Photo by Getty Images; written by Aislyn Greene

This map is your ticket to catching the season’s most brilliant leaves

Marie Salcido  – August 28, 2018

Right up there with football, pumpkin spice lattes, and oversized scarves, the changing leaves are an autumnal season highlight, no matter what part of the country you live in.

To make the most of the vibrant spectacle, SmokyMountains.com has created its annual interactive map of peak fall foliage for every county in the United States. Using a complex algorithm that analyzes millions of data points such as historical rainfall and temperatures, along with leaf color-changing trends from the past, the Predictive Fall Color Map provides precise predictions for peak foliage, showing you when and where you’re likely to catch the season’s most magnificent natural show.

Wes Melton, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of SmokyMountains.com, says the map’s accuracy has improved over time, though unexpected rainfall that significantly strays from seasonal trends can affect the peak’s timing and brilliance.

After five years of directing leaf peepers to the best spots, Melton has added another element to the map.

“I realized the data-driven predictive process seems magical to the average layperson,” Melton explained. “This year, I decided to make a secondary interactive graphic with regional and state data related to temperature variations. The temperature data supplied by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of the most important factors–now leaf map users can easily visualize the impact of regional precipitation on peak fall dates.”

According to the map, most of the West won’t see peak colors until October, though parts of Colorado and New Mexico will see partial peak foliage within the coming month.

If you’re planning a fall getaway and want to experience the colors at their most vibrant, use the map as your guide, along with our recommendations for a foliage tour of the West.

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