Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Discuss Fall Foliage in Vermont, when to come, where to stay, where to take a tour etc. Note: You must be registered in order to post. If you have trouble registering, use the contact us form on Scenes of Vermont's home page.

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pkb2508
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Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23375Post pkb2508
Sun Sep 05, 2021 12:43 pm

Hello Folks,

With COVID restrictions lifted, I am looking forward to planning for a full week of foliage photography in Vermont, and I hope you, the local experts, can help me plan!

I am planning to start from around Barton and then working my way down southwest, possibly ending in Bennington.

Based on the weather patterns you have seen this year, when should I plan to start my trip to maximize my chances? I know it's such a tricky question, but I am getting close to booking flights so I need to take make some educated guess with your help!

Thanks much,
Prabal.


ctyanky
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23376Post ctyanky
Sun Sep 05, 2021 1:22 pm

Hi Prabal, welcome to the forum! Before we start giving you advice, do you have a time period in mind at all as to when you would like to arrive? Also, securing lodging this late during peak season is going to be a bit hard to book with many places requiring 2 - 3 nights of confirmation. Mid week sometimes has more opportunities for openings.

You are starting in a nice location in the NEK which would typically be the end of September thru the first week of October. I've sometimes seen color as late as the 3rd week of October in Bennington where I go quite often. Normally, we could give a better guestimate during or around the 3rd week of September as to northern New England weather scenarios/foliage progressions/etc. It is often a gamble, no one can predict the upcoming season at this point. Each year presents different scenarios. Last year for example, color came a week to 10 days earlier in the northern tiers due to a cold snap quite early on in the latter part of September.

Although there is a general theme of unfolding of color. Normally, color progresses from north to south, from the higher elevations to the valleys. We look at early frost conditions over a period of time as well, which kick start the colors, as well as rainfall amounts, health of the trees, pests and tree damage from catepillars for example. It is a melting pot of factors coming together.

I'm sure others may chime in, but this is what I can add so early in September. I would start by narrowing down your timeframes for visiting and go from there for more replies. Perhaps, if you have family or a place to stay already, that would help with lodging?

Again, welcome and I'm sure you are going to get lots of great advice here! CT
CT - Board Admin and Moderator for Scenes of Vermont
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Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

edmcguirk
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23377Post edmcguirk
Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:07 pm

Hi Prabal

I am a long time photographer of foliage in Vermont and New England. Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to the timing question, it depends on a number of factors. The weather in late September makes a big difference. A stretch of cold nights and warm days in late September can make it go early, like it did in 2020. Or a warm late September weather with highs in the 80's and lows of only 55 can push things back 7 to 10 days. But you can plan the general timing of your trip to coincide with the likely timing of a normal year, and then adjust accordingly to maximize what you are given.

Northeast Vermont is the best place to start. Good color can be had there starting around 9/28 to 10/2 if things are early to normal. But it can start there as late as 10/5 if September has been pretty warm. My own plans call for me to in Northeast Vermont 10/01/21 to 10/5/21, but who knows. Generally areas in central Vermont (such as Woodstock or Killington ) are good say 10/5 to 10/12, give or take. Southwest Vermont like Bennington or Arlington turns last, around 10/7 to 10/14

But since you can't control the timing, you can control where you go. Generally it turns earlier in the north, and later in the south. Higher elevation areas turn before lowland areas like river valleys. So if you arrive in Barton on 10/1 and it mostly green, drive further north, or go up in elevation. Examples of further north might even include the Connecticut Lakes area in New Hampshire. Examples of higher elevation include the Gap Roads such as Rt 17 or Smugglers Notch. Even in southern Vermont, areas at elevation such as Kelly Stand Road turn earlier than the surrounding valleys. Kelly Stand Road was peak on 10/2 last year, but it was still all green down in Brattleboro on the Ct. River Valley. Swamp maples around ponds and rivers turn before other trees, so even if you have a lot of green, look for swampy areas to get patches of trees with color If you arrive in Barton in early October and peak color is already past, then drive further south, or in the river valleys (lower elevation).

And personally, I think photographing peak color is over-rated, given how elusive catching peak can be. I like to take images that include both green and red/orange/yellow, for better color contrast. There is always good color to be found somewhere, even if it is in just patches here and there. Not all pictures need to be wide scenes of grand landscapes. Use a telephoto lens to isolate sections of strong color from an overall scene that is mixed color. Take more intimate landscape pictures of forest interiors, such tree portraits, yellow ferns, and fallen leaves on the ground. Rainy weather can make for wet leaves and saturated colors, so foggy, rainy days are actually my favorite time to photograph.It is amazing what rainy weather can do for foliage pictures Blue sky days are for postcards....If you go looking for just one thing, big wide scenes of full, peak color, you are almost guaranteed to come away disappointed. But if you open your mind to lots of different possibilities, you can still create great autumn images almost no matter what conditions you encounter. Be flexible in terms of going north/south, or up/down in elevation and you will find good color somewhere.

