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Finding New England Peak Color After Columbus Day

Posted Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Finding New England Peak Color After Columbus Day
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Has there EVER been a Columbus Day weekend in New England that nice?

A full weekend of warm days, cool nights, fair breezes and endless sunshine was exactly what many parts of the region needed as the recovery from Irene continues. People were everywhere, enjoying the annual color display in numbers like I’d not seen in years. In the New Hampshire, every trailhead was packed, every attraction buzzing, and every overlook photographed thousands of times over. In Vermont, folks flocked to farms, and enjoyed the rural landscape. And in Maine, the traffic on the lakes was as busy as the roads surrounding them, but everyone stopped to take in a stunning sunset and simultaneous moonrise. It was the textbook definition of Indian Summer, and it was just about perfect!

While the weather was ideal, the foliage this past weekend continued its unpredictable variability…though the cool nights and frost late last week definitely began to fill in the gaps in color.  Strong color was interspersed with more muted tones, as the rainfall and roller-coaster temperatures haven’t done the foliage any favors this year.  During my weekend journey through each of the northern New England states though, I was able to find areas many areas with simply fantastic color!

Stream's Golden Glow
Sunny Conditions Created Great Opportunities For Viewing the Peak Colors!

The best foliage this past weekend continued to be from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and down through St. Johnsbury, and over to Bethlehem and Jefferson New Hampshire. This was where the most red color was mixed with the greens and golds. I’ve also heard that there was great color from Rangeley to Moosehead Lake, Maine. I think that this peak color will last through the middle part of this week in these areas, but not long thereafter as some wind and rain moves in increasing leaf fall.  Don’t give up on these areas afterwards though, as past peak often shows hillsides covered in gorgeous rust tones for an additional week or so.

Peak Color in the Northern Mountains The Northern Mountains Showed Some of the Best Color in New England This Past Weekend…

Southward through the notches, there was peak color to be found as well, but overall the color was a bit more muted than the far northern tier. Though red was largely absent, the yellows, oranges and browns looked dazzling when back lit by the abundant sunshine in Franconia and Pinkham Notches. Golds were also the norm in Groton State Forest in Vermont, where I climbed to Owl’s Head and surveyed a landscape that could only be described as glistening. And my favorite foliage spot of the weekend was along Rt. 25 C west of Warren, New Hampshire, where I found solitude among corridors of unbroken yellow color around Lakes Tarleton and Katherine.

Reflections at Lake Katherine Stunning Peak Color Was Found Along Rt. 25C in NH, Especially Along Lake Katherine’s Shores

South and east of these of the mountains, in the foothills and coastal plain, colors were still largely green through the holiday. These areas should advance towards peak by this coming weekend, and have already made significant gains since even the holiday. After a cool night, many folks woke up to very different hues in the leaves on Tuesday than what were there at sunset Monday. It can come on so fast! As a leaf peeper, I would key in on these areas that are popping quickly, like North Conway or the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, Woodstock, Vermont and the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts for the best upcoming color this weekend. The northern coastal areas of Camden and Bar Harbor, Maine have started to tee off as well, and will provide a great color for this and hopefully the next weekend as well!

Further south, in Southern New Hampshire, Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the foliage is just getting started. After rain later this week, a return to cooler temperatures will really start to move the color along. Leaf peeping in these areas often more closely aligns itself to pre-Halloween festivities rather than the harvest and Columbus Day. The leaves will now set the backdrop to pumpkin patches, haunted houses and corn mazes, as the autumn season continues on. The leaves will hold strong until the near the end of the month, and just start to fall in time to stuff the lawn decorations with leaves.

The question remains though, will the colors in these popular spots be as bright as the far north, or mirror much of the rest of the area in the muted golds. I believe the answer will again be heightened variability, and great geographic pliancy. Many areas are suffering from a fungal disease, brought out in force by the incessant rainfall of September, while just down the road, trees seem resistant and vibrant. The color that’s emerging is seemingly fantastic, but there is also some muted and brown as well. But, as we saw this weekend…whatever the colors, it’s good to get out and enjoy it for all that it is.

Morning Stretch A Loon Steals the Show Among Muted Color in the White Mountains

I hope you had a great Columbus weekend, and that you continue to share your pictures and stories with us at our website,, or on our Facebook Page. We are eagerly taking reports on conditions on our foliage map, and hope that these reports can help you find the best foliage this upcoming weekend! I’ll see you out there!


Jim Salge


Jim Salge


As a former meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, foliage reporter Jim Salge is a keen observer of the progression of the seasons in New England. He uses his knowledge of weather, geography and climate to pinpoint the best time to visit various New England locations to find the best light, atmosphere, and most importantly, color.
Updated Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

2 Responses to Finding New England Peak Color After Columbus Day

  1. Kris October 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    thank you for your comments, I am getting a “feel” of what areas in NE to strike out towards NEXT fall, as I have family travelling to Maine with me in mid Oct who have never been to NE. Lots of meeting new family for them, as well. :) Raised in Me, I’ve been in Seattle for 30+ years now so this outing with new eye’s accompanying me will be a blast. And I’ve forgotten some of the nooks/crannies in NE that I used to haunt back in my day. Again, appreciate you naming lots of backroads, mtn areas, regions – memories return fast for me! Cheers from the Pac NW!

  2. Sukanya October 17, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Hi..the first photo is really stunning

    thanks for your updated foliage blog, it helps us immensely in our foliage drive.
    we visited NH in Columbus day weekend and did visit Franconia and Kanc…
    got to see some lovely autumn colors on our way, you can check the pics there on our blog.
    RI is slowly turning…may be in next week or so it may show some good colors.


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