Year after year, New England has some of the brightest fall foliage in the world!Photo Credit : Jim Salge
As we wind down the leaf peeping season in New England and gear up for Halloween next week, there is still a very surprising amount of autumn color to enjoy. We’re not just talking about southern New England either, as there are fall colors to be seen from the Canadian border to Newport, Rhode Island, if you know where to look. It’s been a weird year for fall foliage, and this much color, this late, is unusual, but appreciated.
The most widespread bright colors will be along the coast of northern New England, and then south throughout eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and then much of Connecticut. This swath includes our pick of the week, Putnam in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner. Last year when we highlighted this area, suggesting Woodstock, Connecticut, it was two weekends earlier, so that is telling for how late the colors are this year.
The foliage throughout this region is following the same pattern as the rest of the region: A few waves of brighter color, with some bare trees, some brown from fungus and still plenty of green mixed in. But when you find a brighter area, the colors have been beautiful of late. This is partly because the weather we’ve been having during the week has been great for bringing on brighter colors. Warm, sunny days and crisp clear nights have been abundant midweek; we’re just not going to talk about the weekends.
North of this arc, in places like western Connecticut, western Massachusetts, and then southern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, the late maple turning trees are joining with the oaks this week to create a nice golden color palette in the forests. Many leaves are down already, but this late push of color is always beautiful especially on bright sunny days. Areas to focus on include the river valleys and around the big lakes, which hold on to head longer. South Hadley, Massachusetts, Brattleboro, Vermont, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and Saco, Maine, all are great areas to focus on, as is the Maine and New Hampshire coastline.
Farther north, snow has fallen on the highest peaks, and many of the forests are trending towards bare. There were still bright spots though, as just this past week, North Conway, New Hampshire, had great views of a snow covered Mount Washington with a bright foreground of foliage. These areas will begin to fade fast now though, joining the rest of the north. Past peak though still hold some color, especially with areas that either have a beech understory, which turns very late, or with tamaracks, a deciduous conifer with needles that turn bright orange before shedding for the winter.
And then there’s Burlington, Vermont: Still widespread green and early color near the lake, surrounded by a sea of past peak. Burlington has yet to have a freeze this season, and is making a run for the latest on record (November 1st). It really highlights what a long and anomalous foliage year it’s been! And speaking of cities, for the same reasons, fall color is just starting to come into Boston, so the best colors in the city are yet to come!
Putnam, Connecticut, is a charming old mill town that comes alive with the vibrant colors of autumn and is an anchor of Connecticut’s Quiet Corner. This picturesque region offers an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities in late fall, making it an ideal destination for an autumn escape.
Start your day with a cup of coffee from the Chubby Dog Coffee Co. and enjoy it on a stroll along the Putnam River Trail through Rotary Park, where there’s a great view over a small dam and rushing rapids. Then head out on a leaf peeping tour. Just to the west, Route 169 is always highly rated by fall foliage enthusiasts for the mix of farms, forests, and old New England charm. You might head north to Roseland Park, a tranquil oasis where you can take a leisurely stroll by the lake, which mirrors the fall foliage, or south to Pachaug State Forest for hiking or birdwatching. The forest’s dense woodlands become a mesmerizing mosaic of autumn colors in the fall. If you want to enjoy the foliage by bicycle, the Air Line State Park Rail Trail is a regional resource spanning fifty miles from the Tri-State Border to East Hampton, passing through Putnam and Pomfret.
While a week late for Putnam’s Fall Festival this year, they are having downtown trick or treating this Saturday, a great event for families with children. There are also nearby fall attractions like the corn mazes at either Fort Hill Farms or Defazio Orchard nearby, and Lapsley Orchards down Route 169 has wagon rides, cider donuts, and is still picking apples. Back in town, locals love both 85 Main and the Black Dog Bar and Grille for dining options. We’ve also heard that the pizza is great at the Broken Crust, and we can’t wait to try it ourselves!
South Hadley, Massachusetts
We don’t want to jinx it, but it looks like some brighter fall foliage colors are developing across central areas of New England this week! This will likely be the best weekend of the year for fall foliage across much of New England this season, and it’s certainly better late than never.