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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23378Post edmcguirk
Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:15 pm

I would add that if you have just one week, and are starting in say the 9/30 to 10/2 time frame, I would not recommend doing the whole state in one week. Spend 3 days in the Northeast Kingdom, and 3 days in central Vermont (Woodstock/Killington). In my opinion both of these areas in general are better photographically than southern Vermont. Don't try to do too much if you just have one week. I could spend an entire week in just the Peacham / Groton State Forest / Island Pond area alone....

pkb2508
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23379Post pkb2508
Mon Sep 06, 2021 12:16 pm

Excellent suggestions, edmcguirk and CT. Skipping southern VT makes a lot of sense.

For now, it looks like my best bet would be to arrive in Burlington on 30th Sep or 1st Oct and then remain flexible.

Will very much appreciate if you can share any insights about color as weather unfolds over the next 3 weeks.


edmcguirk
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23380Post edmcguirk
Mon Sep 06, 2021 1:24 pm

We can share information, but frankly it's what happens with the weather after September 22nd that matters the most. It can be unseasonably warm right up through September 22nd, but then if we have 5 or 6 sunny days that have cold nights that drop into the 30's, then you could be looking at peak in the NEK on 9/28 or 9/29 like last year. Or it could be seasonably cool through 9/22, and then if we have a week of hot days in the mid to high 80's with overnight lows of only 55, then everything gets pushed back a week. We have had both happen in the past 7 years. IMO you really can't tell what's going to happen until you get to the last week of September. I would not hold off on making flight reservations, because you just won't know until you almost get there. Last years early peak in the NEK caught everyone by surprise, a strong cold snap in late September, and the foliage peaked almost overnight. No one knows, despite all the foliage predictions you see on the internet. If you are in Vermont from 10/1 to 10/7 you will get good color somewhere, you may just have to travel a bit to find it. That's also why I suggested skipping southern Vermont, because 10/7 is too early for many parts of southern Vermont, under almost any circumstances.

Making foliage predictions on what happens with the weather in the 2nd and 3rd week of September is almost a waste of time, unless they are both consistently well above or below average temperature wise, which rarely happens.

pkb2508
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23390Post pkb2508
Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:10 pm

Hello experts - one more question. Any suggestions on towns that I can use as bases where I'd have easy drive access to places of interest? Based on the comments so far, it appears that I could pick a town in NEK and another in Central Vermont? Or, may be just stay in Montpelier (roughly an hour drive from either Barton or Woodstock) for the whole week? Will appreciate your thoughts.

ctyanky
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23391Post ctyanky
Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:28 pm

Hi Prabal! This is a great question, thank you for posting it. In central Vermont, I would recommend the Waitsfield/Warren area in the Mad River Valley. I have stayed there for years before I transitioned further north into the NEK. I absolutely loved it! There is sooooo much to be said about the MRV in my opinion, not just as a great base for excursions. Lots of places to eat, hike and it is a photographers dream. If you do chose that area, come back on here for some excellent back roads. There are the gap roads to travel on and Blueberry Lake is one of my favorite places to photograph in the afternoon. It is in Warren. Back roads around there are great! Plus you are close to Granville Gulch on route 100. I don't know why but that stretch of road totally intrigues me!

But Montpelier is also a nice base, so why not? My friend stayed there at an Airbnb in East Montpelier and loved it! We tooled around the back roads in that area and it was beautiful. There are lots of places there to eat as well. Not to throw a wrench in your plans, but have you thought about St. Johnsbury as a base?

If it were me, I would choose two places, one in the NEK and one in central VT (if you can find lodging now go for it, but have noticed people posting on other websites that they have found places to stay this late in the game). I love inn hopping and for me, staying in up to 3 or 4 places in a single trip never bothers me. It's not for everyone. I enjoy new locations and meeting tons of people from all over the country and world, and have made some amazing friends because of it.

I think for central Vermont, try finding a place to stay in Waitsfield or Warren. You would be very happy there I think!

Just some food for thought, but hop on getting your lodging ASAP!!!!

Keep asking away, you have good questions. CT

edmcguirk
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23396Post edmcguirk
Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:17 am

Prabal

I stay in St. Johnsbury for it's easy access to both the NEK, and the Groton State Forest/Marshfield/Cabot/Peacham area (my favorite photography spots). In St. J you are at the junction of Interstate 91 and Rt. 2, the most significant major roads in that area. Montpelier puts you further away from Barton, Burke, Lake Willoughby etc. I could easily spend a week photographing these locations without going to Central VT.

I think you should narrow down what places you want to see in Central Vermont. White River Junction provides good access to Woodstock, although you could do it from St. Johnsbury as a longer day trip by going down I91, and then cutting west on Rt 4. ctyanky is offering good advice on Warren Waitsfield, there is a lot of photographic interest there as well. It is also easy to get to Stowe & Smugglers Notch from Waitsfield. One thing to bear in mind is that unless you are on Interstate 91 or 89 you will be driving on secondary roads that you can't go very fast on, many of which follow river valleys with a lot of curves and twists. Going 60 miles on these roads can take much longer than 60 minutes.

