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The fall foliage in New England is set to be remarkable – and early

By James Gabriel Martin
January 12, 2022
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© DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
There’s some good news on the horizon for leaf peepers – weather experts are expecting a vibrant (and perhaps early) season this year.

If you’ve been lucky enough to travel through New England during fall, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like kicking up the rust-colored leaves, hiking the rugged hills or driving down the open roads amidst the captivating hues of greens, oranges, reds and browns. Well there’s some good news on the horizon for leaf peepers – weather experts are expecting a vibrant (and perhaps early) season this year.

According to a Fall Foliage Forecast released by Yankee Magazine’s NewEngland.com, there is “potential for a big color punch this year if the right weather scenario lines up”. The magazine’s fall foliage expert, former meteorologist Jim Salge, has said that the season could go one of two ways, but both will be beautiful. The first scenario sees this year’s especially dry summer leading to more intense foliage colors, especially if it’s kick-started with an early cold spell. Cold fronts from Canada may lead to a striking display that makes the foliage dazzling, but it may lack longevity. The second scenario sees tropical weather activity making for a longer-lasting display that will still delight, although it will be less intense.

vermontVermont experiences beautiful colors every year during autumn © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Stressed trees tend to change their colors earlier, and if they do, they are more prone to producing red pigments as green ones fade. Because of this, a short but bright burst of color is expected in late September in northern New England and from mid- to late-October in southern New England.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BEST NEW ENGLAND FALL FOLIAGE ROAD TRIP ITINERARY


Jim Salge also shared with Lonely Planet what he feels makes New England so unique during that time of year. “About 90% of the land in New England is forested. In the northern zones especially, much of the forest is dominated by sugar maple, which is a tree that can turn anywhere from yellow to bright red depending on the weather and conditions in any given year. Leaf peeping is part of the culture. People drive around, look at leaves, and plan trips each year to coincide with the best colors. Because of COVID-19, this fall will be different. But the outdoors is among the safest places we can be, and many people have responded to the pandemic by getting more in touch with nature. There are still plenty of ways to safely enjoy the beautiful tapestry of colors and the crisp autumn weather.”

Fall FoliageFall foliage expert Jim Salge said this year is likely to be striking © Dene' Miles / Shutterstock

Some of Jim’s favorite spots include Smugglers Notch in Vermont, and Crawford Notch in New Hampshire, protected forest areas where glaciers came through during the last ice age, providing spectacular viewing. The full forecast is due to be updated on www.NewEngland.com. The website also lists suggested outdoors activities and events, as well as weekly posts focusing on the best place to find color on any given weekend.


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Inspiration

Over 500 miles of new bike trails are now open to cyclists in the US

Cycling has soared in popularity during the pandemic, prompting cities and towns to reconsider their streets. In California and Wisconsin, officials and local cycling communities have worked with the USBRS to utilize several off-road trails to connect Milwaukee to the Mississippi River at Bluff Siding, and linked Lake Tahoe with an existing bike path in Nevada to create a seamless route to the San Francisco Bay Area. The designation of these new routes will give cyclists more than 500 miles of safe, signed paths and expands the reach of USBRS to 29 states in total. In California, the 233-mile USBR 50 path begins in South Lake Tahoe at the Nevada border. Cyclists will climb over mountain passes, following the Mormon Emigrant Trail before rolling through the scenic Sierra Nevada on the El Dorado Trail, the paved route in the state's historic Gold Rush country. From there, they'll enjoy over 30 miles of car-free cycling from Folsom to Sacramento, before traveling to Lagoon Valley Park and into San Francisco Bay. California's new bike route will start south of Lake Tahoe ©MariuszBlach/Getty ImagesNot only does the new California bike path provide scenic recreational routes for cyclists, it also connects two of the largest communities in the El Dorado and Sacramento counties. "Long term, I hope we can improve USBR 50 to serve not only visitors to the county, but local residents cycling for recreation, biking to work, and running errands by bike," said Mike Bean, Friends of El Dorado Trail board member, who helped designate the new route. In Wisconsin, cyclists will pass 269 miles of forests, vibrant urban areas and cut through the steep, rugged landscape of the Driftless Region. "Establishing this route has been years in the making and it’s a great accomplishment for the state," Craig Thompson, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) secretary-designee, said in a statement. "More than 70 communities in eleven counties worked together to create this great transportation corridor that will be enjoyed by local, regional and national bicyclists." The USBRS boasts 14,598 miles of bike routes throughout the country, and connects cyclists to picturesque pathways in over 100 National Park sites, including Mammoth Cave National Park and Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. At least 40 states are currently developing more routes and once complete, it will be the largest bike network in the world, providing cyclists of all ages and abilities a safe passage through the country. If you want to hit the open road on two wheels this fall, you can access digital maps for all designated US Bicycle Routes for free here from the Adventure Cycling website, a nonprofit organization that provides national coordination for the USBRS.

