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First New England Fall Foliage Forecast

Posted Monday, August 15th, 2011
First New England Fall Foliage Forecast
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It’s just past 9PM in northern New England, and it’s getting quite dark. The first meteor of the annual August shower just streaked overhead, as bright as the brightest stars in the sky. The sun slipped out of view at 7:45PM this evening, and days are steadily growing shorter as the sun slips southward along the horizon. Already the goldenrod and Joe Pye weed are in bloom, and the animals are actively preparing for the changing seasons ahead. We know that soon we’ll see the arrival of cooler nights, crisp days, and perfectly clear bright blue skies.  This fine weather will accompany agricultural fairs, apple cider, and drives through the countryside among the most spectacular display of autumn colors on the planet, and early data suggests we should have a strong fall foliage season ahead!

We can never be truly sure what each autumn season will look like until it gets here, and as such, predictions about peak color are hard to put together. The root of the problem lies with the lack of truly measurable data. In our diverse New England forests, color exists along a continuum, and peak is hard to pinpoint. Quality of autumn color is also extremely subjective. There is reasonable consensus though on what will bring out the best fall colors. According to the US Forest Service, ample spring rainfall, and a moderately dry summer with normally warm temperatures will set the stage for healthy trees going into autumn. Thereafter, you have to hope for warm sunny days and cool, but not freezing nights to make the colors really pop. So where do we stand this year?

If the stated indicators above truly bring about the best foliage, then thus far, we’ve had a pretty ideal setup for a dramatic color year in 2011. Ample rainfall doesn’t begin to describe the amount of precipitation this past spring. In northern New England, it rained on average every other day through the early part of the season. Burlington, Vermont had both its wettest April and May on record. With all the rain, spring arrived a bit late, as forest flowers and apple blossoms were running up to three weeks behind last year across the region.

April Rainfall Map
Abundant Rainfall – Map Showing Departure From Normal Precipitation During April

The start of summer brought a significant drying trend across New England, and perhaps if the spring rains weren’t so incessant, we’d be talking about mild drought now. We’ve fortunately gotten well timed rainfall when things started to dry out though, and while my lawn has a few patches of brown, the trees are generally healthy and showing few signs of stress.  All this follows the formula for an intense autumn show.

There is also reason to believe that the pieces will keep falling into place this autumn. Fall foliage responds to a number of short term environmental factors as autumn approaches, none more important than the slow steady onset of cool weather. The dream setup of cool nights and warm, dry sunny days could become a reality if the outlooks from the long-range climate prognosticators come to fruition. The forecast for September is for temperatures to continue above normal, but trending towards seasonable and normal during the heart of the foliage season. Predictions also call for near normal rainfall. This all sounds terrific now, and while the stars may indeed align, there’s time to fine tune this yet!

Ideal New England Autumn Morning A Crisp Autumn Morning in New England – Perfect for Bringing Out Color!

To make an early official call on the fall foliage forecast for New England in 2011, I’d expect a very strong display of yellows and bright oranges, with fair reds and limited browns. I believe that peak itself may be a bit late this year, but strong color should be around during the traditional peak times, as the conditions seem right for to set up a prolonged foliage season. Honestly, I’m quite excited about what could be a great show!

As Yankee’s new foliage forecaster and blogger, I’ll be posting each Wednesday to check in with regional conditions preview the upcoming weekend’s weather and color. I’ll offer tips for viewing and capturing your experiences, and share some of my favorite locations. I’m very much looking forward to sharing in the season ahead here with Yankee Magazine, and hope you follow along with me!

Check back each week for more 2011 foliage forecasts.

Updated Monday, August 15th, 2011

32 Responses to First New England Fall Foliage Forecast

  1. Luke August 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Great explaination Jim. Looking forward to future posts

  2. North Woodstock August 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    GREAT blog Jim! Very interesting content and explainations, I really enjoyed reading your article. Looking forward to your weekly forecast. Here’s to a GREAT Fall with lots of GREAT images!

