While we all love summer and its days filled with sunshine and ice cream, we can't be sad for long—fall is on its way with all its usual bright colors and beautiful views. Here's where to find the best ones.
The longest season: New Hampshire's Lakes Region
When to go: Late September through late October
Why go: The secret to finding a lingering foliage season is steering clear of the weather that knocks leaves from their branches. "I would choose those locations away from the wind of the coast and at higher elevations," says Jerry Monkman, co-author of The Colors of Fall Road Trip Guide. This New Hampshire region—which encompasses Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, Lake Ossipee, Mirror Lake, Newfound Lake and Lake Winnisquam—is protected from the harsh winds of the coast and doesn’t rise more than 600 feet above sea level, giving you the best chance for a long leaf season.
Where to get the best view: Obviously, from the middle of a lake (pick one). Bring a kayak and tone your paddling arms. "You can see red maples along the waterways showing their bright colors on the trees, and then reflected down into the water as well," says Tai Freligh, communications manager for New Hampshire's Division of Travel and Tourism Development.
Insider tip: If boating and hiking feels like too much exertion for a good view, tour the lakes region from a fall foliage train. The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad (603-279-5253, foliagetrains.com, $11 to $15) runs through October 27, and a two-hour round-trip ticket entitles you to a lakeside tour along tracks that were once a part of the Boston & Maine Railroad. Daytime rides come with the option of adding on a "hobo picnic lunch" ($10).
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The latest season to start: Southeast New Jersey
Why go: A good rule of thumb is that the leaves change later the more south you go and the closer you stick to the coast. "This is because these areas are lower in elevation and tend to stay a bit warmer than inland," says Marek D. Rzonca of the Foliage Network. If the weather cooperates, leaf season in southeast New Jersey—near Wildwood and Cape May, for example—can continue through early November.
When to go: Late October through early November
Where to get the best view: Belleplain State Forest, home to Lake Nummy, a 26-acre lake that was once a cranberry bog. These days, you’ll see oak, cranberry, sweet gum, red maple and black gum, with a backdrop of evergreens.
"The forest comprises colorful deciduous species such as oak, cranberry, sweet gum, red maple and black gum set against a backdrop of lush evergreens, which makes for a spectacular variety of colors," says Abbie Tang-Smith, communications associate for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "Belleplain's proximity to the bay and ocean also helps moderate the temperature, providing a longer leaf season."
Insider tip: Though the Jersey Shore is best known as a summertime destination, it's almost more pleasant to visit its coastal towns once the crowds have departed for the season. Cape May's historic past gets put on full display during its Victorian Weekend (October 11–15), where you can attend events such as tea luncheons,, historic homes tours, and antiques shows.
The most variety: New York's Adirondack Mountains
When to go: Late September through mid October
Why go: To get the most variety, you need to go where there is geographic diversity, and contained within the Adirondacks you'll find marshes, river valleys, hardwood forests and high-elevation alpine environments. "These areas have a good population of sugar maple trees which, in my opinion, are the most attractive in the fall," Rzonca says. "Other popular species include birch, aspen, oak and silver maple, all of which turn yellow. These trees are then complimented with the brilliant crimson of the red maple. When you put all these trees together, it provides a fantastic contrast and variety of color."
Where to get the best view: "One of my favorite locations is John Boyd Thacher State Park, located on the Helderberg escarpment in Voorheesville," says Eric Scheffel of the Empire State Development Bureau of Media Services. "It not only has great fall foliage, but also offers amazing views of the Hudson-Mohawk lowlands—including the City of Albany—and the southern Adirondacks. While it’s known to many Albany-area residents, I’ve found that most visitors from outside the area have never heard of it."
Insider tip: If you want to make a weekend of it, you can watch the foliage show unfold from your window at the Point (518-891-5674; thepointresort.com). The Relais & Châteaux property is styled to feel like a throwback to the Adirondack camps of old.
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