What is the Best Time to See Fall Foliage in New England?

Cozy blankets, warm spiced beverages, moody rains, and bright fall colors. Crisp mornings, warm afternoons. Brisk strolls to admire the beautiful fall foliage. It’s fall at a glance. It’s the precursor to the festive holiday season, spurring the warm and cozy ambiance that winter is sure to bring.

When you’re not curled up under a soft blanket, sipping on your favorite warm beverage, be sure to enjoy the vibrant hues of fall. As the trees prepare for winter, ebbing from their summer splendor into dormant husks, they put on one final show of the year. It’s a burst of color featuring burnt oranges, ambers, russet reds, and warm yellows.

It’s a must-see, especially in New England. But when should you visit to see the prettiest foliage of all? It depends on where you plan to visit.

Factors Affecting Fall Foliage

The science behind New England’s fall foliage is quite fascinating. It’s a flashback to middle school science class, where discussion of chlorophyll ran rampant throughout multiple lessons. The color change we see throughout fall stems from the breakdown of chlorophyll, which reveals pigments such as carotenoids and anthocyanins.

This breakdown happens when long summer days shorten into chillier fall days, escorting in cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours. This tells the trees to halt their food-making process, thus initiating the breakdown of chlorophyll.

When chlorophyll takes its winter break, the green hue disappears, giving way to the yellows, oranges, and reds of autumn. Multiple factors, including temperature, sunlight, and rainfall, influence the timing and intensity of this color change.

Generally, the change begins as soon as the temperatures and shorter days arrive. If there was plenty of sunlight and ample rainfall throughout the growing season, the foliage would be even more vibrant.

When is Peak Fall Foliage in New England?

If you’re planning a trip to New England specifically to see the pretty fall colors, you’re probably asking, “When is the best fall foliage in New England?”

The best time to see New England fall foliage depends on what area you plan to visit. Generally, the further north you go, the earlier the fall foliage will appear. So, plan your trip to see the foliage based on the state you plan to visit.


The state of Maine witnesses captivating fall colors from late September to mid-October. The coastal and southern regions usually get the best foliage during mid to late October, while northern Maine puts on its best show from late September to early October.

Central and western Maine displays the prettiest colors somewhere in between, often giving its peak foliage from early to mid-October.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage

If you plan to visit Maine for your fall foliage venture, be sure to hit one or more of these stops along the way:

  • Acadia National Park is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts wanting to immerse themselves in fall foliage. Whether you want to enjoy the views from out on the water on a kayak or take a hike to a nearby peak, you’ll have no shortage of fall colors to soak in.
  • Moosehead Lake offers a blend of fall colors and entertaining fall activities, including fishing, hiking, and golfing. You might even spot a moose or two!
  • Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway is a great drive through Maine with outstanding fall colors. It overlooks valleys and hillsides blanketed in blazing oranges and yellows, complete with rich browns, scarlets, and even some vibrant purples (thanks to the white ash).
  • Baxter State Park, located in north-central Maine, offers incredible views of autumn colors. Between the mountains, skirted by russet reds, burnt oranges, and bright yellows, and the crisp blue lakes, there are some phenomenal views here.

New Hampshire

If New Hampshire is your destination, the best time to go is late September to late October. Northern New Hampshire drops its fall foliage by early October, so be sure to go before the first or second week of the month. Central and western New Hampshire offer incredible colors from early to mid-October, while southern New Hampshire draws out its show until mid- to late October.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage

If leaf-peeping is the main thing on your New Hampshire itinerary, be sure to hit these places:

  • Kancamagus Highway, often called “The Kanc,” winds through the heart of the White Mountains, offering spectacular views of fall foliage. Pull off at one of the scenic points to revel in the fall colors.
  • White Mountain National Forest is home to numerous trees and plants that put on a show during fall, displaying eye-catching autumn colors. It’s the perfect place for a crisp fall hike or a relaxing camping trip if that’s up your alley (it’s one of our favorites).
  • Franconia Notch State Park boasts dramatic landscapes and vibrant fall foliage. It even has a few tourist attractions, like the Flume Gorge and Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, which offer stunning views of the autumnal splendor.
  • Mount Monadnock offers exceptional fall foliage views from its summit if you’re up for the hike. It’s a bit steep in parts and takes the better part of the day to hike in and out, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But, if you don’t mind working for the view, the panoramic sights from the summit are well worth it.


