Autumn Fall Foliage

Peak fall colors on the beaver pond on lost river road. This is on the western edge of New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Peak fall colors at dawn on NH beaver pond

The days get shorter and the fall foliage in New England begins its change from green to crimson. Crisp mornings with wisps of fog rise from ponds lined with red maples.

Have I caught your imagination yet? :-)

Who is this Jeff Foliage? (Really it’s Jeff Folger but my editor liked Jeff Foliage).
I’m a photographer with a small Photography business in Salem MA. Some would say I’m passionate about photographing New England’s fall foliage.
Yankee magazine says I’m a bit “obsessed” with capturing Autumn’s fiery show. (They could be right) They even wrote an article about me titled: The Leaf Seeker: Jeff Folger

My thoughts on New England fall foliage
I have been photographing Autumns in New England for some years now and nothing thrills me as the approach of the fall colors. At any time of the year I love to get out and explore the countryside (or seashore, or mountains, etc…) But  something about exploring the New England countryside during the fall foliage season drives me to search out that all so elusive peak foliage moment.

Why is New England Fall Foliage the best?

There are many arguments on who has the best fall foliage colors. Some of this is due to pride in one’s home state and some of it is due to those all important tourist dollars.  But anyway you slice it, there are many places in the US that can make a claim to having great fall foliage views.

Sassafras leaf

Sassafras leaf in fall color

I have traveled over a fair portion of the globe and in my opinion New England is the best place for Autumns fall foliage show. The reason we are number one (again in my opinion) is the hardwood diversity and density of the New England area. The forestry service says that we have over 60 varieties of color producing trees. You have the king of fiery foliage producing trees like the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) which heavily populate Vermont and New Hampshire’s forests along with the rest of New England. (Heck I even found one in Alaska!)

The number of varieties of birch or black gum are many. Then there are the trees that aren’t considered fall foliage color producers but are, such as the Sassafras tree. This also doesn’t count the number of species of bushes that turn color like the fire bush (seen below).

What is the Classic New England view?

You might ask what is this classic New England view?  If fall foliage is found across the nation, then why come here?

St. Matthew's Church in sugar Hill New Hampshire on 1 October 2013

St. Matthew’s Church in sugar Hill New Hampshire on 1 October 2013

One thing unusual about New England is our lack of desire to change at the same fast pace as most places around the country.  Sure Boston or Hartford are as progressive as most big cities but once you leave the big cities behind you will find that the clock slows down. In some cases it stopped dead a century ago and hasn’t moved since then.

The classic view of the town common with the white church on the green can still be found very prominently in many towns and this is jealously guarded. The old Victorian homes of sea captains were so well made that many are 2-300 years old and highly prized for their workmanship.  Yes, you will find the new and modern here but mostly you will find the historical well-preserved.

I Look at how many folks love to admire old barns and covered bridges. I’ve seen covered bridges as far away as Oregon but if you ask someone, where would they go to see one, I bet they say Vermont!  So when you come to New England you expect to find the country store or the white church with its steeple reaching high into the sky all surrounded by New England’s fiery fall foliage.

Do you want to find Peak fall foliage?

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

To start off, this subject occupies most of my waking hours and apparently some of yours if my emails any an indicator. This is the most asked question for me from leaf peepers the world over.

Some people say finding peak fall foliage is a science but I say it’s more of a mystical art.  The truth is simple, its impossible to forecast but you can increase your chances.

I just wrote an article (one of many) on my thoughts on how to best attempt to find peak fall foliage in New England.

Next I’m going to send you over to Yankee’s fall foliage website to watch a video on finding “peak foliage” by Mel Allen the editor of Yankee Magazine. If anyone is an authority it’s Mel Allen.

Jeff “Foliage” Folger
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Comments

Fall Foliage of New England — 19 Comments

  1. Jeff & Lisa, this’ll be the last time I bother you guys, I promise. I studied your suggestions and I also spent ALL day reading and thinking about my itinerary and I think I’ve come up with the perfect & SENSIBLE one for me and my husband. I eliminated Quebec and jumping around from one hotel to the next, which I hate, and instead I chose just a few bases from which to explore the surroundings. Here it is:
    Oct. 6 Boston overnight. Oct. 7-10: N. Conway/ Jackson. Oct. 11 – 14: Stowe Oct. 15 -16. New Salem. Oct. 17: Fly home.

    What do you think? Thank you once again in advance!
    Nancy

    • It looks good except for Stowe, there you may be a little light on leaves but there is so much to do there that I don’t think it will matter. This is very doable and I don’t think you’ll get home needing a vacation…

  2. Thank you again, Jeff and Lisa, for your speedy and informative help! Your suggestions are great! One last question: do you think, considering my interest in northern VT, NH and Quebec that it would be better to change my trip to Sept. 22 – Oct. 3rd? Also, would there be less crowds during that time?