Tell us what locations you want to see in Central Vermont, and it may help narrow down lodging choices.

pkb2508
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23416Post pkb2508
Sat Sep 18, 2021 6:04 pm

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions so far. My trip is booked! Will spend 3 nights in NEK (Oct 1-4) (near Lake Willoughby) and then 3 nights in E Burke. Hopefully this will let me navigate the region flexibly as colors move.

I will keep an eye out on the postings here to get a sense of foliage peaking in the different areas. You folks are awesome!

Thanks,
Prabal.

Andy
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23419Post Andy
Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:35 am

While, as Ed says, it is difficult to predict foliage development, given what I am hearing about the warmer weather and offhand predictions of a later season, I think you have made excellent choices. I will be in that area from Oct 2 - 10 and think that will probably be the best areas of color for that time period. I second Ed's sentiments about the Peacham/Groton area. Probably my favorite place to shoot in the NEK. From your lodging locations, you are within reasonably easy striking distance from Peacham (some good opportunities there both a.m. and p.m.), Craftsbury Common (a quintessential iconic New England photograph), and to the south, even Waits River, Topsham and Corinth are reachable (though a bit farther). You'll want to find and drive the Groton State Forest road - 232 - from end to end (probably easiest to find from 2 out of St. Johnsbury - very close to your lodging choices), and head west to its intersection with 232. There you can drive most of the way and take a short, but steep hike up to Owl's Head for a spectacular view and photograph of a pond in the foreground and mountains in the background (for a serious shooter, it is tough to get the light right here, because the road doesn't open until after sunrise and closes before sundown. I have been tempted to park on 232 and hike up, but it would be a long hike and this old body doesn't have the motivation it might once had :-). There are several nice ponds along that road which can make nice shots and reflections. At the south end of the road is Ricker Pond, which you will see as you pass it. It is very accessible. A nice brook and waterfall runs out of it at the south. 232 ends at 302 and just a very short distance west on 302 is the entrance to Seyon Lake State Park and at the end of the Seyon LSP road, Noyes ("seyon" spelled backward :-) ) Pond is a wonderful photo op. Best to be there in the morning, but I have had good light there as late as 9 - 10 a.m. in October. IMO, a must see for a photographer.

While I do agree that the Waitsfield/Warren area is a very good central Vermont location, I have not had good luck with Montpelier (and Waitsfield is less congested and easier to get to destinations from, in my opinion. Being the capitol city, it surprises me, but the lodging opportunities there are not great in my experience. And you spend more time than I would like getting in and out of town. Since you have already ruled a stay in central Vermont out, no use dwelling on this, but for your (and perhaps others reading here) future, I wanted to cover it. One of the best things about Waitsfield is that there are several very close spots for early morning shooting, which means easy to get there at the "golden" hours. It is also easy to get to Stowe, though be warned - it will be congested, especially along the main road (100) and all the way to the intersection in the middle of town with 108. But it might be worth fighting the traffic at least once. Growing up, I spent many summers and a couple full years just north of Jeffersonville, which is on the other side of Mt. Mansfield, on 108. I think everyone should go through Smuggler's Notch at least once in their lifetime - not really a spot for photography - but an experience! Stowe is reachable from where you are staying - we will be there at least one afternoon - but will stay out of town. There is a great Barn just southeast of Stowe that photographs well in the afternoon! It is on Stowe Hollow Road.

You will have much to shoot closer to "home" but don't hesitate to take some day trips further out. If you have internet access, check here during your week to see if there have been "boots on the ground" posts. I always am ready to be flexible and vary my plans, to go where the color is. Good luck and good shooting!
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

Andy
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23420Post Andy
Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:37 am

By the way, the eBook ("sticky post" near the top of this foliage forum has detailed directions and representative photos of all the stuff I mentioned)
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

pkb2508
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23421Post pkb2508
Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:45 am

Thank you, Andy! Your eBook has been on my kindle for a few months now, and is going with me to NEK :-) Such a great photography resource!

Andy
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23427Post Andy
Mon Sep 20, 2021 8:08 am

Thank you!
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

pkb2508
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Re: Visitor from California - help needed to plan foliage viewing starting from NEK then going south

Post: # 23501Post pkb2508
Wed Sep 29, 2021 1:39 am

Hi all,

Not sure if you are able to access it, but here are the places I am hoping to visit (at least most of them, I hope):

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit? ... sp=sharing

- I plan to cover the "northern cluster" during Oct 1-4 and the "southern cluster" during 4-7th. Does this sound reasonable?
- While there are plenty of spots in the Lake Willoughby area within striking distance of where I'll be staying, I am wondering if my choice of E Burke for the 2nd half (10/4-10/7) is putting me too far out. Should I try to split the time between E Burke and, say, Waitsfield?
- Given how color is progressing, will Oct 6/7 be too early for the Woodstock/Maple Hill area?

Hoping for good weather, and wishing great foliage viewing to all!

Thanks,
Prabal.


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