Best time for fall foliage in New England
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Question #1 every year: When is the best time for fall foliage in New England? Based on this set of loose parameters, it’s an easy Question… October, Of Course!

Jeff Foliage viewing peak fall foliage

looking out on all the incredible fall color at the beaver pond.

Rarely is anyone happy with that answer though, and they want a more specific date range down to a week or even a particular weekend?

Now you are asking the 24 million dollar question! But I usually tell folks this on the blog: Columbus Day weekend is the most heavily traveled weekend for two reasons.

  • First, it’s a three day weekend.
  • Second, this weekend (or week) is usually the start of when you will find the broadest tract of peaking fall colors across VT, NH and ME (not to mention the Berkshires of MA)

 

 Foliage Map

Now if you don’t know what I mean by “broadest tract” Take a look at this map from the Yankee Magazine foliage website.

Foliage map

Foliage map courtesy of Yankee’s foliage website

You will see that bright red corresponds to the Peak colors and it covers a very broad area of Northern New England. Now please keep this in mind this is nothing more than a good guesstimate of what the fall colors will do in any given year.

If you look at the small calendar in the corner it’s centered on 7 Oct. So in theory you should have a really good chance of finding great color.

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What the maps don’t tell you?

What the map (this one or anyone elses) won’t tell you! That this is a generalization and does not take into effect dry/wet spells or maple leaf rot or other environmental effects that happen in random years.

Here is where I jump off the ledge with both feet and make a call based on what I’m seeing here in the New England area. Somebody has to be crazy enough to do it! :-)

But! as tools go this isn’t a bad one and for this year Jeff Foliage says…

[remember this was written in 2013, click this link to go to my forecast listing]  I think these are good dates but I might slide the date a few days later. We had a late spring and summer along with a very wet June. I think these factors will lead us to slight delay in the fall colors or a sporadic start to the colors depending on what we get in Sept as far as temps and precipitation.

What we want to see is  a warm summer fading by the end of August into a cooler and dry Sept. This way we will get the colors when we want them. A dry Sept will concentrate the sugars in the leaves and give us much brighter colors! So cross your fingers…

So the best time for fall foliage in New England is whenever you get here! The earlier you get here then the further north you will be and if you show up in late October then you want to arrive further to the south… That isn’t too hard, is it?

Jeff “Foliage” Folger

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Comments

Best time for fall foliage in New England — 25 Comments

    • Hi Brian, I’m assuming you are going up the Saint Lawrence? and coming south along Halifax, Maine, NH, MA, RI, CT and NY (Don’t think there is another way but I don’t know everything :-)
      Now assuming you are leaving 26 Oct then I would say you should see a fair bit of color. The coastal areas of New England are the last areas to change color So there is a good chance to see some very good color on the way south.
      Some of the issues you need to think about are any stops. If you go inland you will find the color gone fast. But! if you have good places to visit then your vacation will be full of memories and if you do find some color (there may not be a lot) but you will even get better memories.

      I checked a New York fall foliage website and they said their last report was around 6 Nov 2013. (http://fallgetaways.iloveny.com/LANDING_FOLIAGE_REPORT.html) and this bodes well for you but if its more than 2 weeks before you get there it may be better to move it up a week if possible..
      Questions? you know where to find me!

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    • Please let me know when you are done. I would love to hear what you thought about the whole experience. Type ship, food, entertainment and what kinds of stops you make on the way. Then we can put it on this site so others know what your experience is like.
      Thanks! and good luck… :-)

      Anyone who reads this, I would love to hear from you also! Did you take a tour and what kind of experience did you have?

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    • Well Rosalind I hope you don’t mean 20 July (today) or 20 August. If you mean 20 Sept… best you be on your way to Montreal CA or somewhere along the Canadian border.
      Now funnin aside, 20 Oct should good for much of Massachusetts if not RI and CT. You don’t say where the tour is going but you should see good colors if Mother Nature cooperates.