We know that bright colors are brought on by warm, sunny days and crisp, cool nights, and we’ve finally gotten into that cycle now in mid-October. That means that central areas that have all been running very late this year, with very little color or simply just green since the early color fell in the storm a few weeks ago, are finally turning again. Sure, leaf canopies are a bit thinner now, and significant browning and muting is prevalent from the aforementioned fungal issues this year, but we think the brighter pops of colors that are coming onto the remaining healthy leaves will surprise many after a very down year so far.
You will find these brighter colors in lower elevations, river valleys, and basins of larger lakes in an arc from western Connecticut, through central and eastern Massachusetts, up into southern Vermont, southern and central Massachusetts, and then all the way up through southern Maine, and up the coast to Acadia. That cover a pretty big area, and includes popular places like Lake Winnipesaukee, the Pioneer Valley, and Litchfield Hills. The Merrimack, Connecticut, and Saco River Valleys all come to mind, too, as places to see fall foliage this weekend. Mush of the forests in these areas are made up of maple and birch, which turn first, mixed with beech and oak, which turn later. With how late this wave of colors has come on, there could be a nice smooth transition between these trees over the next couple of weeks, especially since the oaks have been less impacted by leaf fungus. If you’ve been missing the fall colors this year, now may be your best chance to go leaf peeping.
North and west of this arc, conditions are…well…weird. There are a lot of bare areas, stripped of most of the brighter maple and birch leaves. With far fewer oaks in these northern and mountainous areas, the only color left should be in either the beech understory or the unusual tamaracks. But, this year is weird, and there are also some unexpected places that randomly have bright, high color very late still this year. Lake Willoughby in Vermont, Bethlehem in New Hampshire, and Eustis in Maine are bright spots in a sea of fallen leaves and otherwise bare forests. There are plenty of other spots like this, too. And then look at this shot from Crawford Notch: bare down low and green up high. Strange.
South of that arc, colors are coming along now too. Don’t expect a lot of peak colors in southeast Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or southern Connecticut quite yet, but developing colors will continue now through early November this year. Next week, our foliage pick will likely shift to these areas.
Bar Harbor, Maine, is a captivating destination known for its stunning fall foliage and its distinctive fusion of a working fishing village with thriving tourism for the adjacent Acadia National Park. Visitors have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the charm of a coastal New England town surrounded by seaside mountains with limitless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Fall foliage peaks later in Acadia than most people realize when they plan trips. And now, the colors are peaking while the tourist season is winding down. Many amenities are switching to winter hours, or closing altogether so careful considerations have to be made when planning a trip there in late October, but the rewards are unparalleled in this beautiful town and world renowned park.
Start your day downtown at Jordan’s Restaurant, which opens at 5AM for those looking to drive to see the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain around 7AM. Reservations are required now for summit car travel, but the hiking trails are also an option for those prepared for a predawn adventure. From there, take off on a scenic tour of the island and park on the loop road, making sure to stop at the serene Jordan Pond and the Jordan Pond House for lunch popovers. A leisurely walk around the pond offers beautiful views of the fall foliage, or you could do a more strenuous hike up The Bubbles for a great view.
For the afternoon, you could bike the carriage roads, visit the Wild Gardens, or walk the famed Jesup Path for pictures. Or head to the coast and see the famed Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, or Bass Harbor Lighthouse. For a truly unique fall foliage experience, you could also go on a foliage and nature boat tour from Bar Harbor on Acadian Boat Tours, or rent a kayak or take a tour with Acadia Outfitters. And for dinner, countless options are still open, like the Chart Room right on the water, but whose last day of the season is Sunday, and the Thirsty Whale Tavern, which is open year round.
For accommodations, while camping is popular in the park, the National Park Campgrounds, Seawall and Blackwoods, have closed for the season. There are nearby private and state campgrounds that may have availability yet, but staying in town offers great options as well.
Alton, New Hampshire
This is probably the most challenging foliage report that we’ve had to put together in the past decade. Usually at this point, a wave of beautiful colors is sweeping south, downhill, and towards the coast of New England. This is not at all what we are seeing this year. With very few areas at peak last weekend, most zones were either past peak (muted and brown) or running late (still green or just beginning to turn).
The reasons are never simple in complex forest systems, but the best that we can figure out is this sequence of events:
1. The warm, wet and humid weather delayed foliage and allowed lots of leaf fungus to grow in early September.
2. The first cool snap finally kickstarted the foliage two weeks ago, but really only affected far northern New England, higher elevations, and red maples. Things were colorful for a bit during this time period!
