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5 Tips for Finding Beautiful Fall Foliage in Massachusetts

Fall is here and New England is one of the most spectacular places to experience the intense colors. Here are 5 tips for leaf peeping in Massachusetts.

By: Gustavo Quiros + Save to a List

1. Foliage Maps

There are a bunch of tools and foliage maps online that you can use to find the perfect place to visit. Two of my personal favorites are the Live Fall Foliage Map and Peak Fall Foliage Map that can be found on NewEngland.com.

The Live Fall Foliage Map will show you by state and county, what locations are Green, Turning, Moderate, Peak, Fading and Gone in terms of leaf colors. This tool is great for searching locations you might be visiting. You can get a total breakdown of stats by double clicking on the county. 

The Peak Fall Foliage Map should be your go-to map for checking the times when the colors will be at their most vibrant. This color coded map shows all of New England and is easy to understand. As you go through the dates within each month the map changes color indicating what areas are are best for leaf peeping at that time. 

Colors are as follows:

  • Green - early
  • Yellow - mid
  • Red - peak
  • Brown - late

Both maps are useful when planning an adventure in Massachusetts or anywhere in New England.

2. When to go

When to go and see the explosion of colors depends greatly on where in New England you will be.

Massachusetts typically peaks around the end of the first, second and sometimes the third week of October. Of course weather conditions play a large role. On average October is the best time to check out the vibrant leaves here in Massachusetts. By Columbus Day weekend you should be seeing color in the Berkshires of MA, lower elevations will see it soon after. 

If you are looking to get moody photographs or want to experience the fall leaves with a bit of fog it is best to venture out in the early mornings after a cool clear night. 

3. Weather

It is important to understand how weather affects the changing of leaves. 

  • Abundant sunlight and low temperatures after the abscission layer forms causes the chlorophyll to be destroyed more rapidly.
  • Cool air (especially at night) with a lot of daytime sunshine promotes the formation of more red and purple pigments.
  • Freezing conditions destroy the leaf's ability to manufacture the red and purple pigments. Early frost will end the colorful foliage.
  • Drought during the growing season can cause the abscission layer to form early and causes the leaves to drop before they change color.
  • The best weather for brilliant fall foliage is a growing season with ample moisture followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn with warm days and cool but frostless nights.
  • Heavy wind or rain can cause the leaves to fall before they fully develop color.

For more info on how the chemicals in leaves are affected by weather click here

4. Types of trees and their colors

In Massachusetts you will find a variety of trees that all display vibrant colors during the fall season but among these trees some of the most popular are the Red Maple and Sugar Maple because of their vibrant reds and oranges. The list of trees and colors is tough to keep track of, so here is a list of some of the trees along with the colors you can expect their leaves to turn. (Note, some of these trees listed are not native to Massachusetts).

  • Red maple: brilliant scarlet
  • Sugar maple: orange-red
  • Hickories: golden bronze
  • Aspen and Yellow-Poplar: golden yellow 
  • Dogwood: purplish red
  • Beech: light tan
  • Sourwood and Black Tupelo: crimson
  • Black maple: glowing yellow
  • Striped maple: almost colorless

5. Places to see in Massachusetts

Below is a list of must see places for your next adventure in Massachusetts. 

  • The Berkshires - You really can't go wrong, anywhere from the Mohawk Trail to Mt. Greylock you will find pockets of gorgeous fall foliage.
  • Mt. Wachusett - This area of Princeton and Westminster has beautiful colors and views from the top of the mountain.
  • Old Graveyards of Central Mass - These sites are perfect if you're into Halloween and want to experience fall with a spooky atmosphere.
  • Walden Pond - Although this state reservation requires you to pay a fee to get in, you will not be disappointed. Don't believe me, just check out NatGeo Travel's Instagram as they always post photos of Walden Pond during Autumn. 
  • Salem MA - Home to the Salem Witch Trials. It's more of a tourist attraction, but you can't go wrong experiencing fall foliage in a place with such a haunted past.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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