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  1. Hi Jeff, I will be traveling to Boston to get with a tour group that will be going through all the New England states. The tour begins the first week of October, is this a good time? my original plan was to leave San Francisco around September 23, but after reading so many different comments, I decided to go head to Boston on October 3, My plan is to try and make the foliage peak time. This has been a long time dream.

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    • Hi Rosalind, you would have to post the itinerary so I could look at the whole thing. 3 October is fine as long as they are heading north from Boston to NH or VT and not up the coast. The coast is always the last to get the fall colors. So if they are smart they will take you up into the white mountains or the Northeast kingdom and then they could wind there way back between the two and maybe over the Kancamagus and through Conway into Maine and out to the coast and slowly make their way to Boston…
      Post the info here and I’ll be happy to give my opinion. :-)

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      • Hi Jeff thanks for taking the time to make a trip a great one. I have included my traveling plan. I will arrive in Boston the first day and Day 2 Brief visit to Fanueil Hall Marketplace. Drive by the State Capitol and the Boston Commons. Continue to Lexington, where the Minutemen had their first Revolutionary skirmish. See the Battle Green where “the shot heard around the world” signaled the start of the American Revolution. Follow the route of Paul Revere from Lexington to Concord. Stop at the Old North Bridge. Then, head south and stop at Plymouth Rock, where pilgrims from the Mayflower landed in 1620. Next, to Cape Cod’s southern shore for a two night stay at your resort in the popular vacation community of Hyannis.
        Day 3 – Martha’s Vineyard
        Morning ferry from Woods Hole across the bay to Martha’s Vineyard, named for a European sailor’s daughter, Martha, who found wild grapes growing on the island. The island is a haven for artists, poets, singers and celebrities who are attracted to its laid-back, charming lifestyle. Here, enjoy an island tour of sweeping vistas. See Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Visit the historic whaling town of Edgartown with its narrow streets and elegant homes. Enjoy leisure time to wander, shop and visit the art galleries
        Day 4 – Rhode Island, Connecticut
        Journey this morning to the sailing capital of the world, Newport, Rhode Island. Visit the historic Vanderbilt “summer cottage,” The Breakers. This Italian Renaissance style palace has 70 rooms and is the grandest of all Newport estates. Then, on a sightseeing drive of Newport, see the mansions of the “400 Club” and St. Mary’s Church, where Jacqueline Bouvier married John F. Kennedy. Continue to the seaport of Mystic, Connecticut. Visit Mystic Seaport, the nation’s leading maritime museum, dedicated to the golden age of seafaring. View impressive tall ships.
        Day 5 – Norman Rockwell, Vermont
        This morning, into the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, where Norman Rockwell spent the last 25 years of his life. Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. Admire the collection of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers which extol the virtues of everyday Americans. Visit Rockwell’s studio, preserved exactly as it was when Rockwell painted here. Then, overnight in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
        Day 6 – Vermont, New Hampshire
        A scenic mountain drive this morning along country roads takes you by Plymouth Notch, birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge. Our 30th President took the oath of office from his father, by the light of a kerosene lamp. Continue to Woodstock, described as “the prettiest small town in America.” Photo stop at a covered bridge. This afternoon, journey through the White Mountains of New Hampshire to your resort in North Conway.
        Day 7 – Portland, Maine
        This morning, travel past Maine’s lakes to Portland on the rocky Atlantic coast. Visit Portland’s waterfront. Continue to the resort of Kennebunkport. Free time to explore this quaint small town.

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        • I assume on the evening of the 9th or the morning of the 10th you’ll be back in Boston for the flight home.
          On day’s 1-4 I suspect your color spotting will be limited. 10-20% which is what I call nice color. In 2012 on 27 Sept I saw a few trees that were showing outstanding color along the battle road at the Hartwell tavern. but most all the other trees around this spectacular one were mostly green.
          MV and RI will be mostly green.
          NOW is where it gets interesting… The Berkshires are at a higher elevation so color comes earlier and should be very nice, Stockbridge maybe lesser color but I bet nice as of 7 Oct and the museum is wonderful!!! I loved it!

