New England Fall Foliage » Foliage Articles » Three techniques to improve your fall foliage trip
Golden leaves glow brightly in the New England autumn

My 3 techniques to improve your fall foliage trip

Today I’m going to give you three very important techniques that will help you minimize, bad fall foliage experiences. We all know you love coming to New England and finding great fall foliage. During 2005 and 2011 I heard the wailing of the masses across New England (I know because I was in Maine on my vacation) about how unfair Mother Nature was for raining out those on vacation. It was funny, I cut my trip short and the rain stopped before I left Maine. Hmmm…

So today we’ll explore three techniques that might help you minimize the worst effects of inclement weather during late September and October.


horses standing in a field below several hills covered in New England fall foliage colors

a hill covered in fall foliage color and horses in the field below it

First, every family taking a vacation will be different, from young/old to kids/no kids, so I can only talk in the broadest terms.  The first questions I ask folks are:

  • What are their dates?
    • (generally, your vacation dates determine the location of your trip)
  •  What are the ages of the people in the group? (kids generally aren’t happy spending all day looking for fall colors,).
    •  So before you plan long hours in the car crisscrossing New Hampshire looking for peak fall foliage, look for things for them to do.  (before you tell me no one would do that) I had someone tell me they planned 300 miles per day with two young kids in the car. I do belief this would have corrected itself because how many times can you hear “Are we there yet?” before you rethink that “all day driving plan”…
  •  What things do you like to do?
    • We have oodles of different museums, more farms than you can shake a stick at, if you’re a hiker we have some decently challenging mountains, a stretch of coastline that will keep you busy for years and everything in between. Check your dates because while some parks are still open in late Sept and early October, places like Clarks Trading post (great for families) closes just at Columbus day. This means you need to plan your dates by the hours they are open.

The three keys to successful fall foliage vacations, Flexibility, Zone Planning and a secret method!

Fall foliage surrounds the Balsams Hotel and the reflection doubles the impact.

Fall foliage surrounds the Balsams Hotel and the reflection doubles the impact.

If you have been a long time reader, none of these “keys” will be shockers. I have written about them over and over and be warned because I’m going to ask you to follow links to those articles and then come back.

The first two go hand in hand. Flexibility and Zone planning are two common sense approaches to creating your vacation itinerary. Confused? Ok look at it this way.

Most people try to pick their hotel by where they think the peak fall colors will be. Then they reserve their lodgings and start watching my reports and the Weather Channel and the local soothsayer down the street to see if they should cancel or move their reservations.

What if, once you had your reservations, you could relax because your location wasn’t right where you think peak is but instead, it’s within a short drive (let’s say one hour, give or take) from where great color might be.  If at this point you are saying NO! my hotel must look out on peak fall foliage color! Then please leave because I can’t tell you where that hotel is.

What we can do is pick a place that is between where the northernmost point of color will be and the southernmost point (in math terms the “mean” point or average).

Autumn fall foliage surrounds the property of the Shaker Museum

fall foliage surrounds Meeting house

So your “Zone” is based on your arrival date and picking the center of where the least amount of driving will take you into fall colors (peak or otherwise, lets just leave “Peak” out of it for now).

So for grins, let’s pick the horrific Friday to Monday that are Columbus Day weekend (CDW).  This is as I’ve said a thousand times the sweet spot for fall foliage. Prior to CDW the sweet spot is usually small and harder to pinpoint. But if the weather and other conditions coöperate, on this weekend the sweet spot increases in size to cover half of New England.

It does not mean that from the white mountains down to central Massachusetts will be peak (far from it) but in this area you will have a higher probability of finding good to great fall colors.

Zone planning

What I want you to do is pick a location east or west of the White mountains for CDW. If for example you choose Gorham NH. You would be at the intersection of Routes 2 and 16 and able to quickly go N/S/E/W in search of color. Or your zone could be for these dates over in western NH just west of Sugar Hill. Now you have easy access to I-93 and all the back roads leading to Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom down into Woodstock. All very drivable in under one hour depending on where the fall color is!


This pertains to having leeway in your schedule. If you are coming up for a week or longer then you could book two or more locations. Maybe you could book a room more northerly for 3 days and another more southerly (150-200 miles at most). Maybe you want to take in the coast for a relaxed time, and then I would start north to start and then go to the coast. The general rule is the coast is the LAST place where the fall colors arrive.

 Now! The secret method of finding and enjoying the fall colors…

A knight with a flaming sword fighting over knights

A knight with a flaming sword

You will rarely read this technique anywhere else, It’s my own personal technique so when we go on vacation. I have Lisa pick places that she wants to explore where ever we are. Then I will build in a lot of “slop” into the timing. This way while we’re on our way to a specific event or museum or festival and if we find glorious color, we have time to stop.

This leads to the image at the left. King Richards Faire is not cheap so if in mid Oct you want to photograph the cranberry bogs then you could arrive early and make a day of the faire (lots of photo ops there also and then since you are in Carver Ma, you drive around in the late afternoon sun and photograph the bogs!

Crawford Notch fall foliage train

Crawford Notch fall foliage train

We don’t try to cram everything into one day. If you are heading down into North Conway because it’s raining off and on, then allow time to take the side roads to get there. Maybe as you’re driving along you’ll see some horses in front of an old barn surrounded by maples of orange and yellow. [snap a memory] Now you stick your head back in the car and continue to Conway for shopping and walking through the shops and maybe a train ride. Then later in the afternoon the sun comes out and you head up to Jackson and stop at the covered bridge and maybe get some fall color there and go to the Wentworth for dinner and then slowly head back to your hotel for the night.

 The #1 mistake most people make is that they consider it a contest or race to see as much fall foliage colors as possible. I can tell you from experience that you miss out on so much running from tree to tree. Besides, its exhausting. I know because that is how I spend much of my Sept and Oct. 🙂

So that is it! Three techniques that if you can master, more or less of each of them, you will ensure you have a more relaxed fall foliage vacation. And when was the last time you came home from your vacation (any vacation) not needing a vacation to recover from your vacation. Face it we have forgotten how to relax but if you try to build fun and enjoyment into your foliage trip then you will at least have a chance to relax.


There is a saying that I like, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans“, in other words if you’re out having fun, exploring the New England countryside and you happen to find fall color, then it’s priceless.

I have a few more articles that you might find interesting to read (if not humorous) and they might answer a few of your questions.

Well, we’ve come to the end of another exciting chapter exploring the planning process for successful fall foliage vacations in New England.

If I’ve managed to raise more questions than answers please leave me a comment down below or if you need to use the contact form up on the main menu.

Have a great fall foliage day!


Jeff "Foliage" Folger  You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
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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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