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Empty road running through autumn foliage
SNEHIT PHOTO | Adobe Stock

Scenic Autumn Drives in the Northeast

When the mercury drops and the air is crisp, say hello to sweaters, pumpkin pie and — of course — foliage. There’s still plenty of time to plan a leaf-peeping trip or, if you prefer, read along and find out when the brilliant autumn colors will come to your area.

Our timeline is a general outline of when peak foliage is likely to arrive at your destination. There are many factors that can impact the leaves, such as a sudden drop in temperature or a violent storm that blows the leaves off the trees before they have a chance to fall. Our calendar is based on past leaf-peeping seasons, but you’ll want to check with the area’s tourism bureau (we’ve provided several useful links at the end of this article) for the most up-to-date foliage reports.

We’ve outlined a great drive for every part of the foliage season in the Northeast, from the most northern parts of Maine to southern Pennsylvania. Driving is the most popular way to view fall foliage, so keep in mind that you may hit traffic along some routes. As you plan your leaf-peeping trip, be sure to check out our guides to driving safely, choosing a B&B and planning a fantastic road trip.

Last Week of September

Follow the Foliage: Northern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Great Drive: Start in Bangor and drive through Ellsworth to picturesque Mount Desert Island. From there head to beautiful Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where from the summit on Cadillac Mountain you can be the first to see the sunrise in the Northeast. The lighthouse in Bass Harbor is another highlight of the trip, as are the fishing villages of Deer Isle and Stonington.

First Week in October

Follow the Foliage: Northern New York, northeastern and central Maine, central and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, northern Pennsylvania and western Massachusetts.

Great Drive: Begin in Manchester, Vermont, home to the Southern Vermont Art Center, and continue to South Shaftsbury, where you can explore the Robert Frost Stone House Museum. Then pass through Old Bennington with its historic monuments, homes and churches; you can also take a lovely side trip to the Somerset Reservoir, near Searsburg.


Follow the Foliage: Southern and central coast of Maine, central and eastern Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, Catskill Region of New York, central Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey and southern Rhode Island.

Great Drive: The 70-mile Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, also known as New York Route 97, wends along the Delaware River from Hancock to Port Jervis in southern New York. Spectacular river vistas are plentiful throughout the drive, but it’s worth a stop at Elks Brox Memorial Park in Port Jervis for hiking trails and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and river valleys. Towns along the route offer a variety of art galleries, antique shops, historic museums and other attractions. Learn more about the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.

Late October

Follow the Foliage: Southern Connecticut, southern Pennsylvania, and southern and central New Jersey.

Great Drive: The many charms of Pennsylvania Dutch Country are on display in a three-day, foodie-focused road trip itinerary through Keystone Country. Taste local wines, herbs and cheeses as you make your way through the colorful Lancaster Country countryside, where you’ll see as many Amish buggies as cars. The route also includes a stop in Gettysburg, with its Civil War-era attractions.

Tourist Boards and Foliage Reports by State

More from SmarterTravel:

Genevieve S. Brown contributed to this story.

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