Inspiration

Explore the Natchez Trace from Tennessee to Mississippi

Back in the 1800’s the way to travel across the southeast was to walk or ride your horse on this “trace”. Back then, if you were headed anywhere along the path between Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN, you used a worn down trail for your long days of travel. Two hundred years later, the Natchez Trace has preserved its history. Loveless Cafe Loveless Cafe was started in 1951 by Lon and Anne Loveless. They bought an old fashioned Tea Room as their home and converted the outdoor space to a restaurant, seating patrons at picnic tables. With their soon booming business, they renovated the rooms in their home, giving the restaurant a bigger menu and more accommodations. Now, you can eat fried chicken and any other sorts of southern cuisine safely at outdoor tables with masks (Due to COVID-19). Go back in time and start your day trip off with this old-fashioned nostalgic stop. With any luck, there will be live music too! Photo by: Anne Florence Brown The Natchez Trace Parkway Double Arched Bridge, mile-marker 430 This stop has the best view found on the trace. I highly recommend that if you are leaving from Nashville, pass this stop early in the day and hit it on the way back to town for a perfectly timed sunset picture. You won’t be sorry.The Gordon House, mile-marker 407 One of the best parts about the Natchez Trace Parkway is the historical aspects. Every few miles there are original historical sites that have been preserved from the 1800s. The Gordon House is one of these. Stop to read about the history behind it and then walk the secluded ten-minute nature walk to the Duck Riverside, where ferries used to make their journey through the south. Pro-tip: bring bug spray for this walk, the overgrown grass makes for an enchanted feel, but affluence of bugs!Baker Bluff Overlook, mile-marker 406 Take a mini-hike through fairy tale trees, babbling brooks, and log bridges to an overlook with a view of the valley from the old days. This hike is perfect for a timely little adventure. With the shade, any time of day is perfect for this hike through the forest.Jackson Falls, mile-marker 405 Jackson Falls is a picturesque waterfall on the trace. Walk a .75 mile trail down to the waterfall. Stop for a picnic in the water, or bring bathing suits to adventure through the Duck River. This stop is especially good for kids. ©Ed Gifford/Getty ImagesTobacco Farm, mile-marker 401 Take a stroll through time and trees to see farms from the 1800s that are still standing. Marked with signs that tell stories from times of old, this excursion is perfect for those who wondered what life was like back in history.Fall Hollow Falls, mile-marker 392 Walk Another short .3 miles to an overlook and then a downhill trek to the base of a beautiful waterfall. This place is perfect for pictures and sightseeing, but be careful. It’s not uncommon for hikers to fall down the steep trail. The safest option for children is to stop at the overlook or to keep them close to you on the trek down.Meriwether Lewis's Grave, mile-marker 378 This is the best historical stop on the trace. Take a historical nature walk through the 1800s, see the grave marker for Meriwether Lewis, who explored the American West with his partner William Clark, and even walk on the original trace that people walked hundreds of years ago. It even holds Meriwether Lewis's original home, where he died in the mid-1800s. Jacks Branch picnic spot, mile-marker 378 This spot is small but perfect for picnics. Stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and eat some lunch at the picnic tables among the trees and next to a creek at Jacks Branch.Laurel Hills Lake, mile-marker 373 Interested in a fishing excursion? Or a canoe trip? Laurel Hills Lake is a few miles off the trace but worth the trip. Perfect for the adventure goers and meanderers, the lake is an off the beaten path kind of spot. Anne Florence Brown is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a student at the University of Mississippi.

