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Finding the Best Foliage Columbus Day Weekend

Posted Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
Finding the Best Foliage Columbus Day Weekend
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It’s finally the big weekend!

Columbus Day provides a well-timed three day weekend during the height of foliage season, meaning it’s peak time for leaf peepers. New England rolls out the red carpet for the holiday, not just with the colors in the trees, but with many fantastic annual events scheduled as well. Fall festivals and agricultural fairs and Oktoberfests are all on the calendar, as well as all the traditional activities and attractions the region is noted for in autumn. New England is in high gear, and the color sure seems to be cooperating this year too!

When I first got my 2012 calendar, I’ll admit that I was worried about how the colors would match up to the observance date for Columbus Day. Traditionally, the holiday falls on the second Monday of the month, and that puts it on only the eighth this year, the earliest possible. With great fortune though, the foliage has come early this year, and a large portion of the four northern states are in fine foliage dress, ready to put on a show this weekend.

Strong Reds By Jim Salge
Strong Red Tones Are Abundant This Foliage Season

The color hasn’t just come on early, it’s come on strong, making this one already one of the brightest foliage displays in a few years. The weather through much of the month of September had been ideal for bringing out this great color, with warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights the norm through most of September. This is perfect weather for the manufacture of red pigments in the leaves, and in many areas, this color isn’t just present, but dominant at peak.

We saw spectacular peak foliage during the last full week of September in areas from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to New Hampshire’s North Woods, and arcing up to the Crown of Maine.

Dixville Notch by Michelle Brenholtz Dixville Notch At Peak Foliage Last Week

The consistently cool weather has also brought strong color out in areas far south of where we normally expect it this time of year. Jenne Farm in Vermont, and Lower Falls on the Kancamagus Highway have well documented target dates for peak, and the color is about a week ahead of schedule. This will likely mean two things for our foliage this year:

  1. Good, strong color will be widespread throughout Northern New England during Columbus Day Weekend
  2. We could see a bit of a compressed season, with much of the area peaking at the same time sometime next week.

For those heading out this weekend, autumn color will not be hard to find. Anywhere in interior Northern New England, including interior Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine all are currently showing at least moderate color. Most coastal areas though are still only generally showing low color, with the exception of Down East Maine, but you need not drive too far inland to find better foliage.

Vermont Pond at Peak By John Vose A Pond in Vermont Hits Peak Foliage This Past Weekend

The best color this weekend will be found along the spine of the Green Mountains, the Central White Mountains, and the Maine Mountains over to Moosehead Lake and Baxter State Park. Good color will also be found in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Central and Northern Vermont, as well as New Hampshire and Maine’s Lakes Regions.  Acadia National Park is worth noting as well, as though it won’t be at peak, color is coming in early, and there will be plenty of nice foliage to peak the interest of visitors.

Additionally, though peak arrived in the far northern reaches last week, there has thus far been little in the way of leaf drop, and the colors are still holding strong. Looking ahead, a cold front this weekend may increase the winds a bit, but it’s likely that good color will still be found in our most northern areas during the holiday.

Peacham Vermont By Jeffrey Newcomer A Classic View of Peacham Vermont This Past Weekend

Nice rides this weekend might include Appalachian Gap or Northern Rt. 100 in Vermont, or the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.  Color won’t be at peak yet along the Mohawk Trail, but there will be plenty of nice foliage along the way nonetheless.  The best drive though might be a loop around Route’s 4, 16 and/or 26 around Rangeley and Grafton Notch in Maine, where color could be exceptional this weekend!

Fall foliage season won’t end Columbus Day weekend in New England, but it does seem to be the peak of the tourism season. The colors of autumn generally have yet to arrive in many areas though, and color should be around for weeks to come.  The coastal areas of Northern New England will come in soon, and Eastern Massachusetts, as well as the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut should continue the trend of early than average foliage later this month.

If you are touring this weekend, we’d like to encourage you to check in with us at with your foliage reports and pictures. You can do this through our website map, or through our mobile app on your smart phones.

Additionally, if you find the perfect fall foliage scene, be sure to keep our photography contest and also our photo sweepstakes in mind. We’d love to see where you go on your autumn adventure.

Perhaps we’ll see you there!  Happy Columbus Day!

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 2nd, 2012

10 Responses to Finding the Best Foliage Columbus Day Weekend

  1. Alli Rumens October 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Am heading to Boston this coming Saturday from the UK, for a two-week self drive around New England – my first time. I can’t wait to see what colours await!

  2. Renee Pierce October 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Any suggestions for October 19-22? We are staying in Cambridge but have a car. Never been to the area an not sure what the best course would be for photographing. We would like to keep the drive to around 2 hours to allow plenty of time for picture taking and getting back. Thanks.

    • Jim Salge October 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      I might consider Cape Ann, and the North Shore areas up to Newburyport. Lots of history, and hopefully the oaks will be turning!

    • Shannon October 19, 2012 at 1:29 am #

      See comment dated 10/19. Hope that helps and you have a great time :)

  3. Bert Jones October 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    past peak in a lot of places up in the Whites it seemed yesterday. Kangamagus has a little color, but sparse. Rain last few days has affected things.

    • Jim Salge October 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      Thanks Bert,

      We were surprised ourselves with how fast it left this year. Our new report is up and definitely provides an honest look at the state of the foliage!

  4. Riya October 12, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Can anyone suggest, what areas will be good to go for moderate to peak foliage. I am from Boston, and not able to decide where to go? Please advise. Thank you.

  5. Riya October 12, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I want to go on this weekend. 10/13-10/14

  6. Shannon October 19, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    Kangamangus highway. Another couple of beautiful places besides the many along the highway would be crystal falls and also the flume :)

  7. Shannon October 19, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    93n to 112 will bring you towards white mountains Kangamangus pass. There are tons of stops along the highway for photo ops. Just make sure you have enough gas for a while. Not any stations on that particular highway once your on it. Just new England’s finest scenery and tons of trails too! A nice authentic New England restaurant my boyfriend and I liked along the way was “Cabin Fever”. A sweet “ma & pa” type cute little reaturant with yummy homemade soups and pies. We thought it Made for a nice stop for some good seafood chowder and chili to warm up with before hitting the Kangamangus on the bike to catch some great shots of foliage :). Reaturant is “homey” and “comfy” Nh country ish theme too!

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