BEFORE THE LEAVES BEGIN TO FALL
Fall Foliage Destinations in New England
For some, the changing colors of the leaves in the trees signals a sad end to summer. But for millions, it signals the start of the sweetest season of them all:
Fall foliage in New England
From late summer until around November 1st, Mother Nature paints her pictures in every shade in the spectrum, from the deepest oil colors of the reds and purples to the delicate pastels of the yellows and greens. Starting at the northernmost points in New England, she slowly sweeps her brush across the landscape, from the mountaintops to the city parks, from sea to rural settings in the west.
Planning your fall foliage tour depends on the vacation dates you have available. But anytime during this almost two month period will provide plenty of “leaf peeping” if you go to the right places. In other words, by mid-September the leaves in Maine are approaching their peak while the trees in Connecticut are just beginning to turn. Conversely, by November first when western Connecticut is in full flower, the trees in Maine will have already lost their leaves.
The warmer and wetter the summer, the longer and later the season will last. A cooler and/or dryer than normal summer will hasten the process and put peak viewing times in a narrower shutter. The best way to get an idea is to visit the individual state websites for their predictions on the best time to see the leaves. Also, most newspapers in New England keep a running report during the season, noting the arrival of perfect scenery throughout the region.
For those of you who like the comfort and convenience of a guided tour, there are many bus tours (and even a train/bicycle option) which keep right on top of the changes and can provide optimum viewing from the comfort of the bus or from the frequent stops at overlooks and to stroll out into the trees.
The do-it-yourself-ers can always plan out an auto tour which leaves you free to linger in a particularly beautiful spot or to push on if an area doesn’t meet your expectations.
And of course, the more adventurous traveler will find that walking, hiking and biking can provide you with opportunities to see spectacular foliage which would otherwise not be accessible from the main roads.
Coinciding with the coming of harvest time, the hotels and inns, restaurants and farm stands will provide you with many spectacular dining experiences all along your route.
Remember, New England fall foliage tours attract millions of people from not only all over the country, but from all over the world. It is not unusual to run into not only many Europeans in autumn in the region, but people from even the Far East! Do not be lulled into a sense that peak tourist season is over and that accommodations will be plentiful. Be sure to make reservations in plenty of time so as not to miss out on some of the more spectacular scenes.
Here are some state-by-state tips for your fall foliage planning.
For the first peek at the peak foliage season, Maine is your destination. Starting in September, the leaves in the northwestern area of the state have begun to turn. Starting up in the mountains north of Baxter State Park, the leaves will rapidly reach their peak in a long, southeasterly arc, sweeping steadily down to the shoreline near the southern coastal resorts in the Kennebunk/Ogunquit area. A 10 day trek across Maine at this time will provide you with every setting in which to view spectacular foliage, from the mountain tops through the free-standing forests to the wooded areas directly to the west of the Atlantic coast.
The state of Vermont is considered the center of New England’s fall foliage spectacular. Starting in the northern part of the state up near Canada, St. Johnsbury hosts an annual Fall Foliage Festival. Heading south, the Green Mountains and Smuggler’s Notch State Park are optimum for viewing. The ski resorts are all perfect places from which to centralize a trip. There’s plenty of lodging and dining and other amenities not at their peak demand and the season lasts longer than many others.
The White Mountains is the place to go. It is the most popular foliage tour destination in New England, but they’re also plenty prepared. Simply driving the Kancamagus Highway from Conway to North Woodstock will provide you with scores of stunning opportunities. And the locals will be more than happy to clue you in to scenes off the beaten path. For a quick trip from New York or southern New England, the Mount Monadnock State Park region is a cornucopia of delights within just a few hours drive.
The Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts are easily accessible from any starting point. These foothills of the Adirondacks are one of the most popular destinations for the “leaf peeper”. In the heart of the state, the two main roads, the Mass Turnpike and Route 2 provide dozens of great opportunities while heading east to west or vice-versa. There are many easily accessible areas right off the main roads, but simply sticking to those main roads will provide you with spectacular scenery without ever even leaving the car! This is a really easy way to see the sights, especially for the novice.
A trip around the border of this state will provide you with multiple opportunities and can be accomplished in just a couple of days. For a longer stay, the northwestern area of the state is an optimum location for a more extended stay.
The beauty of fall foliage in “The Biggest Little State in the Union” is that not only are the colors spectacular, but also it has the longest and latest season. And being so small it is possible to travel throughout the state on the 2 main roads heading east-west (Routes 101 and 6) or north-south (Routes 95 and 102) and see all there is to see in just a couple of days, while staying in one of southern Rhode Islands seaside communities or enjoying luxury accommodations in the greater Providence area.
Here’s a checklist to help plan your fall foliage tour.
Look for foliage festivals, harvest celebrations or other autumn-oriented events. They are usually centered in a prime foliage location and can provide many opportunities for other kinds of recreation when you’re ready for a break or in the evenings.
Book your rooms early. Autumn in New England is just as busy in the fall as it is in high summer and during ski season. You’re competing with people from all over the world for accommodations.
Try planning for weekday excursions. You can enjoy the scenery in less-crowded conditions during the week and then relax in the surroundings of your accommodations on the weekend without fighting the crowds.
Make sure to bring your camera! Just look at the amount of award-winning photographs of fall foliage to give you an idea of the number of memories you’ll wish to preserve.
Take advantage of the full array of possibilities. Whether driving yourself or on a tour, make sure there will be opportunities to head down the side roads and back roads and to explore on foot or by bike. Many of the most spectacular scenes are available only off the beaten path.