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The mystery of finding peak fall foliage

Peak fall foliage is always a question

New England fall foliage as a mystery?  The mystery is more of putting the when with the where and finding yourself viewing peak fall foliage!  We know why the colors change, chlorophyll production is stopped when the days grow shorter and the red, orange and yellows that were there all along, are now revealed, so where is the mystery?


Solving the mystery of that elusive “Peak

Lexington minuteman in Massachusetts fall colors

Massachusetts fall colors

Peak fall foliage is subjective at best, so I’m not going to force you to accept my definition..  So let’s just say, the best way to ensure that you find great autumn colors, is with  a little bit of luck and a good sense for where your best opportunities are. (with help)

I have been driving the roads of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (maybe I should just say New England to shorten it) for years in hopes of happening upon peak fall foliage.   Let’s just say it’s like trying to time the stock market (something financial experts tell us not to do) **so** Trying to come into New England on a Friday night and leaving on Monday and finding that everywhere you go, all the tree covered hillsides are ablaze in New England fall foliage colors of red, gold and orange.  for both days is probably not going to happen. If you want the best odds of finding at least some peak foliage…

Then read on, my leaf peeper

Pinkham notch in northern New Hampshire with yellow and gold fall foliage

Pinkham Notch NH

Your best chance for a single weekend of color…
Your best chance lies in both good timing and a location that is centrally located. Trying to come in early to beat the crowds means you are just that.. ***early***. Not once in my years, have I found peak color everywhere on a single day of driving. (and I drive a lot)

You can be up in Pinkham notch (route 16) in NH (a beautiful place to be, BTW) and the color will be fantastic.  Now you travel a short nine miles, south to Jackson NH (junction of Route 16 & 16A) and the color will be so-so. This change from peak fall colors to green leaves can happen within the next mile or even around the next bend in the road, so what are you to do?

Here are some ideas for bagging the prize, “Peak fall foliage

First, if you already have reservations for one weekend, then make the best of it and post those dates to my foliage facebook page or on any pages comments section, and I will try to guesstimate where your best chances lie. (remember my BEST GUESS)


Mount Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods

Mount Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods

Second, If you travel between 25 Sept and 4 October you will want to be north of Barre Vermont and north of Woodstock New Hampshire (different than the other woodstock in VT) and north of Rangely Maine. Will you find color south of that? sure but for those dates it will still be further north. Do you have different dates? Then post them on the facebook page.. Hint… 🙂
Third, Don’t try for three+ states or even two!  Pick a state and a single location. Then pick a place to stay that you can both afford and be comfortable in.

Finally, Relax! Yup, relax… How many vacations do you come home and now you need a vacation from your vacation? Well if you do this right, pick a reasonable set of dates, then pick a good relaxing place to stay and finally, just get out of the car and explore the area.  This last part is of major importance!  Don’t spend an entire weekend in the car driving around like a chicken with it’s head cut off looking for “Peak”.

Extra hint: Take a good map book (check my Planning tools page for gazetteers of each state ) with you and you’ll find the history and covered bridges and little points of interest that will result in a very special set of memories.

 The real mystery of fall foliage

white paper birch on a backdrop of fall's neon red autumn foliage

birch on a backdrop of fall’s neon red

Science explains the change of colors to us but where science seems to fall short is the magic of the colors. Why do we react to the colors the way we do?  Is this a part of our ancestors heritage of being mystified by the natural world? Or is it just something as simple as  the more complicated our lives get, the more we enjoy the colors and, the simpler pleasures.

Science also fails to fully explain why one sugar maple is a scarlet red and the one right next to it is orange and yellow. Why one year a tree is orange and the next it’s yellow.

Maybe the fall foliage mystery isn’t such a mystery after all. Maybe we just like the surprise of what we’ll find over the next bend in the road.  We’re thrilled to take that turn only to see rows of multi-hued trees stretch off into the distance.

Some years the tree in your yard is the same red color and then one year something changes and the tree is a bright golden yellow.  Science would explain it as a shift in nutrients or maybe it was drier than normal. To me it’s merely a gift to keep us wondering.

Jeff "Foliage" Folger  You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
Subscribe to my Newsletter - If you would like to sign up for my Fine Art America Newsletter (click this link and a window will open allowing you to sign up). Why sign up for the newsletter? Contests, discount codes on my artwork, maybe an excerpt from my book "Exploring the back roads of New England with Jeff Foliage"... Yes you heard me right... (Damn now I have to start writing it!)
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Jeff Foliage

My name is Jeff Folger,
but people call me Jeff Foliage.
I have several pages that I write blogs for such as:
My most popular blog is for Leaf peepers: Jeff
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.
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Taking the mystery out of finding peak fall foliage — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Connecticut foliage planning in October - Exploring New England's fall foliage

  2. Thanks Jeff, nice article. Im looking forward to some Fall Foliage Photography this season, although I’m in no rush for summer to end.


    • You’re right Alan.. I haven’t had near enough beach days and all I’m doing is obsessing about fall foliage… something is wrong with that if you ask me! :-[)

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