English autumns can be glorious. So beautiful, in fact, that their colours and their rich produce have always managed to inspire some of our best poets and artists.
So why would you fly more than three thousand miles to experience the same season, somewhere else? And then clock up another thousand miles driving across seven US states looking at leaves….from your car? It’s a question I tried to park as we paid and packed for a 12 day trip to check out what they like to call ‘fall foliage’ on the other side of the pond.
Noticing the leafy green-ness of it all after landing in Massachusetts’ late summer sun, we were still a bit unsure–wondering if we’d landed a week too soon to view the best colours the season could muster. Undeterred, we stuck to our planned city tours of historic Boston, soaked up the stunning, salty seascapes at Cape Cod, sipped coffee overlooking Hyannis harbour, and motored on, watching greens blend into yellows through Connecticut, confident that by the time we hit Vermont, we’d strike gold.
And we did: not just gold, but orange, with rust, mustard, and the rubiest of reds; foliage fluttering for our attention, their breezy branches leaning over our roadside routes like shimmering, shaking jazz-hands; at other times, proudly admiring their own regal reflections in glass-still pools and lakes; those same colours fading to the palest of patchworks across mile after mile of distant forests, glades and rolling hills.
Along the way, there’s a wide variation of places to stroll through or stay, too: from a real union with nature under canvas in the midst of those golden forests, to simple, sometimes quirky roadside Inns and accommodation that’s altogether grander.
And while the locals might call autumn tours like ours ‘leaf-peeping’, there was nothing surreptitious about the gawping and gasping at the scenery during all of our frequent stops to take pictures and absorb the colours around us. We learned how the vibrant red leaves jostling for attention are thanks to the maple trees dotted across the landscape– shops along the route were chock full of maple syrups and candies, too.
Maybe it’s the mix of shades, or their fiery glow that draws visitors to this part of America in the fall. It’s the time of year when locals celebrate the harvest: so there’s even more colour on front steps and roadside stalls packed with riches: pumpkins (prices set by diameter), rosy apples and seasonal bouquets of ‘mums. They’re all warm, ‘feelgood’ shades– even on misty mornings, the colours win through, and you can easily plan to blend a drive through the prettiest areas with stops at historic sites and cities, taking in some coast along with the countryside.
But autumnal beauty here is short-lived: as poet Robert Frost, who loved this region, and this season, observed, ‘nothing gold can stay’. Once the trees are bare, the temperatures dip sharply, and locals start hunkering down and preparing for fierce, snowy winters–so pick your travel dates and your route with care to catch the region’s colours at peak time.
Top tip: We timed our trip based on this great interactive map, showing the best days across New England for autumnal colour.