The foliage is continuing to change across the region, with far northern New England transforming rapidly after a few frosty mornings. The color will continue to spread south each day, and each weekend will offer a different spot to see the color.
The term “peak color” is often used in conversations regarding foliage viewing. Counter to what you might think, though, peak color is not necessarily the best time to view the foliage. You see, peak color describes when the majority of the leaves have turned, but this also means there is significant leaf drop—as in, bare branches.
Of course, the whole idea of the best time to see fall color is somewhat subjective. If you like the intense red colors of the maples, then going earlier in the season before peak is best. If you like the yellow hues, you can head out closer to—or even after—peak color. Many of the oak trees change during the time designated as past peak.
The best time to see the fall foliage also depends on where you’re looking:
In northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and western Maine, the weekends beginning September 30 and October 7 will be great for leaf peeping. I suspect those areas will start having a lot more leaf drop the following weekend, October 14-16, but still good color. By about October 21, more trees will be bare than have leaves.
The southern half of Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as southern coastal Maine, will see color coming on strong by Columbus Day weekend (October 7-October 10), but the official peak may wait until the following weekend. Many of the oak trees will have purple and more muted hues by the weekend before Halloween (October 28-October 30), while many maples will have dropped their leaves by then.
In the Berkshires and Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, pockets of good color can be seen this coming weekend, but the best color may fortunately coincide with Columbus Day weekend this year, or perhaps a few days before. The second half of October may still feature some good color, especially in the lower elevation areas.
Because color is running later this year than average, peak color will arrive in much of the rest of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island during the second half of October and into early November. Remember: So much of this is subjective. That said, the best color in the Worcester hills and the towns around the Route 495 belt north of the Massachusetts Turnpike should come during the weekend of October 14. Expect pockets of great foliage viewing closer to the New Hampshire border and in the higher elevations the weekend before.
If you are looking to get some good leaf peeping opportunities close to Boston, check out the towns between Routes 495 and Route 128. Hint: The more maple trees an area has, the better the color will be during the period around Columbus Day weekend. You should find peak color from about October 14-21 in this zone.
South of Boston, the color doesn’t usually peak until late in the month of October and into early November. The lack of tree diversity in some areas along the coastline means color isn’t as brilliant there. Trees can hold their leaves in warmer coastal communities until a week or two before Thanksgiving.
Moral of the story: This is all a gradual process, and the landscape will change each day. Weather also plays a huge role in all of this. A big, windy storm can strip the leaves off the trees quickly; a burst of cold or heat can also impact the foliage dramatically. My best advice? Simply pick a day to go leaf peeping when the weather is nice.