You will note as you read this that it starts out with Vermont directions then transitions to some western NH spots as well because as the 1st of Oct arrives, NH and ME are in full swing also. So you will find yourself swinging back and forth from VT into NH and back again. The same applies to Maine and NH…
As you would guess I receive many emails and they come in many flavors. Are my itinerary dates good? (maybe), When will be peak fall foliage in New England? (definitely!) and like this one, what are good fall foliage dates for these locations? As you read my answer to Mike and Sue, you have all the info that I had when I replied to them.
I created a formula and then wrote an article (the link is below) where I came up with this Equation, I + D = L. If your mind just blanked out because you hate math don’t worry, this is more of a logic problem than real math. 🙂 I’ve defined each of these as:
If this doesn’t make sense here is the article that explains it: When is peak fall foliage color in october. But when I get emails like this I like to turn them into a teaching tool so everyone can benefit from them. (basically I’m lazy and I don’t want to repeat myself!).
This email came to me from England and while I love to hear from you, I prefer to have you ask questions in the comments so everyone can see my answer. So please assume that when you email me, your questions will be shared the world over unless you tell me otherwise. 🙂
Comment: We are from England and are planning a trip to see the Fall colours – a life long ambition. Please can you advise us – before we book flights etc. Despite visiting many accommodation websites, I can not get a feel for the best dates to be sure of seeing glorious colours before they start to fade. We like the look of Warren in Vt and Jackson in NH. When please should we visit these places. We would much appreciate your advice.
Many thanks, Mike and Sue
My Answer: Hi Mike, I would say if you showed up around 5 October and did a few days over in Warren Vermont and then drive across all the back roads until you get to Jackson New Hampshire, I would bet you’d have a very colorful vacation.
Depending on where you arrive in New England I am betting it would be either Boston or Portland’s but if you could arrive in either Manchester, New Hampshire or Burlington, Vermont, it will cut down your driving time.
Boston has many flights that would connect you to Manchester NH and or Burlington Vermont. Even if you land in Boston and rent a car from there it wouldn’t be over three hours (probably less but allowing for traffic) to reach Warren Vermont.
The easiest way for you to travel with the least amount of confusion is to drive North on route 93 from Boston picking up route 89 near Concord New Hampshire and preceding Northwest until you are near Montpelier Vermont.
Once you have a place to stay in Warren Vermont you can begin to explore the East side of the green mountains.
Depending on what you enjoy you can look at route 12A which runs parallel to route 100 and along that stretch which runs between two high ridge lines and should provide a lot of color and opportunities to explore. You’ll also find the town of Northfield and Norwich University. (There are five covered bridges around the downtown area of Northfield and the gazetteers point them all out.)
One thing you can do is order a Gazetteer from Amazon.com which I find to be invaluable when I’m off the beaten path. This is a link to the map book in question.
You don’t have to get this particular map book and you could pick up at a local book store in England an atlas or detailed map book that covers Vermont and New Hampshire to your satisfaction. The above link only leads to the Vermont book and you’d still need to purchase the New Hampshire book to go along with it. I suggest order now (no matter what you purchase) and start studying the different towns both North and South of Warren Vermont and Jackson NH.
If the color comes early and Warren Vermont is fading you can travel South on Route 100 and be back in the thick of fall foliage colors. If the color is late and I tend to err on that side of caution, then you could travel North on route 100 with little difficulty and again be in the fall colors.
Places of interest around Warren Vermont: Northfield, Waitsfield, camels hump state forest, South on Route 100 is Hancock and route 125 across the green mountains (very winding road but “probably” will provide some great views at that time).
Swiftwater covered bridge
When it comes time to cross back to New Hampshire I’m thinking that if you traveled up to route 2 on 100b and then follow that South East until you pick up route 302 route 302 takes a leisurely ride through Vermont and into New Hampshire from their you could pick up route 112. Route 112 is a wonderful little road and it will travel along the wild Ammonoosuc River. (Sounds funny but most Indian names do, to me) you should find the Swiftwater covered bridge before you get into the white mountains.
