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Fall foliage on Cape Cod

  • Normal dates for New England
  • Why Cape Cod?
  • What kinds of colors can be found?

Normal dates for New England fall colors

In late September, Fall foliage arrives in New England with a sense of anticipation and excitement for the all too short season to begin. For me, it starts even earlier in August as I hear the cicada sing their late summer song. The warm breezes come through my window and the song of summer is heavy on the air. But with this comes the whisper of cooler days and we start to see sumac leaves turning crimson and it has us thinking about the leaves turning in the coming weeks.

a scarlet oak next to a white church in the late afternoon sun

Oak leaves catching the last rays

Columbus Day weekend
The New England fall foliage season is not a long one and most leaf peepers are on the road over the Columbus Day weekend. It sometimes  makes locals want to stay-at-home for those four days. 🙂

All too soon the end of the Columbus Day weekend arrives and everybody assumes that the fall foliage has left also.


Why Cape Cod?

If you know where to look, the New England falls colors are still to be found through the rest of October and even into November. In late October, autumn color is found no longer in the mountains but instead along the coastlines.

By this time, many of the fall foliage fairs up north have mostly ended and people are looking for the last of the sweet corn along with corn mazes to visit with their kids. It’s this time (the quiet time) that I like to head down to the Cape

This summer playground is normally packed from Memorial Day to Labor Day but once Columbus Day arrives most of the seasonal visitors have left. Summer rentals are closed up and restaurants and T-shirt shops look for the last visitors of the season. So all those beaches, that were crowded only a month or so earlier are now empty.

What kind of color will you find?

It’s at this time when I have the road virtually to myself that exploring is really fun. Maple trees are few compared to further north but Scarlet Oaks in dark red and elms ablaze in gold are quite plentiful. But I will say that pine and cedars are the norms for the Cape so don’t go this way expecting whole stands of color. Instead you will get fields of green with startling spots of red and yellows with rust reds to name a few.

Cape cod autumn colors of a scarlet oak next to a white church

White church next to red oak

The marsh grasses have turned a golden hue and walks along the coastal trails give you a chance to savor the fall colors during sunny afternoons. If you take a moment and explore the little towns of Cape Cod you’re just as likely to find a brilliant white painted church with a red Oak tree and a deep blue sky overhead as you would up in Vermont earlier in the month, and no less amazing either.

I often talk about the fall color progression as it flows down from Canada. The colors progress on the map and it looks like the eddy and currents of the ocean waves flowing on the beach. At this point, in late October, all that color has flowed down from the mountains and has reached the ocean.

It’s at this time that you can enjoy the near empty beaches, the lighthouses, (Nobska, Highland, Nauset to name a few) and the fall colors without having to stand shoulder to shoulder with other leaf peepers.

Suggested routes

To start, if you know me I never want to stay on the main roads so I would jump on 6A which runs north of Route 6 or take a run down Route 130 to Route 26 (check your map book) which runs south of the Mid Cape Hwy (Route 6). If you run along 26 you will drive through South Yarmouth over into west Dennis and if you have the time you could explore the coastal roads.

You’ll soon end up in Chatham and if you are going to be staying the night there are many B&Bs to pick from here with great views of the water. Since it’s the slow season or should be, you may also see some discounts on prices. I doubt reservations will be needed but you may want to call around to see who has a better price. (check my thrifty lodging app on this site to see what is listed)

All in all you should be able to find some great color and great food and wonderful ocean views to end the fall season with.

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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Fall foliage on Cape Cod — 6 Comments

  1. Hi Jeff! Love your work!
    I am planning a fall foliage color tour and I am heading from Michigan and ultimately ending up spending time on the cape through early to mid November. I’m hitting the Green Mountains the first week of Oct then I’m planning on taking the Mowhawk Trail and was wondering if that is usually peak or near peak durring that same time, first week of October? Any other great places to visit between West MA and the cape on my way?

  2. Making a trip to Barnstable, MA Oct 8-15. Where can we go from there to see great foliage?

    • North Gili, in general the colors get into MA around the 15th of Oct in general you’ll need to drive an hour or so north to have a chance of real color

  3. Greetings Jeff, great to hear from you. Great Autmnal rustic photos. Both of my F-1’s are true classics from the mid 70’s & are in great pampered condition. The lenses are the special coated lenses from that era as well, 55 mm. My trusty Leitz Tiltall tripod. Always enjoy conversing with another fellow photographer. I main photo interests are architecture, nature & travel. Look forward hearing back from you Jeff.

  4. Jut read your extensive articles of New England, great photo pics. I will be visiting a friend in Yarmouth Port Cape Cod on 10/13 til 10/18/2016. Hope to take in some breathtaking scenery & architecture, as this is my first visit to this area. Thanks again for your great articles, have a great day, hope to hear from you. By the way I am also an avid photographer, with my two trusty Canon F-1’s & various lenses.

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