  3. Gosh, Jeff and Lisa, I’m so amazed that you gave me such a fast and detailed response! Thank you so much! So I read your comment several times and I see that you’re right: trying to see VT, ME, NH & QC is way too much. Something’s gotta give. So I’m giving up Maine (not interested in coastal towns) and Quebec City (too far away). My questions:

    1) But how about visiting one of the Eastern Townships near the border instead of Quebec City? What is your opinion about that?
    2) I need 3 or 4 home bases, 3 to 4 nights per base (I have 11 nights). I’m thinking #1: Woodstock/Quechee #2: North Conroy/Jackson #3: Massachusetts???
    3) Re: Columbus Day Weekend: Where do you recommend staying since I understand it’s extremely crowded and booked up during that time?

    As I said, husband & I are arriving in Boston on Oct. 6 at 3:30 pm, leaving Oct. 17. Our main goal: to see the best fall foliage scenery and classic New England towns (and POSSIBLY a little of Quebec Province). Thank you once again for yesterday’s comments and thank you in advance for your next one!!!!

    Nancy

    • Hi Nancy, Anywhere in Canada will be light on color… You could hit Montreal and the old town which is very historic but it’s still 1 hour north of the border… (Your call) Another interesting item.. We saw this on Chronicle. In Derby line VT is a library/Opera house that sites on the Canadian border. The Haskell Free Library sits astride the line between Canada and the US… Read about it here.
      6th I would still base it on your arrival time and what you feel you can do driving after coming across the country. If you arrive late on the 6th then stay in or near Boston, get a good meal and sleep. If you arrive early then drive to Woodstock VT (or that general area) on the 7th drive to either northern VT or into Canada. I would say north of Stowe somewhere would be good. 8th or so travel to Conway/Jackson explore.
      I would pick a spot for the long weekend. Maybe Conway or Ossipee NH because you can drive into Maine or into eastern Vermont. On Monday the 12th I would say head south and from here out you can probably do without reservations. I would say end up near New Salem MA on the 15/16th and then depending on departure time you can come back on I-90… I hope this helps somewhat…
      Peterborough NH is a artsy scenic town and just a little further along 101 is Dublin NH the home of Yankee magazine… and Petersham and New Salem MA are very pretty little towns around the Quabbin reservoir. You could also look at Historic Deerfield MA which is the home of Yankee candle and they have an old section of town that is truly historic…

      up near Jay peak or Derby Line, or

  4. Hi Jeff, We are retired and have alot of time and want to do a driving trip to see the best Fall Foilage in the Northeast. We are driving from Dallas, Tx. Can u give us suggestions for our trip?

    • Tons… :-) Read every article and you will know all… You don’t give much to work with.. If you want to visit northern VT/NH then 25 Sept-2 Oct. White mountains and Green mountains 1-7 Oct. Lakes region of NH 10-17 Oct. central VT (Woodstock) 7-15 Oct southern NH or VT 12 Oct to 20 Oct…
      Massachusetts, 13 Oct to 30 Oct (maybe a little later on the water) RI and CT 15 Oct and later…

      You need to figure out interests, what makes you happy? History? antiques? lobster rolls? covered bridges? Find out what you will enjoy seeing?

  5. Hi Jeff, I’ll be flying into Boston from LA on Oct. 6 and leaving Oct 17. I want to see the best foliage scenery in VT, ME & NH but I also want to see Quebec City. Any suggestions or recommendations?

    • Well Nancy a lot of these suggestions will depend on you. Lisa and I say you’re going to be able to do this but depending on how long you’ll spend in each place but because of going to Quebec you will have a long trip.
      First, The colors were probably peak in Quebec in mid Sept so by the 7th or 8th you’ll be seeing a lot of bare trees. The colors start up there and head south.
      Next we think you should drive from Boston to Woodstock or Quechee VT for the first night or over-night and extra night there because the colors should be awesome about that time. Depends on arrival time in Bos. I always recommend not driving forever because that will be very wearing on you.
      After staying in those areas where you should be seeing great color you could jump back on 91 and head north and either head to Quebec from there or drive over to Franconia and spend a day in that area. (getting a little late for the colors in that area but still nice.
      Then head up 91 to Quebec. You don’t say how long you want to spend there. (that could be a week trip by itself) Coming back down from Quebec, I would head down 73 to 173 and pick up 201 in Maine.
      If you are out of time at this point then drive to Boston and fly home… But if you still have some days left then drive down to Route 1 and follow it south through all the small towns along the coast of Maine. These are some of the most scenic points in Maine. 201 brings you down to Augusta and from there you can head to Camden on 17. In Camden is the Norumbega Inn which we stayed at a year back, (very nice) and you could spend a day there relaxing. The fall colors along the coast should be peaking about this time or nearly so and you could drive to the top of Mount Battie and look down on Camden. (always beautiful).
      Then follow route 1 south to Rockland (rockland lighthouse is there and nearby is Owls head light).
      Staying on Route 1 brings you into Bruinswick and Freeport which is the home of L.L. Bean.
      Continuing south is Portland (Portland lighthouse) and Ogunquit and then York. York is also Cape Neddick and the nubble lighthouse (heres an image http://vistaphotography.artistwebsites.com/featured/nubble-lighthouse-lit-for-the-season-jeff-folger.html) and from there you can continue down to Salem MA for some fun Halloween there and in an hour be in Boston and catch your plane home…

      When we say adding Quebec is doable… It is but it makes the trip so much longer and you will drive out of the fall colors and at the end of the trip back into them again. So you will have visited VT, NH and ME and gotten in Quebec…
      I hope this helps…
      Jeff and Lisa

  6. Jeff , My wife and I are planning a fall foliage trip during the first part of October. Our plan is to fly into Boston and spend a couple of days seeing the sites in Boston and then we want to rent a car and spend a few days seeing the fall foliage and we want to see Kennebunk Port and Boothbay Harbor. Can you advise on where to stay during the foliage tour and any sites that we should not miss on this once in a lifetime trip?

