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Plan Your Fall Getaway With This Peak Foliage Prediction Map

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Expect minimal changes to foliage colors in early September 2018.

Photo by Noah Silliman/Unsplash

Expect minimal changes to foliage colors in early September 2018.

If you want your cabin rental or hiking trip to coincide with peak foliage near you, here’s when leaves will change color across the United States in 2021.

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Planning a leaf-peeping trip to coincide perfectly with peak fall colors is a difficult task. If you go too early, you’ll see more green than orange and red. Too late? You might risk being greeted by a forest full of brown leaves. To help avoid these disappointing scenarios, SmokyMountains.com released its 2021 fall foliage prediction map for the continental United States. 

Even though Weather.com forecasts above-average temperatures from the upper Midwest to the central and northern Rockies this fall, it doesn’t appear that peak fall foliage will be delayed this year. To make sure your timing is right, use this online tool to help you schedule your fall road trip whether you plan on seeing the sugar maples turn red in Tennessee or the aspens go for gold in Colorado.

Using historical data and forecast information from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, SmokyMountains.com created an algorithm to predict the timing of peak fall foliage in 2021. 

“The predictive fall leaf map helps potential travelers, photographers, and leaf peepers determine the precise future date that the leaves will peak in each area of the continental United States,” data scientist Wes Melton said in a statement. 

While no weather prediction tool can be 100 percent accurate, this interactive fall color map shows you the best opportunities for when and where leaves will be near peak, at peak, and past peak this year as you move the slider at the bottom of the map between weeks throughout the season.

When will fall foliage peak this year?

Late September is when leaves begin to hit peak colors in some states.

By September 20, 2021, the map shows that parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Minnesota will be at peak fall foliage, which is typical for peak timing. By September 27, areas of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, and West Virginia will peak. But by October 4, the leaves in some parts of those prime leaf-peeping states will be past their peak—a reminder that timing is everything.

Much of New England will be at or near peak fall color by mid-October 2021.

If you’re looking for the best time to grab your weekender bag and see peak fall foliage in New York’s Hudson River Valley or Catskill Mountains, you’ll want to schedule your trip upstate for the week of October 11 when the map says the lower half of the state will reach its peak fall color. For those hoping to rent a Blue Ridge Mountain cabin during the peak foliage window in western North Carolina and Virginia, it looks like mid-October is also your best bet, according to the map. 

Going leaf peeping in the Pacific Northwest? While the week of October 11 is when the fall colors should be at or near peak in Washington State and the northern parts of Oregon, the current drought in the West could cause some trees to go into survival mode, causing leaves to turn brown and fall off before they reach peak color, CNN meteorologists report.

To see when the fall foliage near you (or your favorite autumn destination) will change this year, visit the map at SmokyMountains.com.


This article originally appeared online in September 2018; it was updated in 2019, 2020, and again on August 24, 2021, to include current information.

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