The end of summer means the start of leaf peeping!
Look, summer may be over, so it’s time to say goodbye to sunbathing and pool parties. But there’s still plenty to look forward to in autumn. Up and down the east coast, the changing of the leaves is a main attraction each year.
As the temperature cools, the green pigment in tree leaves breaks down, letting us marvel at the other colors it previously blocked out—bright red, orange, yellow, and even purple.
While New England often comes to mind, did you know you can actually “chase” the colors along the whole east coast from late September through November, and even catch them out west? Here’s our guide for when and where to see the colorful fall display, and other attractions to enjoy along the way:
Early Fall (Late September-Early October):
The start of fall in late September marks the beginning of the leaf season—and to get the early view, you’ll want to head up north towards New England and Canada, where cooler climates bring the first color changes. Just a bit north of Portland, Maine, you’ll be able to start seeing trees change as early as the first day of fall. This area is filled with can’t-miss attractions, like hikes in Acadia National Park, but also a bustling food and brewery scene (as well as the mandatory lobster rolls).
Up in Canada, the province of Nova Scotia is always a reliable (and accessible!) bet for seeing colorful leaves early, so head towards Halifax. The beautifully manicured Public Gardens right in the city center will showcase all the colors of more than 140 species of trees, as well as fountains, a gazebo, statues, and art.
Where to go: Northern New England (Maine and Vermont) and Eastern Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John, New Brunswick)
Mid Fall (Mid-Late October):
By mid-October, areas around southern New England, like Boston, will be experiencing peak colors! With the charming Charles River running through much of the city, you can even see the trees’ colors reflecting in the water—especially if you take a stroll along the Charles River Esplanade.
By late-October, mid-Atlantic areas will be in peak leaf changing season too. Norfolk, Virginia is near The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which is incredible when the fall foliage starts up. There’s also First Landing State Park, where you can wander through colorful copper-colored Cyprus trees on a boardwalk on your way to see the Atlantic.
But the east coast isn’t the only region with changing colors. While California coasts are known for palm trees, up north, Seattle is known as the “Emerald City” because of the trees that are in peak form by late-October. Check out the expansive Arboretum and numerous parks in downtown Seattle, as well as the houseboats on Lake Union for more colors.
Where to go: Massachusetts, Connecticut, inland from Baltimore, Virginia, and the Pacific Northwest