Fall Back

Fall Back

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
The Misunderstanding by Albert Camus

Not every New Haven leaf is a flower. Not yet. But there’s no missing that the city’s greenery has begun its annual transformation to yellow, gold, persimmon, vermilion.

Connecticut as a whole is nearing the height of “leaf-peeping” season, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The interactive map on its website, which charts and predicts the leaves’ progression as you hover your mouse over successive date ranges, says peak color hit Connecticut’s upper corners two weeks ago. Apparently it’s hitting the middle of the state now, with New Haven’s turn coming in 10 days or so. By the beginning of November, the city should be deep in fall color, like kids buried under piles of crunchy, curly leaves.

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The go-to places to experience it are East Rock and West Rock, and not just for the obvious reasons. They offer concentrated trees and dramatic views of the surrounding land, it’s true, but they also offer higher elevations and cooler temperatures, which can lead to earlier color and brighter pigments than at sea level, especially during warm autumns. Even visitors from out of town sometimes figure out they should head East this time of year; at the summit overlooking the city, a man with his partner and teenage child, clearly traveling to look at colleges, was overheard saying, “Well, this puts Princeton to shame.”

When the time is right, you can find the polar opposite view of autumn—intimate, close, urbane—in Phelps Triangle Park. Located within the tiny triangle formed by Trumbull, Whitney and Temple Streets downtown, like autumn itself the site is pretty but fleeting; if you aren’t paying much attention, you can easily miss it. Maintained by the Garden Club of New Haven since 1949, today it’s a colorful oasis close to the city’s central diversions, walled by a perimeter of plant life and dotted with several benches.

Other leafy hotspots: College Woods, technically part of East Rock Park, where you can admire both the immediate canopy and the ruddy face of the Rock rising over the Mill River; Edgewood Park with its wooded walks, fields and streams (and a pond for good measure); Edgerton Park with its mature trees and rolling hills; Grove Street Cemetery with its arboreal and sculptural curiosities; and, for a fantastic coastal view, Forbes Bluff in Fort Hale Park.

For those who prefer to view nature from the climate-controlled confines of their car, we return to East Rock Park. The quick and pleasant drive from base to summit—sadly and mystifyingly accessible only on Sundays from 7:30 a.m. to sundown, at least for now—offers a convenient taste of dense foliage. Then there’s that view at the top. You can use it to survey New Haven for other pockets of popping colors, finding places worth visiting, including any on the eastern side of West Rock Park, whose lower lake and upper ridge are wondrous any time of year and located just 3.5 miles away as the crow flies.

Or as the leaf drifts.

Written by Cara Rosner and Dan Mims. This updated story was originally published on October 23, 2014.

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