Skip to main content

Leaf peeping: a guide to spectacular fall foliage

Autumn leaf peeping in New Hampshire, USA

Cosy season is among us, hey, and it’s a New England specialty. With it brings pumpkin spice everything, quarter-zip fleeces, and brisk walks in the pahk (don’t worry, we’ve equipped you with a glossary below). But best of all: the leaves! Red, orange, yellow, vermillion, gold, auburn, I could go on and on about the colours of the leaves. Late September, all of October, and early November are the best and most wonderful times to go leaf peeping, and you absolutely should go!

If you think autumn is beautiful where you’re from just you wait because you’ve never seen a New England fall. Leaf peeping ain’t just about the sights though, it’s an experience that’ll give you the 411 on all things New England. So relax, kick back, and enjoy the wicked* cool culture and the views. You’re in for a rippah*!

What is leaf peeping?

Well, for all the non-Americans out there, you may be justifiably confused. Sounds like some shiesty* activity, doesn’t it? But we promise it’s as wholesome as they come! 

Leaf peeping is the incredibly quaint act of going on a road trip to catch the spectacular fall foliage. Of course, the colour of the leaves changes all throughout the United States, but the best and the brightest forests can be found along the North-Eastern coast in historic New England. 

If you’re now left wondering which states make up New England it’s these ones: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont. No, New York is not part of New England (it’s just a historic thing), but for the purposes of this article we’ll count it because who doesn’t want to stroll through Central Pahk in all its crimson glory?

town of Montpellier in Vermont lit up by autumn foliage

Image source:Contiki

Can I call it something other than leaf peeping?

No! Don’t be a flatlander*! Yes, it’s awkward and kind of conveys the image of people hiding in bushes watching as scarlet aspen and maple trees disrobe. Yes, it’s borderline illicit! But leaf peeping is what it’s called, and that’s what we’ll call it!

It’s all just part of the New England fun – we’re a rowdy bunch and you’ll get a kick out of it soon (wait ‘til you found out what wicked pissa* means).

Feeling inspired?

16 of the most Instagrammable places to visit in Boston

16 of the most Instagrammable places to visit in Boston

Read more

Where can you go leaf peeping?

City or countryside, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s got trees you’re in for a treat. You’ll get a slightly different experience either way, though, so it just depends on what you want!

City leaf peeping

If you’re a true city-slicker and are worried about missing out on the lovely fall action, don’t be, there are plenty of places to still catch some autumn colours! Boston and New York City are both home to some illustrious parks like Boston Common and Central Pahk. 

Pro-tip for our big autumn fans here: we really recommend you take a drive up to Cambridge, where Harvard (pronounced Haavaad) is, or down to New Haven (pronounced New ‘Aven), where Yale is, for those perfect academia Gilmore Girls vibes that autumn is all about!

Once you’re done head on down to The Cape (Cape Cod that is) for a bowl of clam chowder or a fresh lobster roll and a cosy night by the sea.

Boston Public Garden in Autumn

Image source:Contiki

Rural leaf peeping

Keeping it rural in the countryside seems like the obvious choice here though.

Stick to the charming towns that dot Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, like Burlington, North Conway, and Augusta respectively. White wood-panelled homes, red-bricked stores, and tall-spired churches in the centre. They’re so quintessentially New England it’s almost cartoonish! Coupled with the fall colours you’ll be filled with an entirely new and special feeling.

If you make your way up to Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire then you’ll be blessed with a hundred-yard view of more shades of red than you can name. It’s the perfect place to snap some photos and breathe in that crisp air. Got lost on the way? Don’t worry, just bang a U-ie* or ask a statie* for some directions; they’ll be happy to help provided you bribe em with a Dunks* for their trouble.

White Mountains lake backed by autumn foliage, New Hampshire

Image source:Contiki

Which leaves off which trees change colour?

The thing is, not all trees are graced with fiery foliage. Trees like spruces, firs, pines, are all classified as evergreens and they typically don’t even have leaves. Instead they have deep green needles which do fall in the colder months, but as the name suggests, these trees are green all year round.

What you want to look for are deciduous trees like oaks, birches, and beech trees. They’re the ones that boast the most brilliant displays and lucky for us they’re most commonly found sprawling all over New England! 

Another stunner is the iconic Maple tree which is native to Canada but can be found in the northernmost regions of the States. While on your road trip you absolutely must make sure you pick up some local maple candies and maple syrup. It can cost ya, but it’s worth every dime.

Feeling inspired?

Fall foliage and beyond: 15 best places to visit in September

Fall foliage and beyond: 15 best places to visit in September

Read more

When is the best time to go leaf peeping?

Late September to early November is the best time to go leaf peeping on the Eastern coast. As a general rule you should keep in mind the placement of each state though: the more north the earlier you should go. If you wanted to travel to Montana or North Dakota for example, then mid-September to early October is your best bet. Southern states like Texas will start their leaf peeping season later.

Pro-tip: enjoy a country-wide road trip for an amazing 2 months of leaf peeping! We’ve got some trips you can hop on that’ll bring you to your destination and make sure you don’t get bored along the way. 

To spot the peak colours, that is, the most vibrant and glowing ones, avoid rainy or windy days as the leaves will lose their beautiful glossy sheen and look damp and sullen. Here’s some New England knowledge for you: if it’s windy and the leaves start to turn and show their silver bellies, you’ve got a thunderstorm heading your way, so make sure to take cover.

Autumn in Vermont

Image source:Contiki

New England Glossary

Now you can talk just like a local and blend right in. And with that, we’ll leave you on a classic New England joke: have a nice trip, see you next fall!

Up next

Stop dreaming and make sh*t happen!

North East Highlights

1 country, 7 days

North East Highlights

View trip
New York Explorer

1 country, 3 days

New York Explorer

View trip