Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and predicting when fall foliage will peak in New England is a crapshoot at best. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to stack the odds of seeing peak fall foliage in your favor:
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- The unpredictable factors that influence the rate at which leaves change colors are rain, the amount of sugar in the leaves, the number of daylight hours and temperatures.
- Peak foliage in New England works its way down from the north. The further north you go, the earlier the peak.
- For Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, your best bet is anywhere from the last week of September through the first week or two of October.
- The three-day weekend around the Columbus Day holiday is often associated with peak foliage in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, but there are no guarantees.
- A violent storm can rip the leaves from the trees before they ever truly reach their peak.
- Foliage updates are available online and by phone for the New England states and New York--calling ahead once the season is in progress is never a bad idea.
- Living in New England is a sure-fire way to catch leaves at their peak. While that might not be a viable option for you, in general, the longer you plan to stay in New England in the fall, the better your chances of seeing peak color.
- Be mobile. Driving to or renting a car once you have arrived in New England can open up your opportunities for going to where the best leaves are.
- You'll find differing conditions along major highways, near bodies of water and in the mountains--plan your itinerary to include varied terrain.
- Be flexible. If you live within driving distance of New England and do not need to book overnight accommodations, wait to decide to make the drive once you've checked that conditions are prime.
- If you've selected desired accommodations, ask the innkeeper or hotel desk clerk when "normal" peak times occur at that location.
- Make your trip about more than just leaves so that you won't be disappointed. There’s more to autumn fun in New England than peak foliage. Sip hot cider, pick apples, take a hay ride, hike, bike or attend a festival. Keep in mind, too, that even a hint of color can be beautiful.
- If you will need overnight accommodations, make reservations well in advance. Do NOT attempt to head for New England on the spur of the moment assuming you'll be able to find a place to stay.
- Don't forget your camera so that you can relive your "peak moments" and share them with others.