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New England Foliage

by Philip Greenspun, 1993-1996 (updated February 2010)

Covered Bridges



Kancamagus Highway (and Franconia Notch)

General Practical Information

The Basics

Tree branch at Glen Ellis Falls on Rt. 16 in New Hampshire In Maine, they've got the ocean. In New Hampshire, they've got high mountains covered in pine trees. Pine trees do not change color in the winter time. It took me awhile to figure this out, but I'm pretty sure that it is true. In Vermont, they've got lower mountains covered in deciduous trees. Deciduous trees change color in the winter time.

Dead Trees

Start with the Michelin Green Guide to New England. This book has excellent driving tours with all the important sights marked with stars. They have a particularly nice tour for the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Contact Robert Hitchman, author and publisher of Photograph America, and get the back issues on Autumn in Vermont (#2) and Acadia/Maine Coast (#13).

Glen Ellis Falls on Rt. 16 in New Hampshire Finally, pick up the state tourist board maps as you cross borders. These are useful for pinpointing covered bridges and such. None of these maps show the tiny little roads that you'll be on for the best photography. Even the GPS databases are not quite up to the challenge of the rural road networks of these states and will try to send you down roads that would be best described as "jeep tracks". If you have a good sense of direction and don't mind being mildly lost much of the time, enjoy your rambling. If you are overly analytical and want to know where you are, then pick up the moby Delorme atlases for Vermont, New Hampshire, and/or Maine .

A Plan

Glen Ellis Falls on Rt. 16 in New Hampshire You have to allow at least three or four days in each area. I'd say that you could productively stay in Woodstock, Vermont for a whole week, straying no farther than 50 miles from your hotel. The White Mountains deserve at least three or four days. Franconia Notch, north of Lincoln, tends to peak around October 1st so don't get there too late. If you like the fading grand resort idea, stay at the Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, which gave its name to the system of exchange rates that prevailed into the 1970s. It is a long 6-hour drive from Boston to Acadia National Park in Maine. Allow a week for the Maine Coast and Acadia or give up on the idea and come back another year.

My friend Bill grew up in Vermont and his favorite inn throughout the state is Ten Bends on the River (802-888-2827) in Hyde Park (NE of Burlington).

Here are some driving tours:


Here's in the order in which I would fill my camera bag: Hydroelectric plant on the Connecticut River in Vernon, Vermont.

  • Tripod
  • maximum resolution digital camera (it is all about the details) or Fuji Velvia if you're using film equipment
  • Wide angle lens for all-around work, e.g., a 16-35/2.8 zoom with a full-frame body, a 10-22mm range with an APS-C camera, or 7-14mm with a Four-Thirds system body
  • Macro lens for leaf patterns and such. Any macro lens between 50 and 100mm should work fine.
  • Telephoto lens to isolate and compress elements. With a full-frame camera, a 70-200mm is practical and the f/2.8 aperture lenses are not necessary because you're not taking portraits.

Live Free and/or Die

New Hampshire has huge state-run liquor stores along all their Interstate highways, especially close to the Massachusetts border. I've always loved this one, which is combined with a safety rest stop The motto on New Hampshire license plates, "Live Free or Die", is reasonably photogenic, especially when one considers the motto's history of litigation. A woman sued because she wanted her car registered in New Hampshire but wanted a plate without the bellicose motto. The courts told her that she was out of luck. Perhaps she's moved to Boston where people save their bellicosity for the actual driving...

Anyway, my favorite New Hampshire picture is the side-by-side State Safety Rest Area and State Liquor Store. New Hampshire used to be one of the few states where you could legally drink a beer in your car, i.e., they had no "open container law". Anyway, you don't need PhotoShop to create this absurd image. Just pull over at the first stop off I-93N from Boston.

Stay Home

Or almost home. I snagged a fairly reasonable foliage picture just north of the Boston suburb of Ayer, Massachusetts.

This free service is made possible by the generosity of Boston Photo, which scanned the images presented here. Text and photos copyright 1993-1996 Philip Greenspun

Article revised February 2010.

Readers' Comments

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Tom Fawls , May 14, 1998; 06:59 A.M.

Although Vermont and New Hampshire are the best known (and most crowded) areas for Fall foliage, the same types of vistas can be seen throughout the mountains of New Your State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia and into North Carolina.

The mountains through these states have the same types of trees but they tyically turn later than the more Northern Vermon, Maine, Massachusettes, and New Hampshire. And because these states don't advertise the colors as much as their Northern bretheren, the roads and inns are MUCH less corwded...adding to the viewing enjoyment!

If you time things right, you can actually make the colors last for almost two months by "following the Fall" South each year!

no thanks , September 06, 1999; 10:24 P.M.