  3. Terry August 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    So looking forward to your blogs and the beautiful pictures of the autumn in New England!!

  4. graham August 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    at what point do you think the White Mts will be in the Sept 24 – Oct 2nd range? thats when we have our vacation planned. love to see the Kanc during peak or near peak foliage.

    • Jim Salge August 16, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      Perhaps a bit too soon to pinpoint a location down to a week, but the the Whites never go all at once, so you will certainly find some color however the season plays out. Typically in late September, I tend stay at the upper elevations (like the western side of the Kanc) or north of the notches for the best early color.

      A great question to also pose in the forums on this site, especially as time gets closer!

      • graham September 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

        thanks Jim.

  5. Jeff Glover August 15, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Can’t wait for the “magic week” as I call it. Sometimes fleeting. Sometimes lasts awhile. Always great. And good folks also! Yeah, there is also that “labstah” thing!

  6. Suzanne August 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    I enjoyed your blog as well Jim – Thanks! Looking forward to your blog in the coming weeks along with the beautiful New England foliage!

  7. nancy burks August 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    what do you think about Sept 30 thru Oct 5 for the peak color? we are from HOT TX and need to get plane reservation now. do you think that is to early for Vermont and New H? thanks nancy we usually go near Oct 8 week, but friends can not go then.

    • Jim Salge August 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

      Nancy…I think as long as you plan on staying in the northern half to third of those states, you’ll see plenty of color.

      • Donna September 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

        We were planning a vacation with a tour company that includes, Boston, North Conway, Hyannis Port, Martha’s Vineyard, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Portland Maine. We don’t know if we should cancel this trip and wait until next year or if everything we are seeing on the news is in other areas. I called the tour company and they said it was still a go, (but after all they do need the income) Do you have any sugestions. After the trip we were planning to leave by train from Boston to NY on to Niagra Falls On.

  8. Marnie August 22, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Hi Jim,
    I came across your blog post and loved it. We’re from California and planning our first trip to New England this fall. You talk about the peak season for fall foliage but I’m a bit ignorant. We’re going to Boston Oct. 13-Oct. 19. Will we see any beautiful colors?

    • Jim Salge August 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

      Hi Marnie…you’ll see some fall color for sure, but make sure you try to get out of the city, to the north and west a bit as well…where I think it’ll be stronger that week…but do check back as the trip approaches!

  9. kim vidor August 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    My 2 friends and I will be taking a New England Cruise from October 9-23, leaving out of the Boston Area and heading to Quebec then back to NJ..I have only been in NE once and my husband and I were a little early and seemed to chase the color….never seeing too much :(. Do you think we will see some color this year….kim

  10. nancy burks August 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    what do you think will the storm will do to the leaves in new england esp Vermont and NH? we plan on going Oct 1-4- thanks nancy burks

  11. Kristen D. August 30, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I was so excited when I received the Yankee e-newsletter today and read about your blog! I am a lifelong New Englander (and have no plans on leaving!) and autumn has always been my absolute most favorite time of the year here! I live for autumn and blog about it frequently myself! Looking forward to reading your blog and seeing your photography! :-)

  12. Mariad August 31, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m planning to go to Toronto in October , I only have 3 days, which week-end do you think it is better to see the foliage, the 7th or the 14th. I have to decide soon because I need to buy a ticket. Thanks so much for your reply.

  13. william MacDonald September 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    going to Baxter state park Oct 2nd – 8th last year color was great a week earlier and locals said the color was just starting whats your guess for this year? thanks great info

    • Jim Salge September 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

      Baxter usually peaks around the end of September and early October. Early thoughts before all this rain was for a slightly late peak, so if trends hold up, you might nail it.

      That being said, if you enjoyed early foliage last year, it will look different, but not necessarily better than last year. Early foliage is nice with greens mixed in!

