Happy Friday, Connecticut Drivers!
We’re sure you’ve heard us say this before, but we really love the fall season! The crisp, cool nights….cozy sweaters…. pumpkin-flavored everything… apple picking…and especially the beautiful Connecticut foliage, whose peak season is just around the corner!
If you haven’t taken any scenic foliage drives before, we highly recommend you take a tour this season! The best time to take in the fall foliage this year is between October 3 and November 15, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). CTVisit.com predicts that peak foliage season for the majority of the state will take place over Columbus Day, with the leaves changing in the northern parts of the state first (October 9 – 15) moving down through the middle portion of CT next (mid to late October), and finally hitting the shoreline between late October and early November).
Before you hop in the car, though, here’s a bit of background on the leaf changing process and our top 3 recommendations for scenic Connecticut drives.
Why Do Leaves Turn Color?
Ever wonder why it is that leaves change their color each year, and what makes Connecticut’s annual display particularly breathtaking? Frost, which is commonly believed to be the color change catalyst, actually has little to do with it. In fact, leaves often change color before the first hint of frost. Foliage changes are actually a result of chemical processes taking place in the tree as the growing season ends.
When leaves emerge from buds in early spring, they serve as “factories”, manufacturing the food trees need to grow. This process of food-making takes place in millions of leaf cells, which contain a green pigment known as chlorophyll. There is so much chlorophyll in a grown leaf that it gives leaves their vibrant green color. But leaves also contain yellow or orange carotenoids this whole time, whose pigments are “hidden” for most of the year by the overwhelming amounts of green chlorophyll present.
In fall, when the leaves’ food factories shut down for winter, the chlorophyll breaks down and the green diminishes, allowing for the ever-present yellow or orange carotenoids to shine through. At the same time, other chemical changes are also taking place, giving rise to more pigments ranging from yellow to red to blue. That’s why certain trees, like the sumac, are more red or purple in coloration, while beeches are more golden bronze.
When the autumn days are bright yet cool, and the nights chilly but not freezing, we see the brightest foliage colors develop. All of the different species of trees together give us the foliage display we witness throughout the US each year – and which is particularly dazzling here in Connecticut.
In fact, only a few regions around the world have seasonal displays of color like ours. And when you add the picturesque backdrop of its quaint New England towns and seaside villages, the leaf peeping in the Nutmeg state is pretty much unrivaled.
3 Not-to-Miss Foliage Drives in Connecticut
So where should you go? While there are several gorgeous foliage sightseeing opportunities through the state, we recommend these three from the DEEP:
Beginning in Hartford, this foliage drive is approximately 90 miles long. Take 1-91 north to exit 45 (Bridge Street, East Windsor). Head west on Route 140 to the airport, then south on 75 to Route 20. Head west through Granby, the Hartlands and Riverton, picking up West River Road south through People’s State Forest to Pleasant Valley. Continue south on Route 181 to Route 44 and head east through New Hartford, Canton and Avon to Route 10 – south to Farmington. Pick up Route 4 and head for Hartford to close the loop. While you’re on this tour, we also suggest taking a little detour to Simsbury to check out the oldest sycamore tree in the state!
Option 2: CT Heritage
This scenic tour starts in New London and is also approximately 90 miles long. Take I-95 north across the Thames River to lefthand exit 86. Go east on Route 184 to Old Mystic. Take Route 27 south to Mystic. Go east on Route 1 to Route 2, then north on Route 2, 184 and 49 to Route 14A to Canterbury. Head south on Routes 169 and 2 to Norwich then take Route 32 south to close the loop at New London.
Option 3: Connecticut River Gateway
Approximately 80 miles in length, and beginning in Middletown, start this foliage drive by going south on Route 9 to exit 10. Take Route 154 south to Route 148, then head east to a ferryboat crossing. (Note: ferry season in April – November; alternate crossing is the I-95 bridge between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.) From the landing, continue east on 148 and 82 to Route 156, then turn south to I-95. Cross the river on 95 to exit 69. Head north on Route 154 to Route 82 and recross the river at East Haddam. Continue east to Route 151 and turn north to Cobalt. Turn left on Route 66 and close the loop at Middletown.
So prepare yourself for a cornucopia of colors, put the pedal to the medal, and don’t forget to stop by Hoffman Auto if you do some leaf peeping in our neck of the woods!