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When and where to see peak foliage in 2019

Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure  – August 28, 2019 | Updated September 10, 2019

You’ve packed your bags, loaded up the car and are on your way to see the leaves change colors, the yearly display both breathtaking and fleeting.

But do you go at the end of September? Mid-October? Thanks to this map, you don’t have to guess.

The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map, put out annually by smokymountains.com, will help you figure out when the changing leaves are patchy at best, have peaked, or are past peak.

“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,” Wes Melton, a data scientist and CTO with smokymountains.com, told Travel + Leisure. “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.”

Melton said the map itself is unique and is “one of the only fall leaf tools that provides accurate predictions for the entire continental United States.”

The interactive map, now in its sixth year, allows users to play with a slider, following the changing leaves through the entire fall season. For your best chance at seeing New England’s fall foliage, for example, you’ll want to head out in early-to-mid-October. In Florida, however, you’re more likely to see them toward the end of November.

The map was created by analyzing millions of data points, according to its creators, and put together county-by-county. Melton said he used everything from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration precipitation forecasts to average daylight exposure and temperature forecasts.

“Although the scientific concept of how leaves change colors is fairly simple, predicting the precise moment the event will occur is extremely challenging,” he said. “The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. Although we cannot control Mother Nature and ensure 100 [percent] accuracy, our data sources are top-tier and each year we refine our algorithmic model achieving higher accuracy over time.”

So go ahead and take that road trip — but first find out when to head out for your best chance at seeing the leaves change, based on where you live.

“Although the scientific concept of how leaves change colors is fairly simple, predicting the precise moment the event will occur is extremely challenging,” he said. “The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. Although we cannot control Mother Nature and ensure 100 [percent] accuracy, our data sources are top-tier and each year we refine our algorithmic model achieving higher accuracy over time.”

So go ahead and take that road trip — but first find out when to head out for your best chance at seeing the leaves change, based on where you live.

For Washington fall foliage

In Washington State, the leaves will start to visibly change around the beginning of October, and peak around Oct. 12th. In some southern parts of the state, you may be able to see peak foliage as late as Oct. 25th.

For California fall foliage

Since California is a very large state, peak foliage varies greatly. In the northern part of the state, for example, you’re most likely to see the peak of the season from about Oct. 26th through about Nov. 8th. While in southern California, your best bet is to head out closer to Nov. 9th through mid-November.

For Texas fall foliage

In Texas, you’re most likely to see the leaves change from about Nov. 16th through the end of November. You can see them at peak as early as Nov. 9th in the very northern part of the state.