Leaves turn color when cooler temperatures trigger chemical changes in trees, which break down the green pigment in leaves. In Massachusetts, that usually happens in October, and the process can create a dazzling display of color, set against country or mountainous roads, or against historical landmarks that the Boston area is known for. New England leaves turn color at different times. Trees in northern and western New England usually turn first, with a cascading effect heading east and south. The peak foliage time in Western MA is usually about the first week of October, the vivid colors hit Central MA about a week later, and the Boston area hits its peak late in the month. Check Weather.com's guide to North East foliage to find out when the colors will be at their brightest.
Recommended Foliage Drives:
The most popular foliage drive in Massachusetts is Route 2, or the Mohawk Trail as it's known along part of the route. It stretches east to west through most of the state, taking you through small Western Massachusetts towns and ending in the rolling Berkshire mountains. Because the route is so well known, it can also be more crowded during weekends in the peak season.
Route 20 stretches through Massachusetts, starting near Boston and continuing through the old Wayside Inn area, Central MA, and all the way to New York, if you follow it that far. In Western MA, the road passes near the Norman Rockwell museum. It's a beautiful drive and it might be less crowded than Route 2.
Route 7 runs north to south through the Berkshire area. Head there in early October, and take your time exploring the small, artsy towns along the way. Some of the highlights include North Adams, Lenox, Stockbridge and Lee. Make sure that you follow the route all the way north to glimpse the most scenic area of the mountains. There's also good hiking on the mountains and parks along the way.
Best Foliage Spots
Mount Auburn Cemetery
A city is not necessarily the first place you would first think of for finding the best foliage, but Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge has beautiful plantlife and trees any time of the year. In the fall, a lot of the green turns a stunning vivid red or gold. The photo to the right was taken in Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Concord's Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau, is surrounded by a wooded area that in is used for hikes, cross-country skiing, and foliage walks in the fall.
The mountain north of Worcester is the highest peak in Eastern Massachusetts. Wachusett in the winter is a popular ski area, but in the summer and fall, it is a hiking spot. You can either drive or climb to the top. When you get there, you may see the Boston skyline in one direction, the hills of New Hampshire in another, and lakes and woods of Central and Western MA if you turn southwest.
The mountainous region in Western Massachusetts offers the best views of foliage. You can hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, climb Mount Greylock (the highest peak in Massachusetts), or just drive to the top.