Foliage and Fall Operating Hours

2016-09-30 22:24:54.000 – Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist


Around this time of year, we get several inquiries about foliage and the operating hours of the summit. With these inquires in mind, I thought I’d take a minute to address these two items to better inform you in the days and weeks ahead.
First off, foliage (or “fall color” to some). Peak foliage colors occur at different times around the state and doesn’t uniformly occur on any one day or week. It typically starts in the north and high elevations in early to mid-September then gradually spreads southward through late Sept/Oct. The transition for the far north (think Pittsburg, NH) is already underway with several areas nearing peak color. On the Presidential Range (where Mt Washington is located), colors are peaking at the 4000 foot level and are starting to descend into the valleys around the summit. In the coming days, colors will peak around here, and then the wave of color will pass and continue southward in the coming weeks with northern areas seeing the foliage falling off and leading into the “gray” period between fall and first snow. So, if you miss peak color in one area, there will be plenty of other areas you can still go to experience New Hampshire’s foliage season.
For additional information, there are several resources that can better inform which are available at:

If you Google “NH foliage” or “New England foliage” there are several other resources available to further assist you. Additionally, you can turn to social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram and seek out several tags like “#nhfall” “#nhfoliage” or “#newenglandfall” for current images of conditions around the state.
Next, summit operations. Fall is the time of year when daily operations are in flux, adjusting to the shorter days and variable weather conditions (like snow). For expected weather 48 hours out, you can check our Higher Summits Forecast, or for a second opinion, NWS’s Recreational Forecast or one of several automated apps or online services. As far as operating hours, you can find all the information at:

Mt Washington Auto Road

Most of them have additional information on their various social media outlets too. If, after checking their sites or social media outlets, you are still unsure, it is best to contact the various outlets directly to ensure you are getting the most out of your travel time in the White Mountains. The Mount Washington Observatory operates independently, so any questions times and days open should be directed towards one or more of the groups posted above so you are getting the best and most correct information on any given day. Lastly, just in case the weather limits or closes operations to/from/on the summit, as I tell my family and friends, always have a “Plan B” just in case.

Last September sunset from the summit


Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist

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