Chasing the Fall Colors of New England

Tiffany Nguyen

Fall is the season of cooler temperatures, crisp air, and pumpkin spice everything. With all of this going for it, it's easy to see why many people consider fall to be their favorite season—and there’s no doubt that it’s one of the most magical times of the year on the east coast. I’m so grateful to live in a place like the US where there is so much seasonal variation between the states. When people think of the east coast, they often think of big cities like New York City and Boston, not realizing how much more it has to offer outside of its famous metropolises. 

Growing up on the west coast, I had never truly experienced the full changing of seasons, so I wanted to take a road trip through New England during the peak of fall colors to witness the yearly phenomenon for myself. Little did I know, this trip would allow me to discover that you don’t have to travel internationally in order to see extraordinary sights.

Where do I start?

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when setting out to plan a trip based around such a fleeting phenomenon. The fall foliage doesn't stick around for long, so it's essential to be prepared to ensure the best possible chance of success. The first thing I researched was exactly where I wanted to go and when. The window to catch the colors right at their peak is quite narrow—once they hit their peak, they’re gone before you know it. Typically, the colors are at their best during the first two weeks of October, but it varies depending on the year and the destination of choice.

Some of the most helpful and reliable resources I found were the fall foliage forecasts and reports put together by the tourism boards of each New England state. The tourism board forecasts provide estimates of when the leaves are set to reach peak based on trends from previous years and the current year’s weather patterns. Most will also release weekly reports that track the progress of the foliage because things, as we all know, can take an unexpected turn—excessive heat/cold or inclement weather conditions can easily change the forecast.

I also researched by browsing hashtags on Instagram to get a better idea of real-time conditions at specific locations I was looking to shoot. I skimmed over blog write-ups with detailed directions to spots, and Google Earth helped me to find places for aerial photographs. 

Remaining flexible

As a professional photographer, something I’ve learned throughout my career is the importance of remaining flexible. Oftentimes I find myself deviating from my original plans after having the opportunity to evaluate conditions or learning new information. In this case, I was continually researching even though I was already on the trip—jumping from one spot to the next, dedicated to getting the best of the fall colors.

Sometimes remaining flexible meant deviating from my plans altogether. It happened, that as I was driving through the countryside, I came across an unexpectedly perfect scene and had no choice but to pull off to the side and seize the moment. This is part of what made my trip through New England so exhilarating! 

Things to consider while planning a New England road trip

Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Maine were my favorite states to visit. What I loved most about these New England states was how warm and welcoming the local people were. There’s such a distinct vibe and feeling to this part of the east coast compared to anything I experienced growing up on the west coast. There was a feeling of historical significance which really caught me by surprise and enriched my experiences there. It’s valuable to go through new encounters like this—they force you to reevaluate the way you think and approach the world at large.

Although the fall foliage is why I went on the trip, an added bonus was the apple orchards scattered throughout the small towns. It came as a surprise to me that I was not only chasing the fall colors but I was literally on a mission to visit as many of the apple orchards as I could. I couldn’t help myself from grabbing a glass of cider and an apple cider donut at each stop—a quintessential part of the New England experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

Leaf peeping is now one of the things I look forward to most each year. I plan months in advance to book accommodations and research locations I want to shoot. These colors can make for some of the most magical scenes you've ever laid your eyes on, and I’m always blown away by the incredible array of colors that nature can produce. Coming across an area where the foliage is right at its peak brings about a feeling of excitement that few things can compare to.

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