The heat may still feel relentless in your town, but rest assured, fall is coming. Sweltering temperatures won’t stop you from dreaming in flannel. People posting “hot girl summer” photos can’t prevent the onslaught of pumpkin-spice-everything. Whether you’re ready for summer to be over or not, you must accept the passage of time, so might as well take a trip to see one of the planet’s most beautiful natural phenomena: the breakdown of chlorophyll. What’s essentially leaves starving has made way for the spinoff phenomenon known as leaf-peeping — a breed of tourism exclusively about finding fall foliage, admiring it and photographing it.
Cue the 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map on SmokyMountains.com, a site promoting tourism in that region. The interactive tool is one of the most helpful resources to reference as you plan your autumnal adventures.
“We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn,” data scientist and SmokyMountains.com chief technology officer Wes Melton said in a statement.
Travelers are presented with a map of the United States and a user-friendly timeline to adjust below. As you drag through the season, the map changes to show where fall foliage is minimal, patchy, partial, near peak, peak and past peak.
By swiping through, you can easily find the best time to visit the region of your choosing:
The map is an incredible piece of technology, but remember — there’s no guarantee it’ll match Mother Nature exactly.
“While no tool can be 100 percent accurate, this tool is meant to help travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak color each year,” the site says.
With that disclaimer in mind, go forth and plan your seasonal adventures. To get you started, here are several ideas across the country:
Oregon is, of course, the home of Tillamook, Jacobsen Salt and Willamette Valley pinot noir. It’s also an excellent West Coast destination for autumn leaf-viewing. The foliage map pins the second week of October as optimal to visit the Oregon coast.
Don’t feel like driving? Enjoy the leaves from the comfort of the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, starting in Wheeler. And stick around for the most spooky fall festivity in America — Eugene’s Halloween Coffin Races, which take place Oct. 19.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are looking not so white come late September. Part of the Appalachian range, and once home to the poet Robert Frost, the region is a great playground for outdoors enthusiasts who want to hike their way through the changing scenery. If you’d like to zero in on your trip research, New Hampshire has its own fall-foliage tracking tool as well.
Colorado is a skier’s paradise in the winter and a hiker’s paradise the rest of the year. In the fall, the state bursts into shades of gold. Start in Denver, rent a car and hit leaf-rich roads like the Peak to Peak Highway, Colorado Highway 62, Trail Ridge Road and the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway.
According to the Fall Foliage Map, your best time for Colorado leaf action is around late September (depending on the part of the state).
Honorable international mention
If you’re looking to travel internationally for the sake of photosynthesis, head across the Pacific to northern Japan. The most beautiful time to visit Japan is arguably cherry blossom season, but late fall is a close second.
Japan has an abundance of vibrant red bucolic hillsides that are best enjoyed from the small-town comforts of traditional inns, temple stays and hot spring retreats.