Autumn in New England never disappoints when it comes to viewing the magnificent Fall foliage. As the summer winds down, coastal tourist towns start to close their doors to prepare for the winter. But, that doesn’t mean New England is headed for a long winter’s nap. The spotlight now turns to the brilliantly spectacular fall foliage season west of those coastal regions. It’s now time to plan your leaf peeping trip to see the scenic views that New Englanders boast about!
The first signs of Autumn in New England are when the birds start migrating. You can hear the southbound Canadian Geese honking as they fly overhead in their Flying V formation. The smaller birds and butterflies are or have already migrated south. And, the fruited trees and vines are flourishing with ready-to-pick harvests.
But the big stars of the show in New England are the Maples, Oaks, Birches and Beeches, Willows and Gum trees. Their leaves transform from shades of greens to vibrant hues of color. Leaf peeping season has begun! And there’s no better time than the Fall to trek to the White Mountains of Maine, Green Mountains of Vermont and the Berkshires of Massachusetts to view such spectacular displays of Autumn celebration!
So, where are the best places to see the Fall foliage in New England? Well, let me count the ways! Here’s your guide to finding the best views of Autumn in the Northeast!
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Best Fall Foliage Destinations in New England
How and What Causes the Foliage to Change Colors?
The leaves change colors due to abundant dry weather, cooler temperatures and lots of sunshine. Combine all of those causes the chlorophyl in the leaves to break down. The green pigments verigate to yellow, then to orange. And if the science is just right, vivid red will peak.
Best time to visit New England in the Fall?
Having lived up in New England for over 25 years, we’ve witnessed leaf peeping season to be from late September to mid October depending on each state and weather.
Our suggestion if you want to enjoy seeing the fall colors is start with Maine in late September as it gets cool sooner. Then, work your travels down into New Hampshire and Vermont. But don’t wait too long because the Berkshires in Massachusetts will showcase their colors within days. And finally, western Connecticutt and Rhode Island are the closers as they tend to stay warmer further into the Fall season.
That said, each year is different due to constant fluctuating weather patterns and temperature changes. Your best bet is to check with local tourism websites prior to planning your travels and sightseeing. And of course, pray that there are no heavy winds or rain storms that will take them away before we can enjoy them.
Maine is simply one of our favorite places to visit in New England as we’re partial to getting the best of both worlds; coastal Maine in the summer and inland Maine for its’ Autumn colors of the White Mountains in the Fall.
We tend to agree with All the Rooms’ collection of their Best Places to See Maine Fall Foliage:
- Fort Kent
- Acadia National Park
- Baxter State Park
- Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
- Camden Hills State Park
- Moosehead Lake
But, far be from us not to mention one of our ultimate favorites where we owned a home in western edge of Cumberland, Maine. And Midcoast Maine’s coastal towns of Rockland, Rockport Village and Camden certainly didn’t disappoint mixing the ocean’s blue with vivid yellows, oranges and reds.
A few of our favorite motorcycle day rides and weekend road trips took us to these amazing leaf peeper’s dream destinations:
- Mount Agamenticus
- Grafton Notch State Park
- Aroostook State Park
New Hampshire has a lot of boasting rights during the Fall season. The White Mountains extend down from Maine into New Hampshire making it a perfect palette for a painter or landscape photographer all year long. Take a drive along the Kancamagus Highway between Lincoln and North Conway.
New England Today highlights their Best New Hampshire Fall Foliage Towns that will make you want to pack your overnight bag, camera and road trip companion to see the best and brightest Fall foliage in the state.
- North Conway
- Waterville Valley
- Lake Winnipesaukee
- Evan’s Notch
Make this Autumn your trip of a lifetime by taking a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad that travels through Crawford Notch. And ironically, while you’re out ogling the vast warm colors, plan your scenic visit during the Milford Pumpkin Festival and New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival; both in October. as well as the Fall Festivals. Also, the Deerfield Fair and Sandwich Fair also round out your list of things to do in New Hampshire during Fall foliage season in New England.
As we call it the “V state”, Vermont is known for sweet maple syrup, cheddar cheese, teddy bears and of course, if you love ice cream, it’s Ben & Jerry’s. Vermont is also known for food production from it’s many farms and markets, wineries and artisan culinary treats.
But, the cork that seals Vermont as being one of the best states to visit in the Fall is its’ Autumn splendor of mass aerial views of reds, oranges and yellows. In fact, 75% of the state is covered woodlands and has more Maple trees than anywhere else in New England. Which means, those broad leaves take on the best color.
The best time to visit Vermont to view the Fall foliage spans about two to three weeks. Your best views of brilliant colors are latter part of September in the northern part of the state and through the middle of October for the southern portions of Vermont.
According to Bearfoot Theory, the 10 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Vermont are:
- Smuggler’s Notch Pass
- The Kingdom Trails
- Shelburne Farms and Shelburne Orchards
- Mount Mansfield
- Quechee State Park
- Somerset Reservoir
- Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge
- Green River Reservoir State Park
But, let’s not forget, Vermont’s small towns nestled within the Green Mountains are truly spectacular venues to weekend bliss. In fact, some of our favorites while we were motorcycle nomads were (and still are!) amongst Culture Trip’s selection of The Most Beautiful Towns in Vermont:
While the state of Massachusetts earns its’ bragging rights as one of the most visited coasts in New England, central Mass and the Berkshires offer a totally different more lofty experience. Because of the cooler temperatures in the mountains and river valleys, the leaves change hues just as the tide changes quickly in Boston Harbor.
