Rich r, oranges, yellows, plum purples and various shades of green are certain to catch your eye this fall. Autumn officially kicked off on Sept. 22, and it’s bringing more than cool air — it’s also certain to deliver a fresh pop of color.
So, grab your pumpkin spice lattes, apple cider doughnuts and hit the road to take in the breathtaking views the country has to offer. From the New England area to the Midwest and even down South, there are plenty of opportunities to see fall foliage.
Tourism site SmokyMountains.com created a foliage prediction map, allowing users to see fall colors change depending on dates they choose. The site notes warmer temperatures could impact precipitation patterns and timing of color changes.
“Other than the Pacific Northwest, we are expecting warmer-than-average fall temperatures during the September through November time period. These warmer temperatures are expected to prolong the color season,” data scientist and SmokyMountains.com co-founder Wes Melton, who studied the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fall forecasts, said in a September news release.
He added, “Due to the heavier precipitation throughout the summer months, this year’s leaf model is predicting an earlier-than-typical peak fall. However, the NOAA 90-day future precipitation and temperature graphs point to a prolonged color period for much of the country with higher elevations peaking first.”
Want to know when exactly fall colors will peak across the country? Here’s a breakdown.
Tip: If you want to get a sneak peek at the foliage, head toward the mountains in the northern part of the state, where leaves start to change color in early November. Alabama Travel also recommends checking out Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham and Palisades Park in Blount Country.
Tip: Alaska’s colorful leaf display typically only lasts a few weeks, but it also depends on the weather. The leaves will continue to change colors until the first snowfall, according to Travel Alaska, which recommends traveling along Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood and Chena Hot Springs Road between Fairbanks and Chena for the best views.
Tip: The Sonoran Desert is a late bloomer when it comes to fall foliage. Nature lovers should head over there in late November for prime “images of yellow cottonwoods framed with Saguaro cacti,” Visit Arizona says. The Aravaipa Canyon in Pinal County is also expected to offer colorful views — all the way through December.
Tip: Make sure you head up to the Ozarks and northern part of the state. “Arkansas’ rich variety of trees and mild climate make the changing foliage especially striking. A moist growing season and a dry, cool autumn with little to no frost make for the most vivid leaf colors, and Arkansas weather often fits that profile,” Trip Savvy writes.
Tip: Peep the grapevines in wine country, as they often display their very own special hues.
Peak: Between Oct. 5 and Nov. 8.
Tip: There are several parks and wildlife refuges — such as Trap Pond State Park, Killens Pond State Park, Lums Pond State Park, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, among others — to walk through in order to spot the colors reflecting off of shimmering small bodies of water.
Peak: Given its tropical climate, you won’t find any vibrant fall colors here.
Tip: Instead of hunting for typical colors, try looking out for these blooming plants, trees, and flowers such as the African tulip, chorisia speciosa, timor, royal poinciana and rainbow shower, Trip Savvy recommends.
Tip: Keep an eye out for aspens and cottonwoods, which offer shades of deep yellow and gold throughout the state, Chiff recommends.
Tip: There are more than 250 tree species in Illinois and they each give off distinct colors, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says.
Tip: The leaves will be at their brightest and “boldest” just in time for Halloween — specifically, on Oct. 29, the Indianapolis Star reports, citing SmokyMountains.com data. Take a drive through Brown County State Park, around the second and third week of October, to take in breathtaking views.
Peak: In Northeast Iowa, colors peak around Oct. 10; colors peak later in southern parts of the state, depending on weather conditions.
Tip: There’s an unincorporated community in Leavenworth County called Fall Leaf — take a trip around there if you’re feeling festive.
Tip: “[Take] A scenic Drive through Daniel Boone National Forest. At the northern end of this popular stretch of hardwood, you’ll find the stunning Red River Gorge and the Zilpo Scenic Byway. These are both an absolute must during peak fall foliage season,” the Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky suggests.
Tip: Swing by Kisatchie, Louisiana’s only national forest, to spot a variety of tree species. With 604,000 acres to explore, you’re bound to stumble upon some stunning sights.
Tip: Leaves start turning colors in the north and slowly trickle down to the south. “Generally northern Maine is at or near peak conditions the last week of September into the first week of October. Central and western mountains of Maine are at or near peak Columbus day week/weekend. Coastal and southern Maine generally reach peak or near peak conditions mid-to-last October,” Maine.gov explains on its website.
Tip: Missouri boasts a variety of tree species in the state — each with their own special look. “Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change, beginning in mid-September. By late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood are turning,” the Missouri Department of Conservation says.
Tip: Nebraska’s Natural Resource Districts led an initiative to plant more than 1 million native deciduous trees across the state, USA Today reports. Between these trees and the numerous oaks, cottonwoods, elms, among others — there should be plenty to look at.
Tip: Flock to the historic towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley to find some of the “best” fall colors, the Nevada City Chamber says.
Tip: Head toward the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state. Because of its “varied elevations, it is also one of the longest-running leaf seasons in the world,” Trips to Discover says.
Tip: Drive through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located between Cleveland and Akron. The park is a “refuge for native plants and wildlife” and is sure to be a hot spot for fall foliage as you travel down the Towpath Trail, according to the National Park Service.
Tip: Take a trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which boasts more than 8,500 acres of wilderness. Bonus: You can spot some elk, deer, buffalo, among other wildlife, during your visit.
Tip: Head to Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which “protects the spectacular canyon where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade mountains,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture explains.
Tip: Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation — or anywhere in the world,” Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources states on its website.
Tip: There are 47 different parks in the South Carolina State Parks system, and each is ripe for fall foliage. Discover South Carolina broke down the best sightseeing opportunities on its website, including a 110-mile-long highway that leads visitors to many of these unique parks.
Tip: The Great Smoky Mountains sees the most visitors during the last three weeks of October, the National Park Service says, adding the “areas in the park which experience the longest traffic delays are Cades Cove and Newfound Gap Road.”
Tip: Utah’s native trees — such as the canyon maple, quaking aspen, scrub oak, Douglas hawthorn, serviceberries, evergreens, among others — provide breathtaking views throughout the majority of fall, Visit Utah states, noting varied rainfall throughout the state changes peak times throughout the state.
Tip: Vermont boasts having the “world’s best foliage.” That fact three-quarters of the state is covered with forests and the fact it has the highest percentage of maple trees in the country may have something to do with that declaration, New England Today reports.
Tip: Shenandoah National Park is said to have some of the best fall foliage views. But if you don’t want to worry about fighting the crowds for the best smartphone snaps, you may want to consider a Fall Foliage Driving Tour offered by the Virginia Department of Forestry.
If you want a more precise breakdown of fall foliage near you, search your zip code on this interactive map. The map, created by Yankee Magazine, breaks down the color status into six categories: green, turning, moderate, peak, fading and gone