If you’re visiting Vermont, plan your trip anywhere between late September and mid to late October. Northern Vermont’s fall colors usually disappear before mid-October, showing the best hues from late September to early October. Central and southern Vermont offer incredible colors throughout October.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage

Here are a few of the best places to enjoy Vermont’s fall foliage:

  • Smugglers’ Notch offers dramatic views as it winds through narrow mountain roads. The roads are flanked by towering cliffs and dense forests that become ablaze with breathtaking colors during autumn. If you’re more of a flatlander and don’t love steep roads with hairpin curves, this might not be your best bet.
  • Stowe, a top destination for viewing fall foliage, is surrounded by rolling hills and mountains that explode with color every autumn. While you’re here, enjoy the numerous hiking trails and scenic drives that take you through the glorious hues.
  • Woodstock, a picturesque New England village, offers beautiful views of fall foliage. The tree-lined streets and countryside burst into color every autumn, featuring a beautiful assortment of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.
  • Green Mountain Byway, stretching between Waterbury and Stowe, offers stunning views of the Green Mountains and surrounding valleys. As you drive, you’ll pass through various charming towns and multiple access points to entertaining outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking.


In Massachusetts, the fall foliage timeframes look much the same. Western Massachusetts displays its fall splendor from early to mid-October, while central Massachusetts offers its peak viewing times in mid-October. Eastern Massachusetts usually waits until mid to late October to put on its show.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage

While you peruse Massachusetts and its fall foliage, be sure to stop at one or more (bonus points if you hit them all) of these places:

  • The Berkshires, located in Western Massachusetts, offer stunning fall hues. When we visit the area, we like to explore hiking trails along Mount Greylock and take a scenic drive down Route 7.
  • The Mohawk Trail, touted as one of the most scenic routes in the state, is a must-see. It extends through the Berkshires, offering captivating views of autumn foliage. We loved our drive down this byway—there were so many places to stop along the way to enjoy the views, plus an assortment of charming towns with quaint shops and yummy eats.
  • Walden Pond, bursting with natural beauty, is another worthwhile stop for admiring the fall colors. We like to stop here with a cup of coffee or spiced cider to simply enjoy the beautiful colors and relax by the water.
  • Mount Wachusett, situated in central Massachusetts, is another great stop. We’re almost always up for an invigorating hike (even more so if there are pretty views involved), so we meandered up to the summit. The views from the top were simply breathtaking—you get panoramic views of the countryside below, bathed in an assortment of autumn hues.

Connecticut and Rhode Island

In Connecticut and Rhode Island, you’ll get the best fall foliage from early to mid-October. Given how small each state is, there’s not much variation from one part to the next. Instead, much of the state puts on its show in the first two to three weeks of October.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage

In Connecticut and Rhode Island, you’ll find plenty of fall foliage, but here are a few of the best places to stop at:

  • Sleeping Giant State Park, located in Connecticut, offers a blend of rugged terrain and stunning fall colors. We hiked the popular Tower Trail, which took us to a stone observation tower. The hike was fairly easy, although we went after it had rained, so there were some slippery areas.
  • The Connecticut River Valley, featuring winding riverbanks flanked by thick forests, offers stunning views in the fall (okay, pretty much year-round). We took a boat cruise up the river to see the colors from a different angle (it was well worth it!).
  • Colt State Park, located in Rhode Island, offers beautiful views of Narragansett Bay and vibrant fall colors. The park is well-kept, featuring manicured lawns, stone walls, and scenic drives. We thought it was the perfect place for an afternoon picnic (although it was a bit chilly on the day we went).
  • The Providence area in Rhode Island is another great place to see the fall colors. The tree-lined streets in certain areas of the city, like Blackstone Boulevard, turn vibrant colors in autumn. Roger Williams Park also offers some stunning colors and is home to multiple attractions, including the Botanical Center, home to vibrant greens that offer a stark contrast to the wash of reds, yellows, and oranges outside.

Enjoy the Prettiest Fall Colors on a Guided Tour With Caravan

Can’t decide on the best place to visit New England to see the fall colors? We hear you—there are so many places to see, so how are you supposed to pick one? Well, what if you don’t have to settle for one? At Caravan, we offer guided tours that take you through the wonders of New England and its stunning autumn colors.

We hit the best places to see fall foliage on this eight-day tour, hitting places like the White Mountains, Woodstock, and Newport. The best part of it all? You don’t have to worry about getting from place to place, where you’ll stay, or any of those essential details. We plan it for you!

Ready to book a trip? Call 1-800-CARAVAN or 1-312-321-9800 to get started today!