For a few autumn weeks, fall foliage in the Northeast transforms the region into a rich tapestry of gold and russet oak, birch, and sugar maple trees. Seeing fall colors at peak intensity is magical, but success requires perfect timing and the right location.
Typically, leaves start turning colors by mid-September in the northernmost regions, gradually working their way toward the southern states by mid-October. But it’s not as simple as knowing the time of year. Elevation, coastal access, and microclimates contribute to incredible variation even within a two-hour driving radius.
Catching the leaf-peeping show is complicated and fleeting. Diana, visiting from California just to see the autumnal display, says, “I’m surprised that in one week we could go from green trees to a full spectrum of red, yellow, and orange.”
Yankee Magazine’s Leaf Peepr app pulls up a color-coded map that allows you to drill down or scroll to locate current foliage status all across the United States. Even armed with that information, you still need to know where to find the trees in a photogenic or at least picturesque setting.
Here are our best picks for where to go in Northeast USA to experience the changing of the leaves, and get those award-winning travel photos. But if you’re traveling in the West, do check out the spectacular colors of fall in Colorado.
Looking for more Northeast travel ideas? Check out these surprisingly romantic getaways in New England!
Top Destinations for Fall in the Northeast
Best Spots In Maine for a Fall Weekend Getaway
Bar Harbor is a popular cruise ship stop and jumping-off point for exploring the first fall colors at the beginning of the season in late September or early October, but we like an alternative, Boothbay Harbor.
The stunning natural treasure that is Acadia National Park is an obvious choice for a fall foliage getaway, but we looked to its quieter side for a weekend getaway on the Schoodic Peninsula.
As for picture-perfect, consider the coastal town that inspired Winslow Homer, Portland ME.
Top Fall Foliage Destinations In New Hampshire
See the White Mountains awash in color on a scenic drive along the Kancamagus Highway or climb aboard the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world.
Find Fall Colors in Vermont
Base a visit to the ironically named Green Mountains in Bennington VT and discover the place that moved Robert Frost to poetry. The mountain state also offers stunning views in its river valleys; we recommend the hiking trails in Okemo Valley.
Go on a Fall Foliage Road Trip in New York
A lovely way to see fall foliage in all its colorful stages is on the two-hour road trip between New York’s Columbia and Westchester counties along the Taconic scenic byway; start at Lake Taghkanic State Park and drive south to Sleepy Hollow NY (or visa versa.)
Discover a New England Fall in Massachusetts
Home to Norman Rockwell, the Berkshires are dotted with small towns and quintessential New England homes. Stunning in all seasons.
Enjoy Fall Flowers In Connecticut
Plan a Perfect Fall Trip in Pennsylvania
Coast over hills and dales and through twelve creaky covered bridges along Bucks County Covered Bridge self-guided driving tour. Travel into the Pennsylvania wilds at the Allegheny National Forest. Or, soak in a sunset in the Poconos.
Explore Coastal Rhode Island in the Offseason
While a beach getaway might not be what comes to mind for a fall foliage getaway, you’d be surprised at just how beautiful Newport RI is when summer visitors depart. A dash of color on trees pairs amazingly well with lighthouses and crashing waves.
More Great Fall Foliage Getaways