          Plymouth notch should be a great drive up and if they take you on Route 100, Bonus! but they may also take you on Route 7 which is less rustic. They will most likely take you up to Route 4 and head east to Woodstock and if they are good they should stop and let you photograph the Taftsville covered bridge (before you get to Woodstock (Woodstock has it’s own covered bridge (CB) as well. The Taftsville CB was just rebuilt and is a bright red CB.
          You can impress them by how much you know about the local area. :-)

          Conway has two great Covered Bridges that are very easy to get to (The saco and swiftriver CBs.) and North Conway is a wonderful stop as all the outlet stores are tax free… (shopping) :-) Most likely they will take you over the Kancamagus highway (Route 112) to get to Conway (The best easy and most scenic route) And it should be about peak fall color by then (or just past but still awesome)

          As you head to Portland you will move from the peak or high color areas into light or nice color and finish up your trip.

          Over all it may be a bit rushed but you are seeing some awesome scenery and historic places and if Mother Nature cooperates… Some peak foliage! What more can you ask for?

          If you have any more questions for me, you know where to find me.

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  2. Hi Jeff, I think I will be changing to the 17th of October, talking about a woman that can not make up her mind. I think I will finalize this date. I spoke with the tour company and they will be able to fit me in on the 17th and will be returning back to San Francisco on the 24th. I can’t stay away from the Bay to long :).

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    • Well now you’ll make me out to be an idiot.. :-) Change all the advice I gave below… more color on the cape good to better color in Lexington/Stockbridge fading color (but still nice from Plymouth Notch to Conway) Except if the take you over the Kanc you’ll have nice views but little color due to the elevation.
      Going into Portland should be very colorful

      Ok if you change again… I don’t want to know about it… :-O

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  3. Hi Jeff, My sincere apologies, this is my first trip to the New England states, and I just too excited. I’m trying to pinpoint the best time to travel. I’ve been told that if it is raining it is a wasted vacation, do you agree? Also, what is the average temperature around that time?

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    • There are no apologies needed, except for my poor attempt at humor. It really is your vacation and not a small chunk of money is on the line. As far as rain during the vacation… Well it won’t be as much fun, that is for sure. Could it rain every single day of it??? Yes it could, and there is nothing you or anyone can do about it.
      My 2005 vacation in Oct was rain every day… Every day until I check out early from the place in Maine and started heading home… Then it didn’t rain until November…. Go figure…

      The good thing is this, you have all these great places to see and even if you do get some rain (bring a rain coat and an umbrella and probably there will be no rain!) you are going to have a great time! Make some friends share some wine and enjoy the sights. One thing a lot of people do is to show up in New England with nothing planned but driving up and down until they see some fall foliage colors! Sounds a bit boring to me and I do exactly this every year… But I get paid to do it… (Hell somebody has to do it!)
      This year there has been a change. The climate prediction folks at NOAA now say there is and equal chance of above or below normal rainfall AND! above or below normal temps which is the first year in a while when we’re NOT supposed to have a warm fall so we may get some really good colors.
      The facts Rain does slow down or stop the leaves from developing color. If we had weeks of cloudy weather and no sunny days, about the same thing.

      Average temps for the 2nd week of Oct should be highs in the low 70s or upper 60s and lows on the 40s to 50s. I suggest layering. a light shirt and a fleece pullover or jacket and if you have a fleece vest that can fit under the fleece pullover/jacket all the better. AND if you have a waterproof shell or rain jacket to go over all of that perfect. I generally wear a waterproof shell and a fleece vest over a cotton t-shirt. if it warms up the vest can stay in the car and if it gets colder than that I’ll find a dunkin doughnuts for a hot pumpkin spiced coffee and pumpkin muffin…
      Tell the bus driver to pull over everytime he see a dunkin doughnuts and you will never get home. New England really does run on Dunkin… we have one on every street corner.. :-)

      Feel better? :-)

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  4. Thanks Jeff, I will be keeping in touch until I board the plane. Will I see you along the way? It will be nice to get a picture with you to bring back to San Francisco. I will continue to watch and listen to the weather for updates and predictions about the East Coast. Sounds as though the weather willbe like the Indian Summer’s we have here in the Bay Area.

