How early will you find peak fall foliage in New England?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer. I saw a Google search result from a Vermont vacation website saying “Visit Vermont during peak fall foliage in early to mid Sept! If you are an experienced leaf peeper then you will know that leaf peeping doesn’t really begin until after the 20th of Sept.
You should be aware that this is just marketing and they want visitors to come up outside the best times. Before the 20th Of Sept most hard core leaf peepers will most likely be disappointed. I also want you to know that I don’t answer to any state tourism department so I will always give you the best info I can.
Is there early peak fall foliage color?
Last year on Sept 25th I did find small patches of peak fall foliage in New England’s northern Vermont region known as the North East Kingdom (NEK) and New Hampshire’s, Sugar Hill area but it’s very unusual to find huge sections of peak fall foliage by the 25th. (but a good reason to stay tuned here!
This list of places and the images were all taken on 25 Sept (on one single day!) we drove up into northern New Hampshire to check out some favorite spots near Sugar Hill. Along route 112, west out of Woodstock NH and around routes 116 and 117 that surround sugar Hill.
In several areas we found really good fall color (but not peak). Lisa and I stopped at Polly’s Pancake Parlor and across the street we could see a white horse in the field surrounded by various shades of red, orange and gold.
This isn’t to say that all the trees had fully changed (or peak fall color) but the kaleidoscope of colors while very nice, still wasn’t peak. There were many trees that we just beginning to change to their fall foliage colors.
Bath New Hampshire and the Bath Covered Bridge.
We drove From Sugar Hill, down Routes 302 and 10 to visit bath New Hampshire and the bath covered bridge. The colors in that area were just beginning to turn with hints of orange up and down the river (but still at least a week away). (Note) this was the day after a big rain/windstorm had come through taking all the peak leaves off the trees.
This weather pattern would affect us for the next two weeks with the peak leaves being taken off the trees and having to wait for all the green leaves to put out their fall colors. We found our way from New Hampshire into Vermont and most of the hillsides were sparsely dotted with color. (Nice but nowhere near peak)
The two biggest problems we were facing was a Nor’easter weather pattern and the temperatures had also not really dropped yet. The daytime temperatures hovered in the 70s and in the evenings they weren’t nearly cold enough to kick-start the fall foliage color change. We found very little peak fall foliage until we were near Groton state Park. Here every turn teased us with a view of near peak autumn color but disappeared as soon as we rounded the next bend.
Groton State park Vermont & Seyon State Park.
Lisa and I stayed on 302 skipping the direct route into Groton State Forest, which I’m sure would be a very good drive any time of year and we instead took Seyon pond road which takes you into Seyon Lodge state Park and to Noyes pond.
It was late in the afternoon and the sky was pretty cloudy but the sun was peeking through and I was hoping that I could wait and the sun would illuminate the hillsides above the pond. After waiting for almost an hour with the sun and clouds playing leapfrog in the sky the sun finally lit up a nearby hillside right above the pond. (a bit dramatic due to post processing)
Of course by looking at my pictures that I’ve posted here you may say, I found wonderful color So peak was found on 25 Sept. But what you have to remember is that I took over a hundred pictures that day and I only came away with a few that I found satisfactory.
Another thing that you have to keep in mind is that the New England fall foliage started a bit early this year. I had been receiving foliage reports from photographer friends in Vermont and New Hampshire who were finding color as early as mid-September in Vermont. I also need to point out that they weren’t finding saturated peak color that early but they were finding random trees that were turning earlier than the past five years.
The downside of early peak color
In 2010 we received three good rain/wind storms with during last week of September and the first week or so of October. This is the most devastating hazard that Mother Nature can send our way. Windstorms are the last things that we want to see as leaf peepers and these were spaced such that those trees that had turned and were at peak foliage had their leaves pulled to the ground, leaving untouched, only those trees that were just starting to change.
This article covered just the one day of 25 September and a little portion of the journey that we made. My next article will have a portion of my journey on 29 September five days later and a little further South at the Jenne farm in Vermont.Jeff "Foliage" Folger
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I live in Salem, Massachusetts and work as a blogger and Travel Photographer. I'm also the founder of the New England Photography Guild.
Feel free to visit me on my blogs and see what life in New England is like.
I started with Yankee Magazine as their first blogger on everything fall foliage. Now I blog on my own blog on my favorite subject, telling leaf peepers where the fall foliage is showing up in New England and helping them (to some extent) plan their fall foliage vacations.