Leaf-Peepers, Use This Interactive Map To Find Peak Fall Foliage

Leaf-Peepers, Use This Interactive Map To Find Peak Fall Foliage

Frederick, Maryland in the autumn. (photo via DenisTangneyJr/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Summer is already on its way out, which means all those who love to see the trees change into their autumnal garb are in for a treat once again.

The Smoky Mountains’ DMO has released its 2022 Fall Foliage Map, an interactive online tool to help leaf-lovers identify where and when they can witness the season’s most brilliant changes across the contiguous United States.

Essentially, it’s a visual reference for tracking the anticipated stages of the trees’ changing, based on the date the user selects, providing leaf-peepers with the ultimate planning guide. As the website states, “While no tool can be 100% accurate, this tool is meant to help travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak color each year.”

The map features a slider that you can use to view the predicted changing of the leaves across U.S. regions (organized by county), according to a color key. With a swipe, the changes on the map indicate the areas in which trees will be transitioning and what stage of color change they’re expected to be in on that date.

“It’s based on a lot of weather science behind the scenes,” Austin Rempel, senior manager of forest restoration for the nonprofit American Forests, told the Washington Post. But Rempel said that, in recent years, increased weather unpredictability attributed to climate change is altering the way the trees behave, making it harder to offer accurate predictions. Higher temperatures and droughts may cause the leaves to turn colors earlier and at a faster rate, “which makes travel difficult,” he admitted.

If you’re hoping to time your travels to catch optimal views of fall foliage this year, here are some suggested destinations for each of the U.S.’ wider regions.

Leaf-Peepers, Use This Interactive Map To Find Peak Fall Foliage

Autumn at sunrise in New England. (photo via heyengel / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

West Coast: North Cascades National Park

Seattle resident and travel planner for The Emerald Palate, Adria Saracino, recommends seeking out some Washington larches, a unique species that is actually coniferous, but acts like deciduous trees. “That is, they turn gold and drop their needles unlike other types of evergreen trees,” she explained.

But you’ll have to be on your toes if you want to catch this magical experience in the Pacific Northwest, as the larches are only golden for about three weeks. Saracino said that Washington’s Leavenworth area and North Cascades National Park are a couple of the state’s most popular places to view the larches.

Mountain West: Rocky Mountain National Park

The stunning state of Colorado is popular among autumn-foliage enthusiasts, who love to see the aspen trees change into their golden garb. Colorado resident Rempel recommends going to view them at Rocky Mountain National Park, explaining, “They have aspen groves that cover entire hillsides.”

Leaf-Peepers, Use This Interactive Map To Find Peak Fall Foliage

Green Mountains, Vermont. (Photo courtesy Ron and Patty Thomas/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

East Coast: Quechee, Vermont

For anyone who hopes to have a quintessential East Coast fall foliage experience, travel consultant Anthony Berklich recommends visiting Quechee, Vermont, “to see that special fiery burn that Vermont is famous for.” He also noted an added benefit of choosing this location: “you’ll only be competing with a small handful of locals and not masses of tourists,”

Midwest: Tahquamenon Falls State Park

This year, Rempel advises that leaf-peepers in the Midwest venture as close as possible to Canada for the most vibrant colors, and suggests visiting Michigan’s Tahquamenon Falls State Park. “Those are going to be good places to go this year because they’ve had a little bit more moisture than elsewhere,” he said.

Leaf-Peepers, Use This Interactive Map To Find Peak Fall Foliage

Michigan’s Tahquamenon Falls. (photo via Kenneth_Keifer/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

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