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New England Fall Foliage: When and Where to Follow the Leaves

September 5th, 2014

While springtime brings blossoms and summer has its day in the sun, New England fall foliage is the region’s true culminating event. Every fall, the hills, valleys and coastlines explode into a resplendent kingdom of mellow gold, deep red, and bright orange foliage. As the air gets crisper and the leaves start to change, New Englanders celebrate their harvest and come together in preparation for winter. Fall is perhaps the most festive time to visit New England and join in the celebration while marveling at the vibrant grand finale on display by Mother Nature. Fall foliage in New England doesn’t develop in every corner of the region at once, however, so it’s important to know what areas make for the best leaf peeping at a given time. Read on for our guide on where to go and when to go to experience the best of New England fall foliage.

Fall Foliage When & Where to Go
Credit: Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing

Late September Fall Foliage - Burlington and the Champlain Valley

As you might expect, the leaves change colors earlier in colder climates and in the mountains. If you’re looking to head to New England in late September, aim for the northern reaches of the area for the best fall foliage. The colors really pop in late September in Burlington, Vermont, and the surrounding area. Spend a few nights based in Burlington, taking time to enjoy sunsets over Lake Champlain and hikes up Mount Mansfield or Camel’s Hump. Country roads make for amazing bike rides and a trip to bucolic Shelburne Farm is a chance to take part in fall harvest traditions. Burlington hotels abound, but it’s best to book early as Vermont fall foliage is no secret. If you've got the time, make your way down the I-89 corridor for a stay in Stowe, following the peak season on its pilgrimage south.

Credit: New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development
Credit: New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development

Early October Fall Foliage - Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Vermont’s least developed corner swells in size each autumn with a five-town fall foliage festival circuit. This moveable feast lasts through the first week in October, moving from Cabot to Plainfield to Peacham to Barnet, before capping it all off with a famous Chicken Pie Supper in Groton. Reservations for the supper are a must. Choose one or two towns where the dates and locations work for you, and enjoy activities like hayrides, group hikes, wine tastings, foliage tours, and an Old Fashion Hymn Sing. Spend your nights at the Inn at Mountain View Farm in East Burke, the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, or the Rabbit Hill Inn near Saint Johnsbury. You’ll soon see why the New York Times named the Northeast Kingdom one of the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die."

New Hampshire’s White Mountains are also a great choice for leaf peeping in late September and early October. The high altitudes of this northern region makes for an early season foliage peak, and North Conway or Jackson, NH, are colorful places to take it all in. Hike or drive up to the top of Mount Washington for seemingly endless views of mountains blanketed in color. Stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort or at one of the many other lodging options in Jackson, New Hampshire.

Mid-October Fall Foliage - Massachusetts Route 2 and The Berkshires

As the season progresses, the autumnal color show comes down from the mountains and into the geographic center of New England. Just a quick trip from Boston or New York, fall foliage in Western Massachusetts peaks in mid-October. Those arriving from Boston can meander along the scenic Route 2 highway all the way to the western reaches of Massachusetts. Get away to North Adams for a stay at The Porches Inn, the perfect launching point for taking in modern art at Mass MoCA or exploring the famous flowering bridge and surrounding scenery of Shelburne Falls.

South of the Route 2 corridor you'll find a string of quaint New England towns whose charm shines brightly in the hues of golden October. In addition to rolling hills and long views, window shoppers will love the buzzing downtowns replete with antique shops, artisan crafts, and autumn harvest farmers markets. Stay in historic Lenox, MA, or try the Red Lion Inn in downtown Stockbridge. Spend mornings strolling the town centers and afternoons in the foliage flanked October Mountain State Forest.

Late October Fall Foliage: Southern Connecticut

Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism
Credit: Connecticut Office of Tourism

Late October may be past peak in some places, but it’s the perfect time for a New England fall foliage adventure in the southeastern corner of the region. East Haddam, Connecticut, was recently named a Top Foliage Town by Yankee Magazine for its splendid colors that surround Bashan Lake and the Moodus Reservoir. Spend a day taking in the late October foliage at Devil’s Hopyard State Park, then take in an evening show at the Goodspeed Opera House. This historic opera house is an architectural marvel with sweeping views of the Connecticut River. Take in musicals like Fiddler on the Roof or Damn Yankees and stay at the Griswold Inn in nearby Essex or the Old Lyme Inn in Old Lyme, CT.

Regardless of the week, there are incredible fall foliage experiences to be had in New England. Choose one spot and target a peak week, or follow the season around like your favorite band on tour. No matter how you do it, take time to get out into the woods, take a deep breath of crisp autumn air, and marvel in the majesty of this treasured New England season.

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