New England Fall Foliage » Foliage Articles » 4 Rules for planning your fall foliage trip

A couple gave me a loose set of parameters and asked what I would suggest? This is tough because I’m not a travel agent but I look over my gazetteer maps and suggest routes that look interesting to me.

This is my response to a comment question on my blog that I thought everyone might get some benefit from. These are 4 rules for planning your fall foliage trip. (remember rules are made to be broken) The couple are arriving in NYC and renting a car and then driving in through NY, CT, MA, VT, NH and back to NYC. They didn’t have any firm plans so I brainstormed the following reply. If you have suggestions for Delia and her husband then put them in the comments below.

gristmill with water wheel with orange and yellow autumn fall colors

gristmill with waterwheel (its actually in VT but almost in NH)

— Well Delia I have some light reading for you but first, lets talk lodging. I want you to discuss with your husband how much time you want to spend driving versus being out of the car exploring. What I suggest as a rule of thumb, is something less than 300 miles in a day when you are trying to get from point A to point B. Once you are in an area where you want to explore then 100+/- is better. This 100+/- is not travel to another place but out exploring back roads and ponds and finding trails to hike.
Now I’m not the greatest repository of lodging recommendations but this article on finding a room during the fall foliage season will give you a good idea of places that I have stayed at:
And you should check TripAdvisor and Yelp Etc for more ideas, as I’ve only started to stay overnight during the past 2 years. But it may help you in planning your fall foliage trip.

Rule #1, pick up a good map book like a Gazetteer which I have links to on my planning tools pages on this site. I never travel with out my Gazetteers in the car as they are invaluable in planning your fall foliage trip. They are large topo maps and will point out every trail and pond and covered bridge you may want to find. You will also see all the state parks and more things than I have room to point out here.

Now for some”light reading” this article is a good primer on finding peak fall colors and you should also read:
The Art of getting lost
The best time for fall foliage in New England
If it rains here are 8 fun activities to try out.

Now here are a few articles detailing some scenic locations and things to do in VT, NH and MA
Guildhall grist mill
The Jenne farm, Vermont’s most photographed farm
Vermont’s Sleepy Hollow farm

New Hampshire:
Two of my favorite Franconia Notch views in autumn’s fall colors
Pondicherry wildlife refuge
Coffin pond fall foliage reflections
A long scenic drive north of the White mountains
The beaver pond at Kinsman notch
Reflections of a white church amid fall foliage reflections
Canterbury Shaker village in New Hampshire

Western Massachusetts fall foliage locations (links to a friend’s article)
A Vermont covered bridge in Sturbridge MA
The Hartwell tavern near Concord MA
Massachusetts locations

Now my general thoughts on a planning a driving route

Rule #2 There are no bad routes unless you travel on the highway all day!

The fall colors over Adamsville Rhode Island

Fall colors of Rhode Island

If I was driving this trip, I would first head North by Northeast with a general heading of Danbury, CT. This is a little over 2hrs depending on traffic. This may be far enough if you landed late in the day into Laguardia or JFK.

Now you could also head up along the coast of CT through Norwalk and finally to Mystic CT. (2hr,45min) Mystic seaport is beautiful and has several tall ships at anchor with many activities. But the fall colors won’t really be strong here until the end of Oct.

If Danbury (or vicinity) is your overnight stop then I would then drive north finding your way to route 7. This will take you up into the Litchfield hills which can easily take a day to explore.
If you continue up Route 7 into Massachusetts, Route 7 will take you through the Berkshires and Mount Greylock (Highest point in MA.

From this area I would drive up into Vermont on either Route 7 or Route 100. Route 100 is one of the Grand Dames of scenic byways and if you are doing this during the first week of October then the further north you go, the better the fall colors will be.

If you stay on Route 7 then directly across from Mt Tabor is Danby VT and the Silas Griffith Inn (from my short list of places stayed at). If you get to Middlebury you could cut across the Green Mountains on Route 125 (a very dramatic road to traverse the Green Mountains by.

Dates to choose from.

Vermont hillside aflame with a tapestry of fall colors in New England

Vermont hillside aflame with a tapestry of fall colors in New England

Rule #3 Now, much of your travel will depend on the dates you pick.

Remember the fall colors start from the north in Canada and proceed southward. The earlier your dates the further north you will have to travel to find the brightest colors.

(This is rule #4) You will also find this frustrating but!  You may find an entire hillside all in color and then for the next 5 miles, you may only see 1 tree out of 7 in color… I know it may not make sense but it’s the way it is.
If you choose 27 Sept to 4 October you will be waaaay up north in northern NH/VT or ME. (Think nearer to the Canadian border than the Mass border).
Also just to confuse you will most likely find great color between the northern points south to the feet of the White mountains and maybe even the Kancamagus (Kanc) highway (Route 112 between Route 93 to Tamworth NH). I have found beautiful color on the 1st of Oct along the “Kanc” but further south than that is doubtful until after the 7-10th of Oct.

7-15 Oct you can call this the sweet spot because in a normal year (And I’m still not sure what a normal year is) you will find the broadest swath of fall color in VT/NH and Maine and down into Massachusetts.

After the 15th of Oct you are getting from MA into CT and RI and nearing the coastal areas. In fact by these dates, I can find nice fall colors to good fall color all along the coastal towns of New England and traveling up to Ipswich or Hampton NH or even Harpswell, ME can be wonderful drives, right along the ocean’s edge.

I’m not sure how much more or less you require but I’m only a comment away…

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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4 Rules for planning your fall foliage trip — 9 Comments

  1. No Details on Maine? Moose, Mountains, Foliage and State Scenic Byway to Greenville, Maine. Top foliage destination online survey, Top 10 USA Today Wildlife Viewing (moose)

    Looking forward to foliage in Maine 2016

    Thanks, Jeff


  2. I found your four rules extremely helpful for our trip this fall. Four of us ar
    e taking two weeks to drive from Chicago to enjoy as much of New England as we can.

  3. Jeff, Here is one river cruise in CT.
    This is the Blackstone one

    The train one looks great I would add, Silver Lake Railroad in 1381 Village Road Madison NH 03849. Nice ride in the White Mountains that is very reasonable

    In Vermont There is the Vermont Railway System that will usually hold excursions all over the state during fall foliage

  4. Another thing to suggest is to also let someone do the driving for them, Various tourist railroads in the states run leaf peeper tours during the Fall and provide a nice way to see the colors in a relaxed setting. Also river cruises on the Blackstone River in Mass/RI and the Connecticut River in Ct are great ways to see coastal foliage without the stress of driving.

  5. They would do better to fly into Hartford, Ct. That way they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to get through NYC, unless that is part of their plan. All your suggestions are great and right on.. My husband and I have been coming to New England almost every fall for about 20 years and there is still so many places I want to see. We usually try to go to Yankee Candle Store in MA and one of our favorite places to go also is Acadia National Park. We don’t always get to drive that far because of time, but if they have time it would be worth the drive. My best advice I would say is to get off the Interstate and hit the back roads. They will not be disappointed.

    • Thanks Joy, she’ll probably see it… I would have said go to Manchester NH and start there and wind their way south till they get to the airport of their choice. But maybe they want to see something specifically along the way…

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