Another thing to watch for is when you get into the white mountains on route 112 and the state forest turns into the lost River Road. It’s along this stretch where you will find the beaver pond. It’ll be on your right-hand side and it is down in a bowl below several peaks (Kinsman Notch) and there is a small parking lot for maybe eight or so cars and you can get out and stretch your legs.
If you look at some of my pictures from last year or search my site for kinsmen notch and beaver pond you will find pictures of what this pond can look like when it is colorful. The location will be on many maps or in the gazetteers as I have pointed out.
You will come out in Woodstock New Hampshire (but you’ll stay on Route 112 all the way to Route 16 in NH) if you arrive in Woodstock during a meal. There are several places to grab a sandwich or meal. If you drive a bit further into Lincoln New Hampshire you will find that this ski town is full of fast food sandwich places and delightful restaurants that are very popular in the winter.
You definitely will want to cross the next expanse of route 112 during the day (early afternoon is nice). This section is called the Kancamagus highway. And you will find many references to this stretch in travel books and travel sites all over the Internet. There will be several pull-offs as your crossing these mountains so don’t let traffic from behind you push you to go too fast or you might miss a scenic opportunity. You will be crossing somewhere in the 7000 to 9000 foot elevation and the views can be quite spectacular.
You will finish this trip by arriving out on route 16 which will be just South of Conway New Hampshire. From here watch your signs and you will be heading north through North Conway and this is a major shopping area due to the fact that they are tax-free in New Hampshire (but I don’t know of any way to get you around this with ease. Who knows you might even enjoy it)
North Conway does have a scenic train that you should arrange for tickets early if you want to take one of their foliage trains. You will continue on route 16 until you see the signs for Jackson New Hampshire.
Jackson is cute little town there is a very eclectic art shop next to the firehouse and I highly recommend stopping in there for at least 30 min. to an hour and make sure that you wander around their backyard (there’s no way to explain it you just have to do it).
There are many little shops around Jackson along with the golf course and depending on what road you come in on to Jackson, you will see their covered bridge. I believe one of the prettiest places to stay at is the Wentworth in Jackson but I’m sure there’s a few more if you look.
In the area of Jackson you can either go back South to Route 302 and then follow that West and North up through Crawford Notch State Park you’ll be crossing high elevations and you will of views and colors galore, (or should) 🙂
The town of Conway has two covered bridges, the Swift River covered bridge and the Sacco River covered bridge both are nearly in sight of each other you can follow the map books to find your way there. Also if you have time and are so inclined you can take a drive up the W. Side Rd. which parallels route 16 and goes from center Conway (what they call their town in the South and before you get to North Conway) and as you travel up W. Side Rd. it will run along the foot of the white mountains.
Along this stretch but before you get to Route 302 you will see signs for Cathedral ledge state Park and Diana’s Bath. Both involve very short hikes and are easy to walk. Cathedral ledge you can drive all the way to the top and then walk around the top of this escarpment. The views allow you to see into North and South New Hampshire, East into Maine and West, on a clear day, into Vermont.
Again follow the map books and if you have a GPS that might be helpful as the road signage is never quite as good as I would hope.
These points that I’ve put down on paper here for you are just a few of the things that you might see in your travels. And you can go more adventurous or less adventurous as is your temperament. Since I don’t know you and what you’re looking for exactly I feel this will give you something to shoot for and change as you see fit.
All of the places that I’ve mentioned are ones that I visit routinely every year and I’m seldom disappointed by my visits. Outside of a day with a downpour or after extreme high winds have taken the leaves down, which can happen at a moments notice and you end up with a beautiful carpet of fall colors. Always disappointing but always a possibility at the same time.
If there were any guarantees that I could give you I would but in general that’s what makes searching for the fall colors an adventure! You never know what you will or won’t get. Mother nature is fickle at best and some years I’m overly successful and other years I come away with five pictures for the entire month of October.
The one thing to remember is look for things that you want to do and explore and see and take the fall colors as they come this way you can have a great vacation by visiting Vermont and New Hampshire and if mother nature is in a good mood, she’ll also grant you some extraordinary fall colors.
Jeff "Foliage" Folger You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
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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.