Late September through mid-late October, depending upon where you are headed. It varies by region, by proximity to the shore, and by year. The summer weather (rain) can affect peak as well as the quality of the show. But if you follow Michael Palmer's advise, you're probably going to have some nice views. Even if peak falls a little to the fringes of those dates, you'll still have some very nice scenery.
just outside new England going from Albany ny north toward Canada there is route 87. about the first week in October is full color. I am originaly from new England but the "northway" has the most intense, bright color I have ever seen. this is the eastside of the addirondac moutains. depending on the weather full color is +/- a week. it is daylight, moisture and temperature influenced. it is not just colder temperatures... central new England would likely run a week or 10 days later. please enjoy this in person.
stay in ny around lake george/glens falls, it is off season, full color and about 20 minutes to vermont. and it is right near to betterbee... don't waste time looking for overpriced Vermont inns and bed& breakfasts they are for people from new-york city not for working country folks.
For the best colors, depending on the season, I would recommend two routes.
A drive up through the Connecticut River valley on rte 5, and into the Northeast Kingdom...to St. Johnsbury, Newport, and west on rte 105, around Jay Peak, to Richford, Enosburg Falls, and St. Albans. The colors come and go earlier on this route.
A drive up through the Champlain valley on rte 7 would be nice, from Bennington to Manchester, Middlebury, Burlington, and St. Albans. Burlington is a nice town.
Surely you should visit the coastline of SE New England. Cape Cod is nice in October...the summer crowds are gone and the weather is usually good. A whale watch and/or a fishing trip out of Provincetown or Gloucester should be on the trip.
And then, Montreal is only 70 miles north of me...the largest French speaking city outside France.
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