Want more foliage?
Get ready for a colorful long weekend in northern New England! We’ve got the latest foliage updates, including this year’s biggest surprises and predictions for the rest of the season.
By Aimee Tucker
Oct 05 2022
Jim Salge hard at work tracking fall foliage for Yankee.Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
With all the unpredictability of the past few years, it’s been a relief to know there’s one thing we can still count on: the beauty of New England’s fall foliage show. In our latest Q&A with Yankee foliage expert Jim Salge, we find out how the season is progressing (hint: it’s a great year for many of the region’s most popular foliage spots!), what’s in store for the upcoming long weekend, and predictions for the rest of October.
In our mid-September update, you said that “the far north should be bright and on time.” Is that how things are playing out? And where does northern New England stand heading into the long weekend?
Yes, and amazingly so. The weather was a mixed bag in the far north leading up to fall, but there have been enough cool mornings to kickstart the colors. Peak conditions have already been reached in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire and the northern Green Mountains of Vermont, and higher elevations in parts of northern Maine aren’t far behind.
Looking ahead, the frosty air in this week’s forecast means that most of northern New England (away from the coast) should be great for leaf peeping this long weekend. But remember: the dry summer conditions mean the leaves will not last long once peak is reached. It’s very likely that the most northern areas will be moving from peak to past-peak very soon, so don’t miss it!
You spoke of La Nina in your initial forecast. How has that impacted New England in terms of temperatures, rainfall, and tropical storms?
La Nina does a few things to New England, and so far they have all played out as predicted. Northern New England has been a battle zone, with frequent competing fronts of cold rain and warm sunshine. This is great for the leaves. In the south, rain has been prevalent, but there haven’t been the cooler temperatures needed to really get the leaves turning.
But that will be changing this week! Lastly, though we’ve not had direct impacts of any hurricanes or tropical storms, we’ve certainly had some rain skirt our southern coasts and big winds sweep across the whole region as storms have moved out to sea. Fortunately, the latter was early enough that it didn’t strip the leaves (and the color).
Some parts of southern New England are still green! What can be expected over the next few weeks?
I think it’ll be a mixed bag. Recent rains have helped stabilize the effects of the severe summer drought in southern New England, but it still hasn’t gotten really cold, which we need for good fall color. So there’s some brown, some yellow, and orange…but still a lot of green heading into the long weekend. Thankfully, the forecast shows cold weather arriving this week, all the way to Connecticut and Rhode Island, with temperatures falling into the lower 40s. That should get things going, especially in the higher elevations of western Massachusetts and Connecticut, and expanding options across the Berkshires.
Closer to the coast, we will likely have a long season. Drought-stressed trees are turning early, but we still may not see widespread peak color until the last week of October, if not later. Ultimately, it’s just going to be a tough year to predict for southern New England, but there will inevitably be some bright spots in time!
Have there been any surprises this year?
Yes! One of the strangest things I’ve been seeing is that the mountain passes and notches are actually turning later than the areas to their north and south. For the big weekend, it’ll be a benefit, especially in leaf-peeper favorite Franconia Notch. The view from Artist’s Bluff, one of Franconia’s most popular hikes, has been strikingly green through the first leaf-peeping weekends, so it’s primed for peak this coming weekend.
Are we still in the midst of a drought? Are there longer concerns for the forests than just this foliage season?
The recent rain has stabilized things a bit, but annual rainfall deficits are still significant. Multi-year droughts in New England are not terribly uncommon, but the severity of this one across coastal areas means that we will really need some good winter storms to ensure the trees leaf out well next spring. A good snowpack would also help recharge wells and reservoirs. Hopefully, things will be back to normal by next fall to make up for this year.
Where do you plan to get your fall on this long weekend?
I really want to get in some hiking, and I’m looking at great viewpoints south of the notches in the White Mountains. Mount Tremont is my favorite, but I also would love to see the fall colors from Mount Crawford, Mount Resolution, or South Doublehead. I just can’t choose, and that’s a great problem to have. I also haven’t gone apple picking with my kids yet, so that’s on the list, too.