It’s Fall Foliage Time (Almost): Here’s When—And Where—Colors Will Peak In The U.S. This Year


Topline

As a relentless string of heat waves that defined the summer make way for cooler air this month, states along the Canadian border are starting to expect the arrival of leaf peepers, as maples, oaks and birch trees turn vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow, providing a jolt in tourism dollars as fall foliage slowly spreads across the country.

Key Facts

Nearly every county on the Canadian border had entered either “minimal” or “patchy” foliage levels as of Monday, with more intense coloration in northern Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota, according to Tennessee travel company SmokyMountains.com, which is well-known for its annual fall foliage predictions.

By early next week, those areas should enter “partial” foliage, according to the travel company, while nearly all of New England, New York and Michigan, as well as parts of Washington state and northern Pennsylvania will have also entered “patchy” territory.

Near peak foliage starts the week of September 25 across the very northernmost counties in the continental U.S., as well as northern Colorado, while leaf peepers can expect peak range to set in by October 2 and take full effect by mid-October from Washington to Maine, as well as parts of the mountain West and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Foliage in New England, long known as an autumn destination for leaf peepers, remains in either an “early” state or has no change from summer greens as of this week, according to Yankee Magazine’s fall foliage forecast, though nearly the entire region is expected to be in its “early” phase by next Friday, with roughly half of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in “mid” foliage by the end of the month.

Surprising Fact

Fall foliage in New England is projected to peak earlier than usual this year due to heavy rainfall over the summer, which kept soils waterlogged and tree roots soggy, causing them to prematurely turn shades of yellow, orange and brown as a result of stress, according to Yankee Magazine. One color that could be lacking as a result of heavy rainfall: red. That’s because near-record summer rainfall this year in New England can dilute the sugars produced in the trees’ leaves, according to former Mount Washington Observatory meteorologist Jim Salve, who created Yankee Magazine’s forecast. Excess sugars could mean autumn foliage might take a “less bold” and “more pastel palette” of colors this fall, Salve said.

Tangent

Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation forest health director Nicole Keleher told Boston.com the wet weather also allowed more pathogens and fungi to develop on leaves, which can cut the time a single tree’s amber or crimson color is on display, potentially preventing a ‘full overlap” of foliage.

Big Number

$30 billion. That’s how much is generated to local economies in 24 states in the East where tourists flock for fall foliage, according to an analysis published last year by Appalachian State University’s biology department. A large part of that spending takes place in the Great Lakes states and New England, with roughly $2.5 billion generated in 2021 as a result of foliage tourism in Massachusetts, plus another $2.6 billion between Maine and New Hampshire, while Michigan generated nearly $3 billion.

Further Reading

Use The Fall Foliage 2023 Prediction Map To Plan Your Leaf-Peeping Trip (Forbes)



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