Inspiration

Rediscover Colorado: explore rugged Durango in any season

Editor's Note: Before you head out, please check the Colorado COVID-19 site to determine any local restrictions you need to be aware of. Nestled in southwestern Colorado’s Animas River Valley and surrounded by the rugged peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Durango’s remote location offers unimpeded access to some of the best cultural, historic and outdoor attractions in the state. Road Tripping: Scenic Byways The San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway travels from Durango and Telluride, to Mesa Verde National Park and back to Durango. The San Juan Byway is a 236-mile loop that winds through dramatic scenery in the shadow of 14,000 foot peaks, including the “Million Dollar Highway” segment from Silverton to Ouray, known as one of the most scenic drives in America. Colorado’s newest byway, Tracks Across Borders, links over 800 years of Colorado history. From the romance of the rails and authentic Native American culture, to breathtaking scenery and endless outdoor recreation, Tracks Across Borders is a richly layered journey through two states. Spanning southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico, the 125-mile route traces the narrow gauge right-of-way of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, connecting over 800 years of Colorado history. Durango’s rich history and cultural attractions are really what sets it apart from other destinations. The top attractions in our area are: D&SNGRR: Travel aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s historic 1880’s coal-fired, steam-powered locomotives for breathtaking views of the San Juan National Forest and the Weminuche, Colorado’s largest wilderness area. The Train is tentatively set to open with social distancing measures on June 9th. Mesa Verde National Park: Ancient Pueblo ruins and artifacts dating back over 2500 years were discovered in the San Juan Basin in the 1880’s. Explore the archeological wonders and ancient cave dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or at lesser known areas such as Sand Canyon. *MVNP is currently closed. There is a potential that the park will open later this summer for self guided hiking and exploring. It’s unlikely the ranger-led tours will return this summer. Followed by Outdoor Recreation Durango offers more than 300-miles of world-class mountain biking and hiking within 30-minutes of downtown. The San Juan National Forest includes the largest wilderness area in Colorado – the Weminuche Wilderness – and hundreds of miles of singletrack, world class mountain biking, epic rock climbing and backcountry skiing, plus fly fishing and boating on the gold medal waters of the Animas River. West of Durango, discover the spectacular La Plata Canyon and its beautiful U formation created by glaciers with abundant wildlife, wildflowers, high-alpine meadows, and avalanche gullies. Visitors can go remote backpacking, rafting or enjoy an extensive network of trails within five minutes of downtown Durango, including the Animas River Trail (ART). The centerpiece of the city’s trail system, the ART is a paved multi-use trail stretching nearly 7 miles through Durango’s Animas River Greenway. The ART provides easy access to a variety of parks; open spaces and natural surface trails, the community recreation center, the public library, downtown Durango, neighborhoods and schools. All of Durango's trails are built and maintained by local nonprofit trails group, Trails 2000, which hosts an interactive trail map, trail descriptions and trail conditions report online at durangotrails.org. The following list includes activities that are currently available and safe to enjoy in the Durango area, w/ social distancing and public health orders: https://www.durango.org/covid/. Visit Durango is not actively promoting visitation at this time, but we are making this information available to our industry partners since we understand visitors are still coming. Our goal is to steer people in the right direction and help keep residents and visitors safe. Please also visit our COVID Travel Advisory page for the latest restrictions and guidance for visitors. Historic Hotels The Strater Hotel, built in 1887, is decorated with period decor, beautiful handcrafted woodwork, and the largest private collection of American Victorian walnut antiques in the world. The Rochester Hotel and Leland House, built in 1927 and 1892 respectively, boasts original antiques and woodwork, as well as Western-movie themed rooms. The General Palmer, built in 1898, blends the comforts of modern living with Victorian charm in the heart of the historic downtown. Hotels are taking extra precautions right now.

