There’s no better way to see fall’s famous fiery display of foliage than by traveling through the Northeast. So, when is the best time to hit the road? Typically, leaves first start to change color in northern Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire around mid-to-late September. In these states, the vibrancy of leaf color usually peaks around mid-October. In the lower Northeast, the foliage changes later and can persist into November.
When planning your trip, it’s best to check the foliage reports on maps of the states you’ll be passing through so you can plan accordingly. These reports will give you up-to-date information on color, which areas are peaking at what time, how fast the leaves are changing, and recommendations for better “leaf viewing”. These reports change slightly over the years as things like the environment and weather affect the color of the foliage as well as the rate at which it rotates.
Here are some great ideas for the perfect fall foliage trip in the Northeast, from northern Maine to southern Pennsylvania. Their schedule shows when the most foliage can arrive at each destination, but ultimately it’s up to Mother Nature.
The last week of September
Keep an eye on the foliage: Northern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine
Big Drive: Harbors of Acadia and Heights
This tour starts in Bangor and takes you through Ellsworth to the scenic Mount Desert Island. From there, you’ll head to beautiful Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where you’ll be the first to see the sunrise in the northeast from the top of Cadillac Mountain. The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is another highlight of the trip, as are the fishing villages of Deer Isle and Stonington.
First week of October
Keep an eye on the foliage: Northern New York, northeastern and central Maine, central and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, northern Pennsylvania and western Massachusetts.
Big Drive: SoVT Loop (Southern Vermont).
The trip begins in Manchester, Vermont, home of the Southern Vermont Center for the Arts, and continues to South Shaftesbury, where you can tour the Robert Frost Stone House Museum. Later in the 104-mile loop, you’ll pass through Old Bennington with its historic monuments, homes and churches; there is also a wonderful excursion to Somerset Reservoir, near Searsberg.
The middle of October
Keep an eye on the foliage: Southern and central coastal Maine, central and eastern Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, Catskill region of New York, central Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and southern Rhode Island.
Big Drive: Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
The 70-mile Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, also known as New York’s Route 97, runs along the Delaware River from Hancock to Port Jervis in southern New York. There are many spectacular views of the river throughout the trip, but it’s worth stopping at the Bronx Elks Memorial Park in Port Jervis for hiking trails and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys. Towns along the route offer many art galleries, antique shops, history museums and other attractions.