New England

2018 Foliage Report | Early Color Emerging in Far Northern New England

The autumn foliage is fast approaching! Learn more about this year’s forecast in our latest New England fall foliage report.

By Jim Salge

Sep 20 2018

Alpine Zone

The High Alpine Zone In New England Features Plenty Of Early Color

Photo Credit : Jim Salge

Folklore, conventional wisdom, and anecdotal observations can all help us better understand the progression of autumn in New England. So while I was out observing the region’s subtle seasonal changes this past week, I made a point of chatting with the folks I encountered. Turns out, many were eager to tell me about the markers that they anticipate in early autumn, and the excitement that they feel when seeing these signs.

I heard about the browning of ferns along a rock wall that always happens right before the red maple turns. Or how a certain hillside won’t turn until the grasses by the nearby pond fade from green. Or how the milkweed turns a bright yellow about a week before the sugar maples begin to pop. And the asters — so many people are noticing the beautiful purple, lavender, and white asters right now, amid the fading goldenrod of late summer.

The last flowers to bloom each year, the New England asters, are peaking right now.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge

As for me, the classic early-autumn marker is the mist that rises from the ponds and lakes on cool mornings. And science backs up my interest in this seasonal harbinger, as it takes cool weather to really kick-start the colors.

It was easy to see many such signs of the coming foliage season this past week, including some leaves changing on the trees — and there’s much more on the way. While we are still about a week away from the earliest areas of peak color in New England this year, there are definitely some places worth exploring this coming weekend.

Beaver Pond Early Color
Hints of color at New Hampshire’s Beaver Pond offer a window into what’s to come.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge

Where to Find Early Fall Foliage in 2018

The first places in New England that show fall color aren’t always the easiest to get to, but remote spots can be wonderfully quiet and rewarding. Anyone heading out to leaf peep this weekend should check out the following areas:


Especially in years with ample summer rainfall, the first places to turn are bogs, swamps, and other wetlands. They usually have a healthy mix of red maples, blueberry bushes, ferns, and grasses, which makes for a diverse color palette, and many of these environments are already at peak, particularly in northern New England.

Wetland Peak
Wetlands in northern New England are approaching peak.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge

There are plenty of ways to enjoy these areas without getting your feet wet or going too far off the beaten path. You can canoe or kayak at places like Campton Bog in New Hampshire, stroll a boardwalk like the one at Saco Heath in Maine, or simply drive up to any number of roadside fens or beaver ponds.

Alpine Zones

As you move up in elevation in New England, the air gets cooler and the trees get smaller. On the highest peaks in northern New England, the trees give way altogether in the alpine zone, a tundra-like environment similar to areas around the Arctic Circle. The small sedges and shrubs of the alpine zone will be at peak color this weekend, forming a beautiful patchwork tapestry above the yellowing birch trees on the lower slopes. A foliage drive up Mount Washington or Mount Mansfield — or a hike across the Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire or in Baxter State Park in Maine — promises to be a memorable autumn experience.

Alpine Zone
The high alpine zone in New England features plenty of early color.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge

The Far North

The northern White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the mountains of western Maine all turn early; however, for the season’s very first color displays, look to the high valleys of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and New Hampshire’s Great North Woods. True, they’re a long drive from many population centers, but if you’re up for a road trip this weekend, a visit to the Connecticut Lakes Region in New Hampshire or the Kingdom Trails in Vermont will certainly provide glimpses of early color. (We don’t expect them to be at peak, but we do guarantee they will be beautiful.)

Muster Field Farm Museum
For those not ready to leaf peep, farms and orchards are ready for autumn explorers.
Photo Credit : Garrett Evans

We’re expecting most of the fall color in New England to be a bit late this year, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out and exploring these early-season foliage destinations. And if you aren’t just ready for a big leaf-peeping excursion yet, there are lots of fall festivals, farms, and orchards to prime your autumn experience as we wait another week or two for the big changes in the northern forests.

As autumn progresses, be sure to visit for our weekly 2018 foliage forecasts and reports, as well as our live peak foliage map and everything else you need to plan your foliage trip in the region. Love Instagram? Tag your photos with #MyNewEngland for a chance to be featured on our feed.

We’ll see you out there!

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