Inspiration

Socially distant adventures on the Carolina coast

It’s that time again. It’s been a week since you’ve left the house and it’s enough stir-crazy between your partner or your kids for a lifetime. Even the dog is sick of you. Here are ten things you can do in an expertly planned one day trip on South Carolina coast. Pack the day full, because even though it’s not a week in Cabo, it will make going home feel relaxing enough to mask the crazy. Kayaking at Sunrise in Charleston Plentiful waterways make up the iconic scenery of Charleston. What better way to enjoy what Charleston has to offer while remaining primarily secluded than kayaking at sunrise. Further out of town the top rated company Charleston Outdoor Adventures offers kayaking and paddleboarding to escape the city life. Make online reservations to plan ahead and stay distanced. As always, bring your own sanitizing wipes and sanitizer. ©f11photo/ShutterstockBreakfast Downtown Charleston Many of the restaurants in Charleston vary from dine-in to takeout only or closed all together. This is why we recommend heading downtown. This socially distanced option allows you to pick up whatever you want (we recommend Toast! a charleston breakfast hotspot) because there are several great outdoor picnic spots around. Just pick up your tasty treat and find yours. On a slower day mid week, you could even go to Joe Wiley Waterfront Park to find a picnic spot. This park offers a great look into historic Charleston. Cobblestone streets lead you to a scenic fountain and pier. The walk along the way is beautiful too. South Carolina Aquarium Get out of the heat, even though it’s morning, don’t doubt the East Coast humidity. The one indoor activity on here features the South Carolina Aquarium who takes social distancing very seriously. They believe “as a scientific organization, it is our duty to keep the health and safety of our guests and staff top priority.” Find more information on their FAQ page about safe visiting. The aquarium requires guests to purchase timed entries online to limit the capacity of visitors and to wear a face mask at all times. Beach Picnic in Hilton Head Take the day elsewhere by driving down to Hilton Head. Just two hours away travelers can make it for an afternoon picnic on the beach. On the main beach, many seafood restaurants offer outside seating or takeout. But who wouldn’t want to eat by the waves? All beach access and surrounding recreations restored to normal. For those searching for less crowds, you might have better luck finding a beach access point off of the main. Rent a Bike in Hilton Head Just like the Kayaks, make sure you bring hand sanitizing wipes. Even with sanitizing practices of their own, you can never be too careful. The options for rentals seem almost limitless. All across the island visitors can find beach cruisers. Biking around the beaches or the walk ways amongst the trees is a great way to spend the afternoon. You can do this alone or with a small group (we recommend nothing over six). When you get hot or tired, jump in the ocean. When it comes to getting out of the house, nothing beats a little bit of exercise to boost the seratonin. Golf in Hilton Head But if biking just isn’t your vibe, then try golfing. This is another outdoor, energy boosting activity with lots of walking and enjoyment (but none of the pedaling). Though, this is a little bit of a pricier option. Tee times run around $100 for the surrounding courses. The most expensive course looks out to the ocean. Golden Bear golf clubs hold one of the highest rating clubs in the area. This sport thrives through social distancing. As you know by now, it’s great as long as you bring some hand sanitizing wipes for the clubs and the cart. Sunset in Hilton Head, SC. Photo by Laura BrownWatch the sunset in Hilton HeadHilton Head has a plethora of fantastic places to sip a cocktail and watch the sunset. Our favorites are the Skull Creek Boathouse on the north side of the island, and the Sunset Grill on the Western side. The Sunset Grill is an upscale restaurant nestled in the Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort, for the RV enthusiasts. Margs at the Park in Savannah Once you’ve finished the afternoon in Hilton Head, drive on down to Savannah. Another short drive away, Savannah brings in visitors all over the state for the simple fact of open carry alcohol. While bars start to open their doors to guests, the numbers are already growing for tourists. If you are really looking for a way to travel away from the crowds, the best option is to head over to Tequila Town, or any other bar, and grab an open cup margarita. Then find yourself a nice, lonely park bench to enjoy it on. The evenings start to cool down and what better way to cap off a day of fun. ©Sean Pavone/ShutterstockHorse Drawn Carriages in Savannah Traveling historic Savannah is the second best part to the city, so do it in style. You know, it also keeps you several feet above everyone else (probable a six foot distance if you know what I mean). Horse drawn carriages are back in business and taking riders in fewer quantities with more time in between. Beach Under the Stars at Tybee Island Tybee island is a local favorite for anyone in Savannah. The best times to go are for sunrise and the stars. Bring drinks, dessert and a blanket. You’ll find good company among some of the others who come out, but mostly with the crabs. There isn’t much light pollution in Savannah to begin with, but there is hardly any in Tybee. On a clear night, you can see everything and listen to the waves. Enjoy the Road Lastly it’s about enjoying the road trip. These days, just getting out of the house is an adventure, even if you spend most of your time in the car listening to your favorite songs driving from place to place. A trip from Charleston to Hilton Head to Savannah might not seem like a typical day trip, but why not rise to the challenge? Where else can you drive in a day? (P.s. we highly recommend the new Taylor Swift album Folklore for your road trip tunes.)Kylie Ruffino is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)