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I’ve been experiencing and writing about the vibrant New England Fall Foliage for 30 years and not surprisingly the most common questions I get are related to what is the best time to visit and where is the best place to see the spectacular show? This is understandable as for many visitors a trip to New England in autumn is likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip and not an inexpensive one either. So planning dates and destinations to coincide with peak foliage is critical… or is it?  The fact is that there are ample opportunities to see brilliant color all around New England in during the autumn months, but you just have to be prepared to put some miles on your car.

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Fall foliage at its best near the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont.

Fall foliage at its best near the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont.

Best Time to Visit

Understand that Mother Nature decides when fall colors begin to emerge in New England and not the Weather Channel scientists analyzing if a late spring or summer drought will herald an early or late fall with muted colors.Most people want to see peak foliage – this is the time when the leaves are their most brilliant colors of mixed yellow, orange and red. But the fact is that finding a peak viewing time is an inexact science dependent on a location at a particular moment. Colors can be brilliant two weeks before and after peak and even different from one mountain to another.

Traditionally, Columbus Day weekend in October is considered the best time to visit for great foliage color. Columbus Day is the second Monday in October. I would not argue against this but then again it seems most of the world visits New England this weekend as well. And frankly depending on when Columbus Day actually falls it can be too early or late for many locations.My best advice is for you, is to plan to visit during the first three weeks of October and be prepared to drive and explore. Early to mid-October peak foliage will be focused in the northern New England states of Vermont and Maine while mid to late-October in the southern regions of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Which brings us on to the next most popular question of where to go?

Best Destinations to Visit

An old barn sits in the countryside at peak leaf peeping season.

An old barn sits in the countryside at peak leaf peeping season.

One of the things that make New England so special is its coastline. But with rare exceptions, when it comes to fall foliage color these are not the best destinations for leaf peeping. The brilliant yellow, reds and oranges of fall are predominately reserved for inland locations and in the hilly and mountain regions of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.  The Maine Woods, Great Woods of North Hampshire and Northeast Kingdom in Vermont all hug the Canadian border and peak season comes in early October to these areas.

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is vast and full of surprises with villages, lakes, country stores and friendly folks willing to share why this is the best place on earth and not just in the fall. The northern woods in Maine and New Hampshire is remote and stunning and you’re more likely to be sharing space with an animal than another person. As the fall moves south to cover the White Mountains and Green Mountains the peak color seems to accelerate in time for Columbus Day weekend and the crowds of leaf peepers. Destinations such as Jackson and North Conway, NH are starting points for the drive across the awe inspiring Kancamagus Highway and the 100-mile White Mountains Trail.

Get lost exploring the endless roads that cut through beautiful fall foliage.

Get lost exploring the endless roads that cut through beautiful fall foliage.

Vermont is synonymous with vibrant fall colors and it never fails to inspire with the entire length of the Green Mountains seemingly peaking in unison. Stowe in the north and Rutland and Woodstock in the central region are crowd-pleasers with scenic drives and access to the National Forest trails and hikes to get the best views.After mid-October peak foliage has reached the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts and sneaks down to the Litchfield Hills in Northwestern Connecticut. A sunny fall day in the towns of Stockbridge or Lenox or spent walking along the Housatonic River trails are as good as it gets before the heavy snows of winter come to bury the remains of the best show on earth.

Until the same time next year when the crimson red, burnt orange, and subtle yellow of changing leaves resurfaces.

For more destinations ideas for a New England Fall Foliage trip and to get a free trip planner package to download visit Cliff Calderwood’s New England Vacations Guide website at www.new-england-vacations-guide.com.