The above is a fair point that deserves to be addressed. Wait-no it isn't. You must be on the New York State Chamber of Commerce commitee of bs'ing the whole world because the beauty of New Hampshire is not comparable to Jersey. Maybe there is a nugget here and there in Upstate New York but you must remember one thing-IT'S STILL NEW YORK! And as far as having a "safer" experience from less crowded roads, no doubt the one guy that passes you the whole time will be swerving all over the road trying to cut you off or play chicken with your family. Thanks, but I will take my chances with the moose and the "traffic" of New Hampshire before I dabble in the ways of Jersey Beauty (Ouch!) See you at your camp in New Hampshire later!

Kevin Geraghty , May 21, 2000; 02:05 A.M.

Intuitively I never have understood the notion that you should do nature photography from your car. Perhaps you have to worry about being eaten in East Africa, but not northern New England. So there is no excuse not to get out of your car.

Places that you have to walk to are much less photographed. Skip that picture from the highway bridge at Queechee gorge. Approximately 7,312 people have taken that same Queechee gorge shot this year. Do you want to be number 7313?

David Allen , August 21, 2000; 12:53 P.M.

Got to be careful with ypos. Maple Syrup came out as Male Syrup. Whoops. Sorry

Marlene Daniels , September 30, 2000; 01:13 P.M.

Your photos of PA and New England, etc are beautiful. I would like to suggest that someone research various sights in WV... in particular Davis and Canaan Valley, WV. Davis is the home of Blackwater Falls which sits high atop the mountains of Monongahela National Forest. It's a beautifully peaceful spot and exceptionally beautiful in the fall. This is a great site you've created!! I'm with Kim.. I love the fall.. must be the Heckman connection!!

donna & art herbold , October 01, 2000; 02:11 P.M.

As nice as the photos are at this site, New York's Adirondack Mountains are vibrating with colors you've got to see to believe. Full spectrum, colorarama on the Northway (I-87)on State Rt 3 - drive slowly, get out to walkabout and just try to take it in.

donna & art herbold , October 01, 2000; 02:12 P.M.

As nice as the photos are at this site, New York's Adirondack Mountains are vibrating with colors you've got to see to believe. Full spectrum, fall colorarama on the Northway (I-87)on State Rt 3 - drive slowly, get out to walkabout and just try to take it in.

donna & art herbold , October 01, 2000; 02:16 P.M.

As nice as the photos are at this site, New York's Adirondack Mountains are vibrating with colors you've got to see to believe. Full spectrum, fall colorarama via the Northway (I-87), or thru Keene, NY or on State Rt 3 - drive slowly, get out to walkabout and just try to take it in.

Craig and Katie St. Jean , October 10, 2000; 12:11 P.M.

Beautiful photos!!

Clyde Sharpley , July 22, 2001; 11:39 P.M.

I would also suggest that NY State Foliage is every bit as magnificent as New Hampshire. I would also include the Catskills and The Helderbergs which are fairly close to Albany. Trying to claim New England Foliage is the "best" takes away from many othe areas. Photographers can find a bonanza of color all over the Northeast.

Jeanne Daigle , September 05, 2001; 03:15 P.M.

Congratulations on winning the Site of the Month Award from the New England Travel site at BellaOnline.com.

Ron Beazley , September 05, 2001; 10:57 P.M.

While I feel that New England foilage (+ the Adirondacks) is incredibly beautiful, I live in Nova Scotia and there are many parts in this seaside province which are just as beautiful as anywhere else (and I have travelled N.E. and the Adirondacks/Catskills many times). Specifically, the foilage on Cape Breton Island, mainly along the incredibly rugged and beautiful Cabot Trail, plus the Annapolis Valley and the Eastern Shore (Marine Drive) are just as beautiful as any of the USA places noted above. In 1999 or 2000 (I forget which) Cape Breton Island was ranked as the MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND IN THE WORLD by the leading American travel magazine. SO - come north, my American friends, and with the exchange on the dollar - the price is right. It's ony a 12-14 hour drive from Boston, 8 hours from Bangor.

Ronald W. Beazley, M.D. Dartmouth, Nova Scotia Canada

Philippe Gauthier , September 10, 2001; 09:52 P.M.

As far as Canada is concerned, you should consider Quebec. The region known as the Eastern Townships really is a continuation of Vermont in all respects - it was even first settled by New England people before the French population moved in. There definitely is a New England feel to it and you'll find covrred bridges and red maple leaves.

As far as maples or maple syrup are concerned, I'll tell you a secret. Quebec produces over 80% of the maple syrup in the world and Vermont, only 5% (most of Vermont syrup is Quebec syrup repackaged in Vermont). The logical consequence to this is that if you want to get nice, red maple foliage in abundance, you should look for it in Quebec. The best area, even better that the very nice Eastern Townships, would be the area known as the Bois Francs (hard wood), roughly centered around Victoriaville. Expect the area to be at its best somewhere between October 1-10. No crowds there, guaranted, as long as you avoid the Canadian Thanlsgiving, usually around October 10-12.

Jon Secord , August 13, 2003; 11:32 A.M.