3. Record heat dried out those early leaves quickly last week, creating a forest of fragile leaves.
4. The storm last weekend then took off much of the color across northern New England, leaving either lots of bare trees, lots of green trees, or a strange mix of the two.
While there were a few areas of good color across northern New England still last weekend, many were lackluster. Parts of Maine, as well as the southern White Mountains seem to have been less impacted. Vermont, western New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts were much more impacted and we are quickly understanding that these areas may not see a true peak this year.
For this week’s travel pick, we have to focus on the areas that still had lots of green after the storm last week, in the sincere hope that bright color develops from those leaves later this week with the cool mornings we are now again seeing. These areas include the Berkshires, the low valleys in Vermont, New Hampshire’s lakes region and southern White Mountains, and the mountains and lakes of Maine. Acadia, Camden and the Midcoast are also starting to see leaves turning, especially with the cooler weather now, and these areas hopefully come in brighter. The weather this week is good for bringing on the best possible colors, so that’s the good news!
For diehard leaf peepers, while it will be a good week to explore, drive, and find those areas less impacted, there’s no sugar coating that it’s tough out there. But it’s also a great time to remind travelers, visitors and fall enthusiasts that while the colors are not really cooperating, it’s a beautiful time of year to be outside in New England, with so much to do and see! We hope you get out on a hike, a ride, a paddle, or visit the orchards, festivals and events that we all love!
North Adams, Massachusetts, is one of the areas where we are hopeful brighter colors will come this week. They have had a mix of green trees and some color loss, but we feel that there is enough variation in local microclimates with mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes that some good color will be found there this weekend.
North Adams is a true trail town, with many options for hiking, biking, and numerous scenic foliage routes crossing through it. The Appalachian trail crosses over Mount Greylock just outside of town, but that’s not the only way to view the vantage, since there is also a scenic roadway traversing the highest peak in the state. Last week the lower slopes of this renowned mountain were still green while the high reaches were stripped nearly bare. These pictures from the famous hairpin turn show some of the potential color for the week.
If you were looking for some more low-key hikes, there’s the Hoosac Range, Windsor Lake and Historic Valley Park, Clarksburg State Park, and Savoy Mountain State Forest, which all have great options and a variety of stunning vistas. For those seeking a unique experience, Natural Bridge State Park is a must-visit, where you can marvel at a marble arch amidst the autumn leaves. For bikers, the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is scenic and mellow with great foliage views over the Cheshire Reservoir and the Hoosic River, which also offer opportunities for kayaking or canoeing this weekend.
Beyond its natural beauty, North Adams is rich in cultural offerings. Start the day at Brew Haha for breakfast before exploring the the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), showcasing cutting-edge art and often outdoor installations. The Clark Art Institute in nearby Williamstown is another cultural gem, housing an impressive collection of European and American art. North Adams itself boasts historic architecture with local galleries, theaters, and music venues, so it’s a great place even with rain (again) in the forecast. For dinner with a local flare, try either the Freight Yard Pub, or the Trail House Kitchen and Bar. For accommodations, the Porches Inn at Mass MoCA offers a unique art-packed experience.
Tamworth, New Hampshire
Fall foliage colors are reaching their peak right now across the far northern tier of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, where there is some great color to be seen. These northern zones transitioned into perfect foliage weather just in time: Warm, sunny days and crisp, cool nights finally kick-started the colors and brought out the very best that we could hope for after the setup that we’ve had.
Sunny weather, albeit warmer, will continue this week and should continue to expand the zone of colors throughout northern New England. Near-peak colors will be found this weekend across the mountain regions in all three states, especially the northern White Mountains, the spine of the Green Mountains, and the mountains of Western Maine. Bright colors will continue to develop in the mid-elevations, especially in our pick of the week, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Some of these areas are very bright, though many are more muted because of this summer’s rainfall and humidity. The biggest factor is the variety of fungi affecting sugar maples this year, causing many stately trees to turn brown and fall early. Fortunately the interior forest is less affected. It’ll be a great weekend to explore, as variation in microclimates is putting bright areas near enough to dull ones to see a variety of conditions on any foliage road trip.
Southern New England foliage has been affected by the flooding rains and continued humidity through last week, and will consequently take more time to progress this year.
