How to Find the Best Fall Colors in New England

Knowing when to go to New England to see a vibrant show of colors in the fall will have you planning your vacation months in advance. Understanding how to forecast your getaway to the North East to see the peak of color is very important to the planning process. 

The leaves will start changing in late September and early October. What needs to happen in a best-case scenario, is a warm summer followed with a sudden, dry, cool down in the fall. Nights should be in the 30 to 40 degree range while the days can reach 60 or 70 without having an effect on the color.  It’s the cold at night that brings on the color. For this reason, waking up in the morning can be like Christmas day, eager to see what new color as emerged.

Storms that make their way into the North East can be devastating if they happen to arrive at the wrong time.  Some leaf-peeping seasons can be cut short by wind and rain that removes the color leaves prematurely. However if you are patient, you maybe able to drive to where the storm doesn't effect the color burst of the leaves. 

Cold Nights 

Keeping that in mind, it’s generally colder in the north than in the south. The fall colors will gradually sweep down from the mountains and work their way to the flat lands as the season progresses. Trees are more apt to change from green to color when they are more exposed to the cold night air. For example, trees along a river or lake will change faster that inland trees that might be protected from the cold.

As a good guideline, start your trip in northern Maine. October 1st.  While Bar Harbor and the Acacia National Park are great places to visit, you will have better color as you go inland away from the coast in early October. Up in the area of Baxter State Park is a good place to start or head over to the White Mountains in New Hampshire or head over to the Green Mountains in Vermont.  These higher elevations will yield more color early in October.

 Along the Kancamangus Highway, out side of Conway New Hampshire

Along the Kancamangus Highway, out side of Conway New Hampshire

Around the second week of October a fantastic drive is in New Hampshire along the Kancamagus Highway. This 34 mile stretch of road follows the Saco River with several turnouts along the way for photographs of covered bridges and tumbling water and rocks. Drive to North Conway, New Hampshire, do some shopping and then drive a mile south to pick up the Kancamagus Highway heading east.  Allow a few hours or as much as a full day to enjoy this scenic drive.

As the month of October progresses so does the color down into Southern Vermont, up-state New York, southern Maine and New Hampshire, working its way down to Massachusetts, Connecticut and beyond. So let the time of year be your guide.  If you have the time to spend in New England from late September all the way through October you will surely have some great opportunity to see the fall colors at their peak. If you only have a one or two week window, then be ready to drive a little north or little south to see the best colors. 


Copyright 2015, Terry VanderHeiden