2019 Fall Foliage Forecast

Best time to see fall foliage across the United Statess

September 18, 2019
Oak Leaves in Fall
Pixabay

Our Fall Foliage Forecast 2019 shows the best times to see colorful leaf foliage in America’s leaf-peeping hotspots! Plus—please make you rown foliage report!

Here at Almanac Headquarters in southern New Hampshire, fall has already arrived, though we’re still a few weeks away from the best foliage show. How are the leaves looking in your area? Below, find out when to expect peak foliage in some of the most popular leaf-spotting regions across the United States.

First, take a peek at our animated 2018 Fall Foliage Map (compiled from our readers’ Foliage Reports) to see how last year’s foliage season progressed.

Make your own Foliage Report here!

Animated Map for 2018 Foliage Reports

2019 Fall Foliage Forecast

Northeast

This year, thanks to a slew of warm, dry days and cooler nights in the past few weeks, the foliage experts at NewEngland.com are predicting a season of bright, bold colors that will peak a bit later than usual. So, expect the most vivid color to start appearing in late September and to last through mid-October. 

For perspective, as of mid-September:

  • New York is reporting that leaves are only just starting to show color in most of the state, though the Adirondacks are a bit ahead. 
  • Maine, which doesn’t typically reach peak conditions until October, is reporting a 30% color change with very low (less than 10%) leaf drop.

See more about the New England Fall Foliage forecast.

Appalachians

Large swathes of color will start to arrive in early to mid-October in the north, reaching the southern end of the Appalachians by mid-November. This part of the country has avoided drought in late summer, so colors should be bright and long-lasting.

Upper Midwest 

Cooler, wetter conditions could spur on an early peak this year, especially in northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The leaves are changing now, so expect peak foliage to occur in late September, lasting through the first couple weeks of October.

Rocky Mountains and Northwest

If you wish to witness those golden aspens that line the Rockies, the color change lasts only about a week in most places. It’s hard to predict which week, so check with local parks!

Mid-October is typically when fall colors reach their peak in the Northwest, and it seems likely that it will be that way this year, too. However, due to drier and warmer-than-normal conditions, we could see less-vivid colors than expected.

California and Southwest

Parts of Arizona and New Mexico have been experiencing drought conditions in recent months, which means that colors may be subdued and the display cut short. Expect foliage to start turning in early October in the mountains and early November farther south.

In the eastern Sierra mountains of California, foliage typically changes between late September and mid-October, featuring trees that include aspen, big-leaf maple, and black oak. Mammoth Mountain and Yosemite National Park have fantastic leaf-peeping opportunities, so get out there!

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Although weather does have an effect on fall leaves, it’s not the main driver behind the leaves’ brilliant colors. In fact, leaves change color primarily because of the dwindling amount of daylight hours, which begin to wind down after the summer solstice in June. This signals the trees to get ready for winter, so they halt their production of chlorophyll—a green pigment—and other pigments of yellow, red, and purple are exposed instead. Weather simply influences the vividness of the color and how quickly the leaves fall off the trees.

Read more about why fall leaves change color!

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Weather determines how vivid the fall foliage will be and how long it will last.  

How Does the Weather Affect Autumn Leaves?

If the weather is cold enough, it can end chlorophyll production even earlier than usual. This is why the high mountains in places like Colorado often have an earlier leaf season. Cold also makes colors more intense.

At the same time, warm weather can increase chlorophyll production, allowing the green to last longer. In the 120 years of U.S. weather records, temperatures have grown warmer, especially in cities, and the leaves now turn a couple of weeks later than they did a century ago.

Dry conditions are rough on trees and actually can end chlorophyll production early, especially for trees that turn red. They may turn red early, but the stress also makes the trees shed their leaves sooner. For this reason dry areas tend to have shorter fall foliage seasons.

Are leaves changing color where you live? Go to our 2019 Foliage Map and see foliage reports from your area!

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