Leaf Peeping in New England

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Maple Leaves

Maple Leaves

The Definition: Leaf peeping is an autumn activity in areas where foliage changes colors. Leaf peepers are those who participate in photographing and viewing the fall foliage.

White Mtns, NH

White Mountains, NH

Franconia Gorge

Franconia Gorge

I have always loved autumn. And autumn and New England go together like peanut butter and jelly or Tom and Jerry or me and oxygen. So, now that I was back on the east coast, I figured I might as well take advantage of the amazing color and light show going on just north of me. It may not be a psychedelic as a Pink Floyd Laser show, but it’s pretty damn cool.

Here is New England!

Here is New England!

New England is the northeastern most area of the United States and is basically comprised of six states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. When you think of this region, you think rolling green hills, white clapboard churches, coastal fishing villages, clam chowder and leafy college campuses. It doesn’t disappoint. And the autumn season here couldn’t be a better time to go and enjoy nature’s final fling before the snowy northeast winter sets in (of course that is really pretty too, but damn cold).

Catching fall foliage at its peak can be a challenge as different weather patterns, temperatures, latitude, altitude, and length of daylight can all affect it. Typically the colors are most vibrant from late September to early to mid October – this shifts a bit of course depending on how far north or south you are. If you are far north in Maine… the colors will turn earlier and likewise if you are down in Massachusetts or Connecticut, the best time will be a little later. Go early and see the colors mixed in with greens, go later and see the colorful confetti on back lanes and in streams.

The Kanc, White Mtns

The Kanc, White Mtns

But what exactly causes these flaming reds, bright oranges and golden yellows to come out? Why do leaves change color at all? After a little research, I have found that it has to do with the slow down and eventual cessation of chlorophyll production. In summer, the chlorophyll gives leaves their rich green hue. But as cool temps set in and the daylight hours decrease, less chlorophyll is produced which allows the other ingredients in leaves – carotenoids and anthocyanins (are these real words?) – to get their chance to be unmasked and shine through.

Fall Bursts to Life

Fall Bursts to Life

Our route from New Jersey would take us through the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, the Mohawk Trail (MA 2) in the northern Berkshires of Massachusetts, a lovely stop in Hanover, New Hampshire – the home of Dartmouth University, the White Mountains of New Hampshire and up to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine.

Here are some highlights:


You are Here

You are Here

This cute, quintessential New England town is most known as the home to Dartmouth College which was established in 1769 and is one of nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. With a total enrollment of 5,848, Dartmouth is the smallest school in the Ivy League.

Dartmouth Green

Dartmouth Green

The main street of town is lined with cute cafes and shops and leads right into the wide college ‘green’ where students lie in the grass or pass the time tossing Frisbees about. For lunch, we tried Lou’s, a Darmouth institution since 1947 and Hanover’s oldest establishment, but as still one of the most popular joints, the wait was too long. We ended up at Molly’s, a wood-paneled bar-slash-restaurant adorned with black and white photos and menus inside old LP covers.

Cafe Life in Hanover

Cafe Life in Hanover

The White Mountains

Road Trip New England

Road Trip New England

The vast White Mountains cover one quarter of New Hampshire with New England’s most rugged mountains. There is no shortage of activities from camping to hiking to skiing to canoeing. I flew through the air above the tree tops on my second Zipline course with Alpine Adventures since my first one in Costa Rica. We sailed over the red and yellow treetops on five different lines from platforms ranging in height between 15ft and 65 ft. It’s an exhilarating and free feeling that always makes me giddy with laughter.

Zip on over

Zip on over

To come down from our zipline rush, we hiked the easy two-mile Gorge Trail in Franconia Notch State Park. The Flume Gorge is a natural wonder shaped over time by a wild stream that cuts through the granite to form a natural cleft with towering granite walls that rise 90 feet above.

The Kancamagus Scenic Highway (Rt. 112) – During my research, this winding road probably came up the most and is the hardest to pronounce. Locals call it the Kanc. But unlike a bad Canker sore in your mouth, this road was quite pleasant and really a beautiful scene from beginning to end. It wasn’t paved until 1964 and cuts through the White Mountains from west to east. It only takes about an hour or so, even with requisite photo stops.

Storm Brewing on The Kanc

Storm Brewing on The Kanc

Acadia National Park

Surprisingly Acadia is the only national park in New England and said to be the nation’s second most visited national park after Yellowstone. The most popular part of Acadia is on Mt Desert Island just outside of Victorian mansion-lined Bar Harbor. Admission to the park is $20 per vehicle. We drove the scenic and serene 20-mile Park Loop Road that circumnavigates the northeastern section of Mt Desert Island including a stop at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in the park at 1530 feet.

There’s still time… jump in your car and road trip it up to New England! Then stick around for ski season.


  1. says

    Hi Lisa!

    What a lovely colours!

    It’s nice to se that the world is turning into the same nice shape all over the world…

    Here in Gothenburg and Sweden the trees also turn from deep green into yellow, red colours too, it’s an amazing time of the year, the sky is blue and clear, cold and lovely in a wonderful way.

    I hope everything is fine with you and that you enjoy life.

    Take care, be happy and enjoy life.

    With love and thoughts your friend Paula, from over seas.

  2. Kevin Fitzpatrick says

    This is a remarkably beautiful part of the US, perhaps near the top of my list. It's beautiful all the time, but in Autumn it's among the most breath-taking places in the universe. The locals up there are an interesting lot too. Their passion is measured in ever so slightly upturns of the lip. Cod and card are pronounced the same- you don't know if you've got a pond full of face cards or a deck of fish.

  3. says

    From a fellow leaf peeper, those pictures are great. I was recently in the Hudson Valley, NY and now in Massachusetts. The fall colors are definitely spectacular. I have some pictures that I will be adding over the next weeks.

    Check out my site: http://www.mstravelingpants.travel
    I recently had a tree accident and now have my road to recovery which limits my travel, but I plan on writing of my daily insights and adventures. Many will probably be walks amongst the fall colors.

    Ms Traveling Pants

  4. says

    I really love your photos! It has reminded me to forget about all the things I need to do to "catch up" over the weekend, and just go jump in the car and drive up to see the nature in action. Thank you for the little reminder to enjoy life.

  5. Jeremy says

    LL, Great piece on fall foliage. I'm a midwest transplant (STL) and my folks are coming to visit me in Maine. You REALLY did the topic justice and your description of New England as a place offering white clapboard churches, chowder, etc, was not only PERFECTLY descriptive…but why I was blessed to discover Maine. God Bless and thanks again, Jeremy.

  6. William Yao says

    It’s so beautiful! I went to the Cape Breton last weekend. The scenario there was just you described here. The fall in New England is really wonderful! Thank you.


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