One of the best places i've been in new england for photography is an island off of Bath, Maine. Its a campground called hermit island. If you're in the area definetely take a trip up there, camp for a few days, and explore...it's definetely worth while

marty desilets , September 24, 2006; 02:09 P.M.

Cool shots, your work makes me want to give up my day job :) - Marty - Vermont Nature Photography

marty desilets , October 03, 2006; 12:08 P.M.

Does philip still update this site? or is it pretty much dead? I'd love to see some new stuff.
Vermont Photography

Rudy Ternbach , October 25, 2006; 04:29 P.M.

2006 Fall Ride-A-Thon, Belchertown, Masstts

Fall Foliage in Western Massachusetts makes a scenic backdrop for social event and animal photography. In 2006 I had the welcome opportunity to photograph The Pioneer Valley Therapeutic Riding Association's Annual Fall Ride-A-Thon. A great time was had by kids, horses, parents, volunteers, riders, walkers and photographers: leaf-peepers one and all.

Jim McBride , May 05, 2007; 05:23 P.M.

Sadly, Rhode Island lacks mountains like New Hampshire and Vermont, but it does not lack beautiful maritime scenery and autumn foliage. Even though Rhode Island is one of the most densely populated states in the Union, there is plenty of attractive conservation land and undeveloped shoreline. It is all quite accessible and prices generally tend to be less than in the greater Boston/Cape Cod region. There is an international airport with connections to everywhere, and the state is so small that you won't waste a lot of fuel driving around. Want to see beautiful seaside mansions owned by the rich and famous? Come to Newport, RI - see where John and Jacqueline Kennedy were married.

Michael Skelton , May 06, 2007; 12:11 P.M.

New England in Autumn along with the Adirondacks are very beautiful . I happen to visit West Virginia this past October and should you ever get the chance , Spent a week or two there . The autumn colors and landscapes are every bit as beautiful as the North East.

Best of Light.

Renee Osborne , July 10, 2007; 11:20 A.M.

I realize that North Carolina isn't anywhere near New England, but our mountains have lovely, vibrant fall foilage in reds, oranges, yellows, and cinnamons. The color change falls later in the year than in NE, usually mid to late October. So if you ever find yourself in the southern part of the Appalachians, check out the town of Boone, NC, then hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway for some breathtaking panoramas and fall foilage. The area around Grandfather Mountain (south on the Parkway from Boone) is one of my personal favorites.

billy baggie , October 02, 2007; 07:15 P.M.

i've been to all new england state on foliage and everything was great.it's intriguing but i found new hampshire more interesting,from the flawless highway 93 to the amazing kancamagus highway.I suggest you visit the scenic driveway,get of your car and hit the foot trail.it's really worth the walk after you get to the wonderful colors.

Charles Reid , February 07, 2008; 08:28 A.M.

I happen to travl all over.. i'll guarantee more than 99.99% of photo.net and let me reiterate what a poster above said. NY, WV, VA, NC et al all have Stunning fall foliage. There are differences and they're beautiful in different ways but all are jawdroppingly gorgeous at the right time.

About the poster dissing New York he's obviously never been more than ten miles from his hometown and assumes "outsiders r eviil" and that he lives in utopia. Upstate NY is Gorgeous. Its mountains are rolling as opposed to the steep vallys of Carolina and the Va's. Its woods are more dense and evergreen than pa.

And btw those who usually scream most about other drivers are usually the problem. I do it professionally about 150,000 miles a year so id probably know..

Forest Wander , October 09, 2008; 01:58 P.M.

I love the Fall colors in West Virginia.

Some of the best places are the least known.

There is one mountain in particular that I am heading to in the morning that is amazingly beautiful you have wide open plains and valley below the mountain and there are hardly any people there.

West Virginia in my opinion is the best place for Fall and Autumn photography, the rural rustic mountain towns are very hospitable.

ForestWander Nature Photography

For Fall foliage images from West Virginia you can browse
Forest Foliage Autumn and Fall Nature Photography

Shun Cheung , October 13, 2008; 10:42 P.M.

In 2008, we have an interesting thread in the Nature Forum discussing the progress of foliage changes in various New England states that fall. Several of us contributed images from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachustees and even New York State: photo.net/nature-photography-forum/00R0Uu

Michael Skelton , October 11, 2009; 10:50 P.M.

I just got back from the White Mountains of New Hampshire and as always it was a great trip. As others have mention , there is also the Adirondacks , which I will be leaving for in the am. It is true that it can be crowded there but one has to realize that the Adirondacks are bigger then the state of New hampshire. There is over a thousand lakes and 3,000 miles of river and streams in the park.

With the 46 peaks and hiking it isn't hard to lose yourself .There is also the Hudson Valley , the Catskills , the southern tier and thousands of waterfalls not to mention all the beaches. All this without even the mention of all the lighthouses in NYState. Should you feel up to the task there is also NYC with the zoo , gardens and Central Park.

And if your real lucky you may get a few tickets to see the Yankees play the Angels in the Championship series.

New England is beautiful but everything you have there you can find plentiful in the state of New York.

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