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Ready for fall? This map shows you where to see peak foliage.

Where and when to find peak fall foliage across the country

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. (iStock)

The unofficial end of summer is here, which means it’s time to plan your autumnal getaways. 'Tis the season to turn to the 2022 foliage prediction map.

Every year, the tourism site for the Smoky Mountain region releases an interactive tool to give leaf peepers an idea of when peak fall will happen — county by county — across the contiguous United States. With an easy swipe, you can get an estimate of when regions should have minimal colors, patchy changes, full force foliage and past-peak conditions.

“It’s based on a lot of weather science behind the scenes,” Austin Rempel, senior manager of forest restoration for the nonprofit American Forests, says of the prediction map.

But even with science, it’s getting trickier to make the predictions. Rempel says changes in weather due to climate change is changing foliage behavior. Rempel warns hotter temperatures and drought means trees may turn colors sooner and faster — and lose their leaves quicker, “which makes travel difficult,” he says.

It may be a challenge to catch the foliage perfectly, but you can try. Here are some destination suggestions to get your trip brainstorming going.

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West Coast: North Cascades National Park

For a magical fall experience in the Pacific Northwest, find Washington larches. Something of a mythical creature, larches are “coniferous trees that act like deciduous ones,” says Adria Saracino, the travel planner behind The Emerald Palate and a Seattle resident. “That is, they turn gold and drop their needles unlike other types of evergreen trees.”

Saracino says the North Cascades National Park and Leavenworth area are some of the most popular regions of the state to find larches, and the fall foliage map says peak colors in their corner of Washington should arrive by Oct. 10. Larches only turn gold for about three weeks, so timing your hunt will be tricky. For some more tips on tracking them down, you can read Saracino’s advice on her website.

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Mountain West: Rocky Mountain National Park

Rempel’s home of Colorado is one of America’s best places for fall enthusiasts, thanks to the state’s stunning gold aspen trees. His recommends a visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park to see them.

“They have aspen groves that cover entire hillsides,” Rempel says.

According to the foliage map, a trip by the first week of October is your best bet to see peak colors in the park. If you miss them, the rest of Colorado should be colorful through the rest of the month, too.

East Coast: Quechee, Vt.

For a classic East Coast fall foliage experience, Anthony Berklich, a travel consultant and founder of the travel platform Inspired Citizen, recommends Quechee, Vt., “to see that special fiery burn that Vermont is famous for,” he says.

Better yet, “you’ll only be competing with a small handful of locals and not masses of tourists,” Berklich says.

According to the fall foliage map, the Quechee area should be near peak by early October and most of Vermont should peak by the second week of the month.

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Midwest: Tahquamenon Falls State Park

For this season, Rempel says the closer you can get to Canada, the better. “Those are going to be good places to go this year because they’ve had a little bit more moisture than elsewhere,” he says, singling out Michigan.

Consider a visit to Michigan’s Tahquamenon Falls State Park, where peak foliage should hit by the end of September into early October.

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