Seemingly, the Sugar Maples steal the stage. And trust me, we’ve raked plenty back when we were stationed as far as the southeast coast on Cape Cod. But it isn’t just the towering trees that demanded standing ovations, but the low country cranberry bogs of bright burgundy complete the Norman Rockwell scene.
Visit-Massachusetts presents their Berkshires to the ocean, Massachusetts has foliage drives that are packed with color and scenic beauty:
- Berkshires and Western Massachusetts: The Mohawk Trail – Greenfield to North Adams
- Summit of Mount Greylock
- Connecticut River Scenic Byway in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts
- Central Massachusetts: The Mohawk Trail – Harvard to Northfield
- North of Boston: Cape Ann, Rockport, Gloucester, Essex and Newburyport
- Greater Boston Region: Lexington to Lincoln to Concord
Oh, and if it’s a little too brisk outside when you’re road tripping Western Mass, you’ll surely want to meander to the town of Springfield. It’s home to the The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, honoring the hometown hero of kids everywhere, Theodor Geisel, or Dr. Seuss.
Oh and don’t think you’ll just be driving around. There’s a great number of awesome farm stands along each road to pick up some freshly harvested produce. And speaking of produce, you’ll want to check out Best Things Massachusetts’ 8 Best Fall Festivals in Massachusetts!
Typically, when visitors and tourists think of New England Fall Foliage, Connecticut is one of the states not many consider for scenic viewing. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Connecticut’s leaf peeping season is later then her sister states to the north as its’ temperatures are a bit milder and hold out for a little bit longer. So, plan on visiting Connecticut from the middle of October to even as late as Halloween depending on precipitation and temperatures. So, this offers road trippers a longer season to keep the camper out.
Usually, northern part of the state puts out the first round of fall foliage peak season viewing working its’ way south into the shore and valleys. Some estimates of best leaf peeping:
- Northwest and Northeast Connecticut – First week of October
- Eastern and Western Mid-State Connecticut – Mid October
- Connecticut River Valley and Coastal Connecticut – Third to fourth week of October
- Southwestern Connecticut – First to Second week of November
Of course, those are only speculative but should give you estimated approximations of when to make your travel plans and lodging reservations.
But, according to CTVisit, “the Connecticut River, starting at the mouth of Long Island Sound (between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme) and going up toward East Haddam, will hold the foliage the longest – into the first week or so of November. If you’re leaf-peeping later in the season, the southern parts of the state such as Fairfield county are the place to look.”
What’s great about Connecticut peak season is due to the warmer temps, leaf peepers won’t feel so rushed to finish their adventure. And interim between getting the best views throughout the state, you can always meander to the coast’s Mystic Seaport Museum or south central’s Gillette Castle State Park for more unique experiences.
As Connecticut Magazine shares their Best Fall Foliage Spots in Connecticut & Beyond:
- Kent: Macedonia State Park
- New Fairfield: Squantz Pond & Candlewood Lake
- Simbsury: Talcott Mountain State Park
- The Chester Ferry
- Litchfield: Mount Tom State Park
- New Preston: Lake Waramaug
- Cornwall: Mohawk State Forest
- Putnam: Last Green Valley
- Mystic & Stonington
- Middlefield: Mount Higby
- Meriden: Giuffrida Park
And lastly, you surely don’t want to miss seeing the vivid colors throughout the Connecticut River Valley near Essex. You can take the vintage Essex Steam Locomotive from the 1892 Essex Station and hop aboard the Becky Thatcher Riverboat for a 2½ hour unique leaf peeping experience you’ll talk about for years to come.
Rhode Island Fall foliage seems to differ slightly year to year. But, leaf peepers need to be on the look out from the first of October all the way through late in the month. And this is because of the milder temperatures in their holding pattern. The daily temps average, give or take about 10°, between 58° to 68° Fahrenheit. Very rarely does it fall below freezing temps or getting any warmer than the low 60s.
But, just because Rhode Island, (also known as Little Rhody) is the smallest state in New England, that doesn’t void her as being a great place to visit during Fall foliage peak season. Rhode Island tourists get to play outside a bit longer and later if they choose.
According to Visit New England, the Beautiful Fall Foliage in Rhode Island from Newport to Providence:
- Newport & East Bay Region: Newport and Ocean Drive
- Conanicut Island (Jamestown Island)
- Blackstone Valley Region: Scituate Loop
- Providence-Warwick Region: Goddard Park in Warwick/East Greenwich
- South County Region: Route 3 Through West-Central Rhode Island
- Route 1A along the Rhode Island Coastline
- Route 138 through Hope Valley and North Kingstown
As you see, you should not discount visiting Rhode Island in the Autumn. There are great scenic drives throughout the Ocean State as well as parks to enjoy a picnic and stroll.
Final Thoughts on Your New England Fall Foliage Destinations
I hope this helpful New England Fall Foliage guide gives you great guidance on where the best leaf peeping is in the northeastern United States. Take it from me, having lived there for over half of my adult life, you’ll want to make this a yearly travel event as a solo, for you and your significant other or to share this spectacular nature show with your family!
While you’re planning your New England Fall getaway, you may want to check out these three favorite New England travel books below.