    • Well Mike I have to say that sucks… Once in a lifetime trip? It’s really tough to do all in one go… But I digress…
      First I would safe Boston for last maybe a day or two most. Do the freedom trail and the National park areas, some good food and historical sites, jump on the plane all rested…
      I would arrive and head North asap. First I would make reservations for the Stowe in in Stowe VT. It’s the only place in Stowe I’ve stayed at and feel it’s nice but not too pretentious. I paid 109/night but that was show up at 9PM and they were just wanting to get someone in there. The read my locations by State for Vermont. That will give you ideas of places to hit. Do a few days there 2-3 then move on.

      Next depending on when exactly would determine how far north in NH to hit. The earlier the further north. But around the 6th to 9th You might look at Conway or Jackson NH. You could spend a couple days there or head south of the White mountains and find something around the lakes region and Meredith NH. Some places like the Churches landing are $400/night but they have 3 other properties that are much cheaper. (call soon)

      Then head across into Maine but you will find that there are no straight east/west road so you can wind you way east until you hit 95 or better yet Route 1. and head north along the coast. I like the Norumbega Inn in Camden but though I’ve stayed in Boothbay harbor (place on the water sounded great and french but I would stay at a best western instead…
      Hit tripAdvisor or yelp to get reviews in towns where you’d like to stay.

      Hit this page with links for all 6 states…http://www.jeff-foliage.com/locations-state/

      I really hope this isn’t a “once in a lifetime trip” and that you come back for another visit… :-)

  7. Hi Jeff, planning on a long weekend trip (Columbus Day weekend, Oct 8-12) up to Burlington Vermont from Southeastern Mass. Can you recommend any “must-sees” along the way for dynamite foliage??

    MUCH APPRECIATED!!
    -Nathan

    • I love to take Route 2 over and stopping in Erving at the Train depot antique place (great junk can be found there AND the have a lunch counter.. If hungry, a must stop! Then just past there the views get really interesting with high walls and twisty roads. You will have only a few pull outs so keep your eyes open. Florida is a nice stop. I would take 7 north and look for middlebury and Route 125 which depending on timing you could take over to Route 100and north. Then you can travel up to 89 and hit Burlington… If more time is allowed then instead of 89 hit Route 12 or 12A and take it into Northfield. Five Covered bridges await you there.
      I need to write a good article on those five but this article will cover a bit of your journey… http://www.jeff-foliage.com/2015/05/exploring-the-green-and-white-mts-then-the-berkshires/

  8. I write from Barcelona, Europe. Next fall I will travel to Boston and New England, as I´m interested in seeing the fall foliage. When is the peak season ).

    Thanks

    • Well Joseph, Peak fall foliage is a moving target. To start out for early color you will be looking at between 25 Sept-3 Oct and you will want to be in either the NEK of Vermont or Northern Maine (way northern Maine). From 30 Sept – 5 Oct a safe bet is Sugar Hill in New Hampshire. As you go a few days from this point you will want to be looking further south. Another thing is the temperatures. If (like in 2006/7) we have a very warm fall then the color change will be delayed. The trees need the upper 30s at night and warm daytime temps. Also if we get a massive amount of rain (like 2005) this will also delay or in some cases cancel the fall colors.
      We need a little rain a little warmth and cool nighttime temps to signal the trees to put on their colorful show. Also the color will start early at higher elevation (cooler temps) and stressed trees in swampy areas around ponds…
      Ok where was I… Dates between the 3-10th The white monutains are a safe bet and mid Vermont and mid Maine (Rangely lake off route 17).
      Now here is where it usually starts picking up speed. between the 13th to17th you will find good color from the lakes region to southern NH, southern VT, southern Maine, and northern Mass. From the 18th on you will find color through out Massachusetts but there is an exception to this and that is out in the Berkshires. which are at higher elevation so you can hit that area between 3-10th to see color.
      Also from the 20th of Oct you should start to see good color along the coast line which is normally the last place to turn due to the warmer temps being nearer the ocean. The background shot for this page was shot in Peabody (near the ocean but not on it) around the 26th of Oct.
      Also you can plan on color in CT and RI from the 19th of Oct on….
      I hope this helps somewhat… Much of you question will be determined by the dates you plan on coming in on and what you really want to see. Also as anyone will tell you if you are picky on where you stay now is the best time to get your lodging arranged. If you have any other questions drop me a line here. Also check the links along the side of the page as these are many of the sites that I use to gauge the fall season.

  9. Thanks so much, I just updated feedburner and it should be running now. Let me know if you find anything else!