Leaf Peeping in New Hampshire


Artists Bluff in Franconia, New Hampshire

Elijah Boisvert, Staff Writer

Crunch, crunch, crunch. The sound of leaves on the ground under walking feet on a brisk autumn afternoon, surroundings filled with golden-tinted hues with the scents of maple and pine wafting through the air. Few birds chirp, many animals already tucked away in their homes for the oncoming winter, leaving only the sounds of the wind and the leaves. The beautiful dance of the trees in the wind during the autumn season is complimented by the yellow, red, and orange colors that the leaves shift towards during this season. Stopping, breathing, and taking in this moment creates peace, and a sense unity between the human body and the nature that it now stands within. Nature is the only thing that can create this peaceful sensation, and seeing the fall foliage in New England is a great way to invoke it.

Every year in the New England area during the autumn season, arises a pastime that people from all around the country and even the globe travel to see with their own eyes. This is the usually-spectacular but sometimes-underwhelming sight of the leaves when they turn from bright green to various hues of orange, red, and yellow. As the leaves are changing color, they simultaneously begin their journey from the branches of the trees on to the ground in a gentle raining fashion, which has the potential to look like something straight out of a fairy tale. The sight of the trees in this phase is undoubtably beautiful, but does the influx of travelers coming to see the foliage create a negative aspect to this time of year? Brenden Bowen, a lifelong New Hampshire resident and creator of nhfamilyhikes.com mentioned that, “I think it’s great that our area is held in such high regard by outsiders…At peak weekends, yes, the most popular areas can be very unpleasantly crowded. But if you are a resident looking to go somewhere special to enjoy the foliage, you already know the best locations that aren’t tourist traps.”

Many New Englanders such as the fall-loving Jennifer Boisvert, a 24 year resident of New Hampshire from Hillsboro County agrees that the fall foliage for the 2018 season was fairly subpar, because of its brevity. Jennifer mentioned how, “I worried we were going to have a repeat of last fall, but the cold nights and warmer days helped get the colors to pop more this season.” Though it is not over, the 2019 autumn season has already generally appeared as much more interesting in terms of foliage because of the fact that the leaves have had their usual full length of time to change colors whilst still remaining on the trees. This is because whether in an urban area or a suburban area of southern New Hampshire, the cold weather of winter has yet to move in, allowing a more gradual transition in and out of autumn than the state has had in recent years.

Because of this year’s prevalence of foliage, the New England area has been greeted with many visitors coming to see the sights before the leaves fall to the ground for winter. And because of technology such as the live fall foliage tracking map that can be found at newengland.com, visitors know exactly where they should go to see it. Luckily, since the foliage in 2019 has been so prevalent, even though there have been many visitors to New Hampshire to see the scenery, it hasn’t overly hampered the beautiful effect of the fall foliage because it has been able to be seen just about everywhere this year. This is helpful because residents of the New England area have not needed to travel very far to see the foliage, and instead it has just been in their backyards – allowing visitors from out of the area to come to more typical leaf peeping spots.

While tourists are coming to visit New Hampshire, many events are held during the 2019 autumn season to attract these visitors to participate alongside the locals, to create a unique experience that doesn’t occur at any other time during the year. Brenden discussed how New Hampshire has many fun opportunities to enjoy, in that, “Autumn is the prime time for outdoor festivals and fairs. Nearly every town has some sort of event to celebrate the fall season, with a wide array of entertainment including pumpkin carving, barbecues, carnivals, animal shows, giant pumpkin contests, and hayrides. New Hampshire towns can get quite creative when it comes to designing fall-themed activities. Keene visitors can compete in pumpkin bowling. Swanzey’s Cheshire Fair involves a pumpkin catapult. Laconia’s festival includes a massive pumpkin tower. Goffstown residents hollow out giant pumpkins and turn them into boats. Somersworth locals take part in pumpkin mini golf. The list is endless.”

In terms of the very best spots to see the fall foliage itself, Jennifer and Brenden had some recommendations on places to visit. Brenden mentioned how, “Probably the most scenery-dense place in New Hampshire for foliage viewing is the Kancamagus Highway, but for that reason it’s also the most popular. Foliage-seekers can’t go wrong anywhere in the White Mountains.” Fortunately for tourists, there is a wide array of places to view the foliage if traveling to the mountains isn’t appealing for some. As Jennifer pointed out, “…anyone could just find any local trail and take a walk, and would find beautiful color. My favorite places tend to involve a bit of water, whether a lake, our local small river, or even a small pond. The reflection of leaves on the water can be captivating.”

Perhaps the best aspect of the changing foliage in New England, though, is the extra reason to get away from screens and technology and spend time outside in nature. As Jennifer remarked, “So many people spend a majority of their time staring at their phone screens. I know that science has proven that time in nature can have healing effects on mental health. So, despite the crowds, I am happy that humans are taking time to look up, and admire the beauty that is found not on a screen.”