    Do you recommend any special places to dine? of course shopping, which is my favorite thing. During the tour I will have time on my own to do whatever I want.

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    • Well it’s always possible but this year it will probably be on a Thursday or Friday as these are my days off. As to a picture… I don’t know if that is a good idea! I had a couple take my picture some years back and I warned them that their camera might bust… Well it did! Stopped working after one shot… So I never kid about it anymore.
      As far as meeting on the road.. Make sure you know where you will be and I can only see if I will be around that area,

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  5. Hey Jeff
    Heading up to VT the last Thursday of September until Monday. I always go the first weekend of October to the Killington area and it is beautiful and I decided that this would always be the perfect time to go to that area. This year the first weekend in Oct was booked so I had to settle for the last weekend in September, normally I wouldn’t mind but this year I am bringing a friend for the first time who has never been to VT and I want he to see what I have been bragging about for so long. Do you think I still have a good chance of some great colors last weekend in Sept in Killington area? Thanks Jeff
    -Jeff

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    • Well in my estimation I don’t think you will be far enough north but you do have some bigs hills to climb. This early I’m heading to Greenville Maine and then just north of the White mountains. You’re planning on being south in Rutland… I know you will some color but how much? You could be saved because I think we will see early color IF the temps stay low and then when we go into Sept they may drop across New England… This may result in a repeat of 2013 when color developed in CT and RI as well as up north AT THE SAME TIME. You want to talk about confused photographers (including me)

      So.. if we stay warmer then you should be in trouble with little color but! if we stay cooler (80s instead of 90s) in August and Sept cools down for the month then we will be seeing color develop slowly but early… That is my best guess so far… More next week in my blog.

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    • Hi Rosalind, I have an article coming out in the morning which will talk about what September may look like and basically it’s calling for above average temperatures in September (which goes against all the other long-range forecasts out there)
      but I’ll be watching the nighttime temperatures which will be more telling than what the overall average temperatures are. I’m afraid you’ll probably have to just keep reading the blog and check in on Facebook to see if there is any wildly differing opinions or updates or alerts on what’s going to happen.
      I still think we’re in for a good year and less something drastic happens that is totally unforeseen like a hurricane running over the middle of new England at the beginning of October (knock on wood, several times) :-)
      I know you’d like to have a definitive answer but the weather is just one thing that is rarely definitive.

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  6. I was born and raised in RI. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit th NE states to appreciate the majestic beauty of the fall foliag. I now reside in TX. I descovered your site today. How AWESOME!!! Now I can remember the visualization of the beauty that exists this time of year. I have to reflect on my memories of the sounds and smells that surrounded the artwork that only Mother Nature can paint. Keep the pictures coming! I will be constantly checking in with you. KATHY MARTINEZ

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  7. Found your site on my first query about fall color in the northeast. Eating lobster and seeing the leaves has been on my bucket list….and following a bout with a rare blood cancer I have stepped up my adventures. My question is do I need to make hotel/inn reservations or can I just hop in a rental car and take off and go where the road and leaves take me? I am looking at coming in mid-October…whenever I can find cheapest flight.

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    • Mid October means you’ll be in southern VT,NH or ME OR in good portions of MA. After Columbus Day you can “wing it” IF you don’t hold out for upper end accommodations. If you are OK with a clean room, hot water type motels? Then you should be ok. But if you need a Wyndham hotel to stay in then get a reservation.
      The lower expectations you can go with, the easier you can find a place to stay. Get an app on your phone to locate lodgings or go to my site and click the tab for thrifty lodging (I do get paid if you make a reservation through it) but no matter which app you use prepare before you get here to get a room by 4 PM each day…

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