  14. Heather September 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Hi Jim,
    Welcome .. I have been a color spotter for Greenville Maine Moosehead Lake Region for several years now and provide color updates and reports via our Cozy Moose Lakeside Cabins facebook page, twitter, Maine foliage forum on this site, with fall trip planning information at and <a href="; for more online resources.

    Fall in Love with Fall – Maine Fall Colors out my window – reds and yellows, which I expect will come on strong with lack of sunshine this entire week and cool temps.
    I just updated the foliage map as officially turning. For previous year posts,

  15. Heather September 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Hi Jim,
    Just entered turning or Greenville Maine Moosehead Lake Regon. I see yellows and reds out my window. As a color spotter for this region I have enjoyed sharing my love for the fall with others who visit us at The Cozy Moose Lakeside Cabins. Check out posts in Maine Forum on this site, and review posts on facebook along wtih fall photos I have posted over the years, Another great place to review seasons past is at <a href=";

    Follow the color – new this year twitter updates from my android phone with photos

    • Jim Salge September 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

      Thanks for the note Heather…I’ll certainly check back!

  16. peter livern September 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Hi Jim. Great blog! On my son’s birthday on Sept 17 we plan to go upstate NY (we live in the city) to do see the foliage, among other things. We hope not to drive away more than 2 hours. Will we see colors then?

  17. Eitan Asnafy September 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi Jim,
    I came across your blog post and loved it. We’re going to land at NYC at 30-Oct. We have 10 days of vacation and planning to rent a car and drive along beautiful roads upstate NY. What are the prospects of catching any peaks?

  18. Ron September 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    Our 9 day drive thru NE includes a start in Boston the 1st of Oct., then up to Bar Harbor ME, Lincoln NH, and Stowe VT. Then back to Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard by the weekend of the 9th. I’m hoping our time in NH and VT will be good to us for several scenic drives we plan to make while we’re there and hoping to see some fall colors then. Any thoughts on whether or not our timing is good?

    • Jim Salge September 24, 2011 at 6:47 am #

      You’ll likely be early for Bar Harbor and the Cape, but your trip through Maine to Lincoln and Stowe should be great! Enjoy!

  19. orgad September 24, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    Dear Jim
    My family and I are planning a trip in north east US between the 10-18th of October
    Our original plan was going up from NYC to the Finger Lakes then Niagara to the Adirondacks and then through a 2-3day in Vermont back to NYC
    Reading a few blogs and forecasts I was starting to think maybe we should re-arrange our trip in a counter clockwise fashion and start with Vermont trying to catch peak foliage.
    Could you help my planning?
    Other readers are also welcome to point out their insight
    Thanks allot

    • Jim Salge September 24, 2011 at 6:47 am #

      I think that for most of Vermont, the 18th will be a late for peak, but there will still be some color. If you can restructure, I might consider it…

  20. Mary October 19, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    In Western Massachusetts, on Columbus Day weekend, the traditional peak for foliage color there, the leaves were green, and were dropping from the trees without having turned. It has been raining buckets all fall, following upon incessant rain all summer, not to mention the hurricane hat produced flooding and damage all through the region. In our neck of the woods, the ground is not dry enough nor is the temperature cool enough for the colors to turn. I don’t know where Jim is located, but it doesn’t sound like the same New England we inhabit. This is the worst fall we have seen in 40 years.

    • Jim Salge October 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Hi Mary,

      We occupy the same space, but not the same time. This forecast was written in early August, long before Irene and the incessant rains of Autumn changed the situation significantly. The challenges to finding good foliage this year have been highlighted in later blogs here:

      It’s been a rough year in many areas, but there have also been regions with passable peak color. Lets hope for a better year next year!

  21. Clive Baylis October 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Hi Jim
    Coming to Boston 4 Nov – can you say which way we should drive for the best colours? Or are we too late this year? Many thanks

    • Jim Salge October 31, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      Hi Clive…Most of the foliage show is over now…but Boston proper actually holds foliage the longest. I wouldn’t stray too far from the city…you’ll see some color…

      Enjoy your stay!

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