How to See New England Fall Foliage at Its Peak

Insider Tips on Seeing Fall Colors at their Best and Brightest

Peak fall foliage in New Hampshire's White Mountains

Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images


Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and predicting when fall foliage will peak in New England is a crapshoot at best. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to stack the odds of seeing peak fall foliage in your favor.

Here's How to Maximize Your Chances of Seeing Peak Fall Foliage

  1. First, it's important to realize that foliage colors are the result of natural forces that can vary widely from year to year. The complex and unpredictable factors that influence the rate at which leaves change colors in the fall are rain, the amount of sugar in the leaves, the number of daylight hours, and day and nighttime temperatures.
  2. Peak fall foliage in New England works its way down from the north. This means the farther north you go, the earlier peak conditions will occur. Also, leaves achieve peak color earlier at higher elevations.
  3. If the northern New England states—Maine, New Hampshire, and/or Vermont—are your destination, your best bet is anywhere from the last week of September through the first week or two of October.
  4. The three-day weekend around the Columbus Day holiday in mid-October is often associated with peak fall foliage in the southern New England states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, as well as neighboring New York State, but there are no guarantees.
  5. New England's best fall drives are exhilarating even with just a few pops of color, so you may want to err on the side of visiting earlier rather than later in the season.
  6. A violent storm can rip the leaves from the trees before they ever truly reach their peak: another reason to time your trip for the opening weeks of the season, rather than delaying until late October.
  7. Foliage updates are available online and by phone for the New England states and New York. Checking the latest reports once the season is in progress is never a bad idea.
  8. Living in New England is a sure-fire way to catch leaves at their peak. While that might not be a viable option for you, in general, the longer you plan to stay in New England in the fall, the better your chances of seeing peak color. Many European visitors carve out two weeks in October for their once-in-a-lifetime leaf-peeping trips.
  9. Be as mobile as you can. Driving to New England or renting a car once you have arrived can open up your opportunities for going to where the best leaves are on any given fall day.
  10. You'll find differing conditions along major highways, near bodies of water and in the mountains, so plan your itinerary to include varied terrain.
  11. Be flexible. If you live within driving distance of New England and do not need to book overnight accommodations, wait to decide to make the drive once you've checked that conditions are prime.
  12. If you've selected desired accommodations, ask the innkeeper or hotel desk clerk when "normal" peak times occur at that location.
  13. Follow your instincts. These days, the GPS in your car or phone ensures you're unlikely to ever lose your way if pretty, leaf-lined roads beckon.
Photo of a river lined with trees with colorful leaves and a small wooden shed
TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

More Tips for Peak Foliage Seekers

  1. Use these online web cams to spy on New England's leaves and find locations where they are nearing peak color.
  2. Make your trip about more than just leaves so that you won't be disappointed. There’s more to autumn fun in New England than peak foliage. Sip hot cider, pick apples or pumpkins, take a hay ride, get lost in a corn maze, hike, bike, or attend a fall festival. Keep in mind, too, that even a hint of color can be stunningly beautiful.
  3. If you will need overnight accommodations, make reservations well in advance. Do NOT attempt to head for New England on the spur of the moment assuming you'll be able to find a place to stay. The six-or-so-week fall foliage season is the region's busiest for hotels and inns.
  4. Bring your best camera so that you can relive your "peak moments" and share them with others. Read these tips for photographing fall foliage before your trip.
Was this page helpful?