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Thursday, 14 March 2013 12:32

The Best Leaf Peeping is in New England

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By Halloween, New Englanders are swimming in dry and brittle leaves. They collect and make patchwork rugs on driveways and cover the street’s shoulders. While kids walking along the sidewalks revel in kicking and crunching the crispy tree remnants, homeowners and landscapers lament the acres and acres of leaves that trees shed before winter hibernation. 

But that’s then. Now it’s time to gear up for those fall foliage jaunts. Depending upon the state, tourism experts say peak leaf peeping starts in September and ends by mid-October. Of course, that differs if you’re near the coast or more inland. Then it’s important to factor in the state. Trees that hug the coast, any coast, start turning earlier than inland

Vermont boasts the prettiest fall foliage in the world, or so the website and natives say. The rest of the New England, especially Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island might beg to differ. New York, which should be part of New England, would put up a fight too. 

Most of the information in this article is gleaned from each state’s tourism websites and a box at the right provides the links. Twenty years ago, visitors planned their leaf peeping trips based on what they already knew. Now, you can wander farther from home because every state’s website shows maps, offers hotel and motel information, and may even include restaurant options.

Massachusetts has a number of routes listed on the official state site. Like New Hampshire, it offers a color-coded map with an adjacent list of dates coinciding with the foliage

“The Cape Codder” route, around Cape Cod of course, provides 37.6 miles of scenery. Taking only 58 minutes, it leaves plenty of time to drive farther into the state to the “Southern Pass,” which is a 64.4-mile route south of Boston. That takes about one-and-one-half hours. Remember, the Cape starts turning before the rest of the state, so those really devoted to leaf peeping might want to devote a few weekends and lots of gasoline. Farther up in Massachusetts is the “Cranberry Course.” This one is a little more than 62 miles and takes one-and-one-half hours. The Berkshires offer more trees and spectacular colors that equal Vermont’s expansive offering. Try the “Beauty and the Berkshires” route to see them. 

Rhode Island offers a full map in PDF form. Print it, and off you go. It’s a small state, so plan on hitting part of Massachusetts or Connecticut too. 

Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection offers tips along with plenty of routes. One suggests mid-week trips to cut down on traffic, allowing visitors a more relaxed pace to enjoy the scenery. Really, who wants bumper-to-bumper traffic during a leisurely fall foliage drive? 

New Hampshire’s site provides a map that divides the state into seven regions. This one - and Vermont could take some serious time. 

Vermont should soon start their reporting for 2012. At the moment, last season’s are still up. You may want to glance at a couple as reference. Because Vermont claims it’s the best, and it may well be, the website provides getaway information, routes, and everything and anything fall foliage related. Admittedly, a weekend in Vermont during peak fall foliage is an unforgettable palate of varied deep-hued reds, brilliant oranges, sun-kissed yellows and all of the variations in between. 

We can’t forget the most New England of all New England states and that’s Maine! With miles and miles of untouched land, it might be the most colorful. (Please, don’t say this in Vermont!) Maine’s Department of Conservation starts offering weekly reports on foliage conditions throughout the state in early September. Remember, Maine is the size of a small European country, so leaf color changes may vary from county to county. No one like to plan the peak foliage road trip only to see naked branches. 

New York may not fit into the New England map, but it should. According to officials from New York, people the world over come for the leaves. Those who have traversed the Hudson Valley during the fall know that it is true.

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