steep and rugged. One that's not is the Boulder Loop, on the east side of the highway just off Dugway Road. It'll take you to several rock ledges with leaf-peeping potential that will more than reward any extra huffing and puffing. The roughly circular loop passes numerous gigantic boulders, and an added attraction is the Albany covered bridge.

Distance: 3.5 miles, 7,392 steps. Moderate.

RHODE ISLAND: Colt State Park, Bristol

On one side, the salt and spray of Narragansett Bay; on the other, undulating footpaths, stone walls and some of the finest flora the Ocean State has to offer. All this is yours within Colt State Park, 464 acres open year-round on a windswept outcropping named Poppasquash Neck in tribute to its Native American roots. The East Bay bikeway connects Colt to other state parks stretching from East Providence to Barrington. Consider a side trip to nearby Blithewold Mansion, whose 33 acres of manicured gardens are well worth wandering.

Distance: 3.9 miles, 8,236 steps. Easy.

VERMONT: Island Line Rail Trail, Burlington

This just might be the hippest, most happening hike in New England. Once known as the Burlington Bikeway, the Island Line Rail Trail skirts the waterfront of Burlington, a vibrant and trendy college town. A promenade here provides sensational views of Lake Champlain and New York's Adirondack Mountains. The trail runs 14 miles from Burlington to Colchester; it starts at Oakledge Park on Flynn Street, and a good place to turn around is 2.1 miles later at the Union Station trailhead on King Street.

Distance: 4.2 miles, 8,870 steps. Easy.

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