There’s no better way to see fall’s famous fiery display of foliage than with a road trip through the Northeast. So when is the best time to hit the road? Typically, leaves first begin to change color in the northern parts of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire around mid-to-late September. In these states, leaf color life usually peaks around mid-October. In the lower northeast, the foliage changes later and can last right up to November.
When planning your road trip, it’s best to check the foliage map reports for the states you’ll be driving through so you can plan accordingly. These reports will give you up-to-date information on color, which areas are peaking at what times, how quickly the leaves are changing and recommendations for the best “leaf peeping”. These reports change slightly over the years as things like environment and weather will affect the leaf colors as well as how quickly they turn.
Here are some great ideas for a perfect fall foliage road trip in the Northeast, from northern Maine to southern Pennsylvania. Their timelines estimate when top foliage is likely to arrive at each destination, but ultimately it’s up to Mother Nature.
Last week of September
Follow the foliage: Northern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine
Great driving: Acadia Ports and Heights
This tour starts in Bangor and takes you through Ellsworth to picturesque Mount Desert Island. From there you go to beautiful Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where from the top of Cadillac Mountain you can be the first to see the sunrise in the Northeast. The lighthouse at Bass Harbor is another highlight of the trip, as are the fishing villages of Deer Isle and Stonington.
Follow the foliage: Northern New York, northeastern and central Maine, central and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, northern Pennsylvania, and western Massachusetts.
Great driving: SoVT Loop (Southern Vermont).
This drive begins in Manchester, Vermont, home of the Southern Vermont Art Center, and continues to South Shaftsbury, where you can explore the Robert Frost Stone House Museum. Later in the 104-mile loop, you’ll pass through Old Bennington with its historic monuments, homes and churches; there’s also a nice side trip to Somerset Reservoir, near Searsburg.
Follow the foliage: Maine’s southern and central coast, central and eastern Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, the Catskill region of New York, central Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and southern Rhode Island.
Great driving: Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
The 70-mile Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, also known as New York Route 97, winds along the Delaware River from Hancock to Port Jervis in southern New York. Spectacular river views are plentiful throughout the drive, but it’s worth stopping at Elks Bronx Memorial Park in Port Jervis for hiking trails and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys. Towns along the route offer a variety of art galleries, antique shops, history museums and other attractions.