New England

Southern New England Nearing Peak | 2019 Foliage Update

What happens when a wet and windy nor’easter hits during peak foliage? Get our fall color predictions for southern New England in our latest report.

By Jim Salge

Oct 18 2019

Mount Hayes

Peak fall color in the White Mountains this past weekend.

Photo Credit : Jim Salge
Even before the nor’easter arrived this week, the leaves were falling fast in northern New England. Peak color was bold and long-lasting this year, with many locals saying it was the best foliage display they’d seen in years. But the show couldn’t hold on forever. While the leaves largely made it through the busy weekend, the White Mountains and the Green Mountains, as well as western Maine, already look completely different now. “Stick season,” ushered in by heavy winds and rain, has arrived in the far north.
Mount Hayes
Peak color in the White Mountains this past weekend.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge
Strong winds have also taken their toll along the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire and in the warm valleys surrounding large lakes and rivers, but some color should return thanks to late-season maples and oaks through the end of October. So what comes next? With the long holiday weekend and the nor’easter behind us, we turn our attention to beautiful southern New England and beyond.
Continental US - Shortwave Window - IR
A large nor’easter brought strong winds to the region this past week, knocking a lot of the foliage.
Photo Credit : NOAA

Peak Foliage in Southern New England

Peak foliage in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island typically arrives in mid-October, starting in the hills, and color can last into early November in southern and coastal areas. Additionally, the forests of southern New England have a larger number of late-turning oaks, which can lead to a longer peak season, or a split-peak, which we expect this year for a few reasons.

What Is Split-Peak Foliage?

Way back in August, we saw generally healthy forests but expected temperatures to remain above average through the autumn season. While this did not turn out to be the case in northern New England, where early frosts kick-started the foliage season on a near-normal timetable, southern New England has seen temperatures remain well above average.
Warmer Temperatures
While northern New England saw normal temperatures this autumn, southern areas remained above normal.
Photo Credit : NRCS - NOAA
This has pushed the timetable for peak conditions from Massachusetts southward back into the late-as-expected range. High to near-peak fall color had been coming on strong in the Berkshires and hills of Connecticut, as well in as the Quabbin region, before the storm, but much of that is now on the ground. The oaks and late beeches and maples are yet to turn, though, so we expect a bit of a gap until they change.
Massachusetts Foliage
Fall colors like the ones in this scene from Lee, Massachusetts, were coming in before the nor’easter this week.
Photo Credit : Historic Route 20

Where the Foliage Is Heading Next

Farther south, where early color had only just arrived when the storm came in, fewer leaves were brought down, so color should continue to develop fairly normally, though a bit later than usual. This should bring peak color into southern and coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island during the last week of October — and just in time for trick-or-treating. In these areas, we continue to expect a good year for foliage, much like in the north, but more persistent clouds this month have dampened our expectations for the brightest reds. We need a predominance of sunny days and cool, crisp nights to bring on those pigments, and we just haven’t had quite enough. Instead, we expect lasting yellows, strong oranges, and lingering rusts to be the general palette this year. It should still be beautiful.

Where to Find the Fall Foliage Finale

The last places to turn in early November are the Cape and Islands, as well as Long Island Sound. And one more unexpectedly beautiful place: Boston Common. With trees from all over the world joining our native varieties, it’s a can’t-miss show after nearly everything else has fallen and snow dusts our mountain peaks. We hope you still get out and enjoy the show. As always, be sure to visit for our weekly top foliage picks, as well as our live peak foliage map and everything else you need to plan your foliage trip in the region. And when you do find some color, please share it with us: Tag your Instagram photos with #MyNewEngland for a chance to be featured on our feed. We’ll see you out there!