New England

Foliage Report | Peak Fall Color Arrives In Southern New England

This week the peak fall color was spectacular. It has been a perfect reminder of everything good about living in New England during autumn.

By Jim Salge

Oct 20 2016

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The Weather Has Been Great For Hiking This Foliage Season, And The Foliage From Welch Mountain Was Perfect Last Week.

Photo Credit : Jim Salge
This week has been a perfect reminder of everything good about living in New England during autumn. The cool mornings brought a light frost, and with bright early sunshine, the world truly sparkled for the first time this season. Mist rose from the lakes and rivers, and morning blanketed the hillsides, and the smell of wood smoke filled the valleys. And the peak fall color, it was spectacular.
Peak Fall Color
The foliage in northern New England has been bright and vibrant this year.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge
New Englanders no longer have to visit the mountains or far north to see peak fall foliage. They see it everywhere; on their commutes, as the walk the dog, in their own yards. Foliage has come to the valleys, the suburbs, the towns and villages and the coasts. As of this writing, a VERY large swath of New England is at peak color, and you almost can’t go wrong anywhere within the region.
Peak Fall Color in Northern New England
Leaf peepers flocked to popular foliage routes in northern New England again last weekend!
Photo Credit : Ed Bolton
Whether in spite of the drought, or because of it, the colors this year have been very intense. After the season, we’ll spend some time figuring out why, but in the meantime, we are enjoying the show along with everyone else. Northern New England has had a great tourism season, with great weather complimenting the beautiful fall colors. Main routes through popular areas have certainly drawn crowds, but autumn beckons people to explore, both in their cars, and on the trails. It’s been a beautiful autumn for hiking, or just about any outdoor activity.
Peak Fall Color on Welch Mountain
The weather has been great for hiking this foliage season, and the view from Welch Mountain was perfect last week.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge
Unfortunately, in this most fleeting season, there is good reason to suspect that much of that great color in northern New England may not last through the next week. Already, the highest hills of Vermont, the area from the Great North Woods of New Hampshire down through the notches, and the mountains of western Maine are past peak fall color, with leaves rapidly falling from the canopy.  
Foliage Is Fading Now In Early Turning Areas Like The Zealand Valley, Which Was Brilliant Two To Three Weeks Ago
Foliage Is Fading Now In Early Turning Areas Like The Zealand Valley, Which Was Brilliant Two To Three Weeks Ago
Photo Credit : Larisa Elaine Dannis
This process will likely be expedited over the next few days as a few weather systems move through with wind, rain and likely some accumulating snow at higher elevations. Exceptions to this will be the late holdout areas — around the biggest lakes and down to the coast — where there will be plenty of lasting color.
Peak Fall Color around lakes and valleys
Large river valleys and basins around big lakes always hold foliage later than surrounding areas.
Photo Credit : Phillip Forsyth
While much of northern New England fades from peak, southern New England’s color is coming into it. Reports from central and western Massachusetts today are that the colors are every bit as bright and amazing as they were in northern New England. The maples in eastern Massachusetts have some very intense colors as well, and Connecticut and Rhode Island are becoming brighter by the day.  The best areas this weekend will be likely be northwestern Connecticut, especially near Kent, as well as around southeastern Massachusetts, especially near Sturbridge. The north shore of Massachusetts, especially around Cape Ann, will look great, as will much of the coastline of northern New England, all the way up to Acadia. A trip along the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts never disappoints this time of year, nor would a trip on the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut.  
Peak Fall Color in Kent, Connecticut
Northwestern Connecticut will be peaking this week, especially around Kent, Connecticut.
Photo Credit : Jonathan Steele
In many of these areas in southern New England, there will be a double peak this year. Maple trees are peaking now, but oak trees have barely begun to turn. There are some years when the maples transition right into the oaks, creating a long, beautiful peak, and others where the is a gap. This is certainly a gap type of year, but the maples are generally so bright that the intermixed green is hardly noticed. Look for oaks to brighten up in southern New England around Halloween or just beyond. Lastly, it is important to note that some of the areas reaching peak now are those that were most affected by both the severe drought and the gypsy moth infestations this year. While much of the area seems to be weathering these better than expected, there are some areas along many leaf peeping routes in central and eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut where the foliage is less spectacular. The good news is that a few miles, an adjacent valley or a change in slope may be all you need to get back into the good color. For the most up to date information on areas coming into and out of peak, we encourage foliage fans and leaf peepers to download our foliage app, and contribute to our crowdsourced foliage map at NewEnglandFoliage.com. We also hope that you will tag your foliage images with #NEFoliage and #MyNewEnglandFall so others can enjoy them!   Before we know it, the colors will be gone, and this looks like a great week to enjoy them. Hope you take time to take it all in!