• Autumn leaves in New England

About Autumn Colors

New England's Autumn Leaves: What's it all About?

Why is fall in New England so special?

Quite simply, there is nothing like autumn in New England! Millions of leaves turn to brilliant red, orange, gold, purple and yellow. The color splashes across hillsides and valleys, on mountains and along the seacoast. Add in deep blue sky and villages with white-painted Colonial inns and houses, white-steepled churches and traditional greens, and you have scenery unmatched anywhere else in the world.

When is the best time to see it?

New England's hardwood trees start to change in northernmost Maine and New Hampshire in early to mid September. The autumn color sweeps slowly south through Massachusetts to Connecticut and Rhode Island. On average, the peak of New England's season is during the first two weeks of October.

What actually happens?

Only certain varieties of trees produce dramatic color. And, the change requires the right soil and the right weather. Sunny days followed by crisp nights stop the production of chlorophyll, the chemical that produces green in the leaves. This allows other colors/pigments to show through, such as orange and yellow (carotenoids) and red and purple (anthocyanins).

What trees change color?

  • Dogwood, sassafras, red oak, and maples turn crimson and scarlet
  • Hickory, poplars, birch, elms and ginkgoes change to gold and yellow
  • Mountain maple are reddish-orange
  • Sumac is purple

Use the app

Yankee magazine has a free Leap Peepr app to help you find the best color wherever you are.

Rudyard Kipling, the British author who lived in southern Vermont for a time, was certainly impressed. In 1900, he wrote: “No pen can describe the turning of the leaves — the insurrection of the tree-people against the waning year. A little maple began it, flaming blood-red of a sudden where he stood against the dark green of a pine belt. Next morning there was an answering signal from the swamp where the sumacs grow. Three days later the hillsides as far as the eye could range were afire, and the roads paved with crimson and gold.”