See see our peak foliage prediction map to find out when leaves change their color. If you want to go on a leaf-peeping hike or trip, knowing when leaves will change across the United States should help you plan. We’ve also highlighted 15 of our favorite fall foliage destinations!
Peak Fall Foliage Map
Below is an animated map showing the progression of fall colors across the U.S. based on foliage reports from Almanac readers. Of course, past results do not necessarily indicate what will happen in 2021 but it should give you a fairly good idea of when fall leaves typically reach their peak near you. Even though The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a warmer-than-typical fall through most of the country, it doesn’t appear that peak fall foliage will be delayed this year.
Leaves can change their color from as early as late September all the way through early November. Typically the second and third week of October are the peak times, but it shifts depending on where you live.
- Foliage starts to change in the northern-tier states out West and in the Midwest by late September; by October 4, the leaves in some areas will be best their prime.
- Much of New England as well as the Pacific Northwest will be at or near peak fall color by October 11.
- A little further south in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it looks like mid-October is your best bet.
Some of the Best Places for Leaf Peeping
Want to plan a fall foliage drive, hike, or getaway? Here are some of readers’ favorite leaf-peeping spots in the United States. Perhaps some of these destinations are near you! We welcome your tips on other great places to see fall foliage. Please comment below!
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Ozark National Forest in Arkansas
- Massapequa Reserve, upstate New York
- Traverse City, Michigan
- Black Hills, South Dakota
- Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
- Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
- Pere Marquette State Park, Illinois
- Skyline Drive .Blue Ridge Mountains, Virgina
- Jackson, Wyoming
- Connecticut River Valley, S.E. Connecticut
- Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, Utah
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
- Buckhorn Lake State Park, Kentucky
- Vogel State Park and Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
What Causes 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, leaves change color due to sunlight. 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?
How Weather Affects Leaf Color
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 2021 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!