Nestled amidst the rolling hills of the Monadnock region, this picturesque town transforms into a living canvas when autumn arrives. While the White and Green Mountains will take the spotlight and draw larger crowds this weekend, Peterborough, a quintessential village, offers a quieter weekend. After entering this timeless town by crossing a river, you’ll discover boutique shops, cozy cafes, excellent restaurants, and art galleries, all within walking distance among centuries-old buildings.
Start your day at the Peterborough Diner or Nonie’s Restaurant and Bakery for breakfast and coffee before embarking on an exploration of the Monadnock Region. Destinations may include Pack Monadnock with its summit views accessible by car, Mount Monadnock for world-class hiking, or Dublin Lake for paddling. There are also scenic foliage driving routes through Harrisville and Hancock, both charming towns with exceptional lunch spots. This weekend also features the Monadnock Region’s Open Art Studio Tour, allowing you to visit working artists and discover the sources of their inspiration.
Upon returning to Peterborough for dinner, you have several excellent options such as Twelve Pine, Harlow’s Pub, or the Waterhouse. Alternatively, you can opt for takeout and enjoy your meal at Post and Beam Brewing, either indoors or outdoors. For lodging, we recommend Little River Bed & Breakfast, The Hancock Inn, or The Harrisville Inn.
Littleton, New Hampshire
After a hot, humid start to the month, we could not have dreamt up a better weather scenario for late September than we are getting in northern New England right now. While the southern reaches of New England have been hit with clouds, rain, and humidity, quintessential fall weather has prevailed across the northern halves of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. This has allowed the leaves to accelerate their changing, maximizing any potential brightness.
That isn’t to say that there will be widespread peak colors this weekend, because things are still running a bit behind historic timetables. But color is certainly coming on fast! We also can’t discount the unfortunate amount of leaf fungi that have propagated on many of the stately sugar maples and some other trees this year due to the incessant rainfall and moisture. But we needed warm days and cool nights to salvage the season, and that is what we are seeing. And visitors will be generally pleasantly surprised with how much color will have emerged by the weekend, especially with scattered frosts this week!
The best fall colors are going to be seen in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the spine of the Green Mountains. The Great North Woods of New Hampshire and the northern White Mountains will also show good fall color, as will the mountains and northern reaches of Maine. The best chances for peak colors will be cool valleys away from bigger water bodies, like the Zealand Valley in the White Mountains, or our pick of the week, East Burke, Vermont. But you will start to see colors rapidly coming on all across northern New England soon, after a few more mornings in the 30s and 40s and a region-wide dry stretch. We need it. And frankly, we deserve it!
Burke Hollow and East Burke have rocketed up the list of places to visit in Vermont in the past few years for one reason: The Kingdom Trails. Over 100 miles of meticulously maintained, multi-use, non-motorized trails with great views between the towns of Lyndon and East Haven, centered around East Burke. There’s trails for hiking, trail running and especially mountain biking, from long flat rides to steep downhill and technical singletrack. There’s shuttles and guides available from various services across town, and you can get great up-to-date information at their welcome center on Rt. 114 right next to the popular Burke Publick House.
East Burke itself is a small, quaint town, but has a little of everything. There is a great coffee shop for breakfast, Cafe Lotti, as well as a country store in the East Burke Market and great food at Tomassoni’s Bistro. And of course there’s Clementine’s Creamery for authentic Vermont Maple Creamees. There are also bike shops and sporting goods shops and all of the classic Vermont small town charm. Leaf peeping routes could take you up Rt. 5A through Willoughby Gap to Newport, or west through winding roads to the famed Hill Farmstead Brewery, on our recent list of best breweries for enjoying views of autumn leaves.
Lodging options in the Northeast Kingdom range from charming small inns and hotels to campgrounds. There are great options to choose from, from the lean-to experience at Burke Mountain Campground to the stunning luxury lodgings at the Inn at Burklyn.
Twin Mountain, New Hampshire
These weekly updates always kick off around the official start of autumn (September 23 this year). Usually, things are racing towards peak in the traditionally early turning areas like the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the Great North Woods of New Hampshire, and the Crown of Maine. This year, though, there are only the most subtle hints and signs, so, we’re going to follow Mother Nature’s cue and wait a week.
If you are looking to see places with early color this weekend, you’ll have to head to the specialty habitats. High alpine zones and red maple wetlands will hold some color, and we have other tips for early color here: Where to Find Early Fall Foliage in New England
What we really need now is some sunny, dry days and some crisp cool nights to really kick things off. Hopefully, we have a much wider area to report on and explore next weekend!
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