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Fall Foliage Facts (and Opinions)

Many regions of the U.S. and Canada are world-renowned for their beautiful fall foliage. Mother Nature's annual display is no secret, however, so here are some tips for maximum enjoyment:


Peak foliage weekends are often booked months ahead, but it never hurts to check for last-minute cancellations, even at the most popular hotels, resorts, and inns. Midweek visits are strongly recommended to avoid larger crowds.

The Good News

  • Breathtaking vistas. Anything from gentle hillsides to towering peaks can create multi-hued panoramas.
  • Good weather. Autumn weather is often the best of the year, with warm sunny days, cool crisp nights, and a minimum of mosquitoes.
  • Perfect hiking, bicycling, and canoeing. Carbon monoxide fumes do not enhance nature. Get out of your car to see the prettiest colors with a minimum of distraction and annoyance.

The Bad News

  • Don't blink or you'll miss it. For any specific area, the color is at its peak for just a few days.
  • Rates are high. Some properties, especially in New England, charge their highest rates of the entire year during foliage season, and minimum stays are common.
  • Traffic is heavy. Weekends can bring bumper-to-bumper traffic on the most popular leaf-peeping roads.
  • Weather conditions affect color. Summer droughts may turn some leaves to brown, not gold.

When To Go

Foliage season extends from mid-September to late October, with elevation and latitude being the key variables. The earliest color can be found in the Rocky Mountains, the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and northern New England and Quebec. Late September to early October brings peak color to most of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, plus Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, as well as the lower elevations in the Rocky Mountain states. Mid-October is the time to visit the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana, plus the Pacific Northwest. Last but not least, late October is prime time for leaves in the southern Appalachians and Ozarks, although beautiful color can be found in this region through the entire month.

Where To Go

Although New England, the Laurentians, the Adirondacks and the Appalachians are best known for the brilliant red leaves of their sugar maples, as well as a wide range of yellows and oranges, beautiful color can also be found along the shores of the Great Lakes, along the great rivers of the Midwest, and on the golden aspens of the Rockies and the Cascades.

More Information

Many states maintain foliage hotlines in the fall; you can find a comprehensive list of their phone numbers and websites at STORMFAX(r) Guide to Fall Foliage. Another good source of information is the Weather Channel (foliage information only in season).

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