I just got back from my first road trip last night, searching for fall foliage in northern New Hampshire and Vermont.
Did I find any fall foliage?
I’ll answer this question in each segment where I talk about a different area of the trip over the past three days.
Our trip north started on Wednesday afternoon and we took route 93 up to Lincoln New Hampshire. Fall color in the general vicinity of Lincoln is limited to early stressed trees and what I call *pre-turning color, so, not really.
(pre-turning color definition: this is usually dark red leaf color which should turn to a bright red or red orange color over the next few weeks it also applies to the lighter yellowish tinged leaves as they should start taking on the yellow and orange fall colors soon after this)Lisa and I jumped on route 112 heading West (yes, there is at least one person who does not automatically take the Kancamagus Highway… Route 112 East). We drove to the Beaver Pond pullout and I took a picture so you can get an idea of what the color looks like in the Western White Mountains.
As you can see there are indicators of the reds and yellows to come but they’re still a week or more away. I don’t really give this a percentage of color turned because to me this is an example of pre-turning color. But you will probably hear this being called 10% color. In my book it’s not turning color until it’s bright and ready to photograph, (to each his own).We stayed at the Sunset Hill House $$$$ in Sugar Hill and just down the road from the Inn, I photographed a single tree with very bright and pleasing color on it. The tree itself is may be 40% in color and by the time you get here this particular tree we’ll either be faded or bare.
The good news is the rest of the trees around it are green so you have a lot to look forward to.
Day twoThe next morning we headed out to Polly’s pancake parlorwhich as always, has great pancakes and then we drove north to Dixville Notch. As you can see even as far North as the Balsams, the color is still pre-turning but is ready to explode in a tapestry of fall color as soon as we get the frosty nighttime temperatures and bright sunny days.
We headed across to the Northeast kingdom of Vermont just skirting the Canadian border in several places. For the most part we only saw individual trees with any signs of bright color. On one occasion along Route 114 just on the Vermont side I found a stretch of road (maybe 50 yards) where the majority of the trees along the edge of the road were all in bright color and I would say they were at 60% of being at peak.
The good news is this is the only place along the entire trip where I saw a grouping of really good color. The bad news is this 50 yards stretch will be faded or bare when all the rest of the trees in the area catch-up in a week or two.
Day 3I got up at 4:30 AM and Lisa got to stay in bed and sleep in. The rest of the morning Gustav and I drove up and down various roads such as route 100 and Hazen’s Notch Road. Primarily we were looking for Moose which we ended up going dry on. Gustav did find many opportunities for me to photograph several scenic locations that I had never seen before.
Gustav will be running a fall foliage tour next autumn and he’s extremely knowledgeable in his area of the Northeast kingdom. Even though the fall colors haven’t really arrived yet (the NEK is primarily green at this time), there are all the same hints of fall color that I saw over at Dixville Notch.
Lisa and I continued our trip in a southerly direction down Route 5 eventually crossing back onto route 93 and when I arrived back at Lincoln and route 112 we got off and proceeded to drive the Kancamagus Highway (yes even I like to drive it once in a while)
Pre-turning color on the Kancamagus
From Lincoln to the highest point on the Kancamagus (the western portion) I saw a lot of pre-turning color on the hillsides that a lot of people were stopping to take pictures of. Mostly this was the wine red color that in the coming week will probably turn a bright red and I’m calling it about 10% to 15% color at this time.
Once we crossed the high point of the Kancamagus and till we got to route 16 at the Eastern and the color was 0 to 1% and mostly green. I would say that if you needed an early color fix the coming weekend (22 – 23 September), you should see some very nice color on the Western half of the Kanc.
At this time, the temperatures in Lincoln, New Hampshire will only dip into the mid-upper 40s which will not bring out the bright colors that we like to see. But the temperatures at the higher elevations should be much cooler by as much as 5° or more degrees, so I think by next Friday or Saturday (third week of September), you will see good to very good color on the Western half of the Kancamagus. (maybe as much as 30 to 40% good color) and by the fourth week of September I think the Western Kanc will be at peak! the eastern portion of the Kanc should follow suit on the first week of October.
The rest of our trip was pretty much green with individual trees showing color but we didn’t see any evidence of what I would call early fall color outside the normal expectations.
If you have questions feel free to drop in on my fall foliage forum where you can ask specific questions about what I saw on this trip, or in the comments section as always.
Jeff “Foliage” Folger
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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.
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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.