A Fall Foliage Expert Shares His Unexpected Leaf Peeping Essentials

Leaf peeping authority Jim Salge named his picks for some surprising gear that'll enrich your hike.

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Leaf peeping season is here, and as the leaves change to their brilliant shades of oranges, yellows, and reds, you’ll undoubtedly venture out to capture the miracle of nature. Jim Salge, who happens to be the nation’s go-to expert on New England fall foliage, a photographer, and a former meteorologist, has leaf peeping season down to a science. He also forecasts and gives insight on the trees’ annual change from green to gold for Yankee magazine.

Thrillist spoke to Salge to get his tips on the essential gear you should bring for your hikes, road trips, and viewing adventures-and how to capture photos of it all that hopefully measure up to the beauty you see in real life.

What you need when you’re out leaf peeping this fall

A few other items that would be good to pack for your leaf peeping outing? Salge says wool layers are what old-timers swear by-Fjallraven has a great wool shirt that’s easy to tie around your waist. And don’t forget a good pair of shoes.

“New England has terrible trails compared to the Mountain West,” Salge says. “We don’t believe in switchbacks out here. We go straight up mountains and the trail’s a road and they’re just like boulder fields and scree fields, so good footwear.”

Columbia’s hiking boots are well reviewed and are available at a reasonable price point. And another great layering option? The Puffer Hug is a fleece-lined puffer scarf with pockets-use it to tuck away your cold hands after snapping your pictures.

How to get the best fall foliage photos

Salge’s first tip when it comes to fall foliage photography? Early risers get the best shot. Salge advises waking up early and taking your foliage photos in the morning, for a number of reasons. The first? The traffic is better. In areas popular for foliage, you’re likely to encounter crowds in the middle of the day and afternoon. You’ll have an easier time getting around before the roads get clogged.

“In terms of actual photography, you get a lot more atmosphere,” Salge explains. “You have morning mist because it’s cool. You have dew, which makes the landscape sparkle. Sometimes you get frost, and then when you backlight the trees, if you have the sun low on the horizon at sunrise or sunset, and then you shine the light through the golden and orange and red leaves, they just glow more.”

Salge says that the morning light can give that same golden hour glow that is more associated with the afternoon, “but because you get morning fog and frost and dew, mornings are a lot better, and you usually have the place to yourself.”

“If you go out in the middle of the day, you’re going to get a lot of blue light, a lot of flat light and a lot of glare,” Salge says. “That’s not a great recipe for a great photograph. It’s a great recipe for enjoying your time in New England in the fall, but it’s not going to translate to pictures as well.”

The best time to go leaf peeping

With your bag packed, you are ready to take on the elements and seek out the brightest, most colorful leaves. Salge has a few more tips to make sure the experience is a memorable one. For starters, in New England, there’s a six-week window to enjoy the foliage. Don’t stress about getting to the leaves when it’s “peak.”

“Peak is a continuum and what I consider peak, my good friend who’s a weather observer, doesn’t think it’s peak,” Salge says. “We have six weeks of the wave of color going from the Canadian border to the coast of Rhode Island and Connecticut. You can drive the whole thing in six, eight hours. So if you feel like you’re too early, go north and uphill. If you feel like you’re too late, go south and downhill and you’ll get back into the great color again.”

Salge’s other recommendation is to slow down. New England towns are known for putting on a true production for foliage season, and the best way to enjoy it is by taking it in. “I think people’s itineraries are way too ambitious. Go smaller with your itinerary.”

His final suggestion is more for everyone’s safety: “Don’t walk in the middle of the road for your shot, or don’t stop your car in traffic to get your shot,” Salge urges. “Don’t lose your mind over the amazing beauty that surrounds you, because for some reason it’s just intoxicating and people just do the strangest things that they’d never do any other time of year.”

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

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