Fall Foliage: Be Prepared for Peak Foliage

How to Know When Peak Foliage Will Hit Your Area

September 16, 2020

Have the leaves start changing in your area? When will they peak? Find tips for spotting peak foliage below.

Last Year’s Peak Foliage Map

Below, you’ll find an animation showing the progression of fall colors across the U.S. in 2019, based on last year’s foliage reports from our readers. Use this map to see when fall leaves typically reach their peak near you. 

Not every year is the same, but this map can give you some sense of timing!

Animated Map for 2019 Foliage Reports

What Makes Autumn’s Colors?

When swathes of yellow-red hues adorn the trees, you know what time it is. Yes, it’s autumn—time to snuggle into your favorite wool sweater, scoop up a mug of warm apple cider, and venture out to stare mouth-agape at the colors that streak across the countryside!

What triggers this color change, you ask? Primarily, it’s two things: day length and temperature. Starting at the Summer Solstice, the days begin to shorten, continuing to wane as we tiptoe around the Autumnal Equinox and towards the shortest day of the year: the Winter Solstice. At the same time, temperatures begin to drop. Both these changes tell the trees that it’s time to get ready for winter, so they curtail their summer food-making and the production of green chlorophyll in their leaves begins to slow.

This leaves room for other chemical compounds—carotenoids and anthocyanins—to take center stage, which results in the fall leaves’ brilliant yellow, orange, red, and maroon colors. 

Want to read more about fall leaves? Check out this article: Why Do Leaves Change Color? 

Oak leaves in fall

Watch the Weather

Another important part of leaf-peeping is knowing the right time to go! For the best experience, not only should leaves be near their peak colors, but the weather should be agreeable, too. Read our 2020 Fall Weather Forecast to see what to expect in your area, and find some leaf-peeping tips below:

  • Avoid rainy, windy days, when the leaves (and you) will be soggy. Strong wind in late fall can even result in prematurely bare trees, so keep that in mind while planning.
  • Some say that a lightly overcast day actually improves the colors of the leaves, making them pop against the somber skies. 
  • Others prefer to bask in autumn’s brilliance under blue skies and full sun—and we can’t say we blame them!

Now you’re ready to get out there and enjoy the fall colors. Leave your own leaf-peeping tips in the comments!


Reader Comments

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Autumn Foliage

Why couldn't you've included Canada in this Fall Splendor.....

defective web form?

When I click "Send Report", nothing happens. Is there supposed to be some kind of acknowledgment that the report was submitted/received?

peak report

Sorry Warren county PA is not at peak. Will be maybe be about the 15th.

Fall foliage reporting

The Editors's picture

We rely on our friends from all over the country to report color. If the area you live in hasn’t been updated to the current status, please help keep the map updated by making a report!