The Key Dates for Fall Foliage Travel

Thursday, September 22 marked the first day of fall and for those in search of seasonal colors this year, SmokyMountains.com’s annual interactive fall foliage forecast map is an excellent guide, revealing when and where travelers can anticipate peak autumn hues.

Reds, oranges, yellows and other vibrant colors can already be found in the northern portion of the U.S., including places like Alaska, Montana, northern Minnesota and northern Michigan and some areas outside of Seattle. Patchy and partial fall foliage can also be spotted in parts of New England and Upstate New York.

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By September 26, many of the aforementioned destinations should be nearing their peak as color changes begin in Wyoming, Colorado, northern Arizona and parts of Appalachia.

By October 3, New England should be very close to peak season. Michigan, the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, the Rocky Mountains and northwest Washington will also be eye-popping by the first weekend in October.

October 10 is the first time some areas in the North are expected to be past peak but by this point, the vast majority of the country is seeing colors change with the exception of Oklahoma, Texas and the Southeast. According to the fall foliage forecast map, that changes by October 17 as colors begin to move into western Texas, the Ozarks as well as South Carolina, northern Georgia and Alabama.

fall, foliage, colors, Denali, Alaska
Fall foliage in Denali, Alaska. (photo by Patrick Clarke)

Travelers visiting popular national parks such as Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, Cuyahoga Valley, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain and more should have plenty of spectacular foliage to enjoy by late October. By this point and through Halloween, many areas of the North are past peak but parts of the Rust Belt, The Plains, Oregon and Virginia and North Carolina are peaking with an array of colors.

However, as the holidays approach on November 7, much of the U.S. will be past peak fall foliage. The exception to this are large swaths of Oklahoma, Texas and the Southeast where color changes are delayed by the environment. Fall colors are peaking in those areas by November 14 but the window for travelers closes in the days leading up to Thanksgiving as winter nears.


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