There’s something that autumn lovers have been patiently waiting for all year, and it’s not new pumpkin spice drinks (although, TBH, we’ve been waiting for those too). We’re talking about leaf peeping, the unofficial sport of the season, where people trek all over the country to chase and ‘gram the fall leaves changing colors.
Mother Nature works on her own schedule, but to help with your travel planning, Smoky Mountains has released their annual Fall Foliage Prediction Map. The map uses National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data and a complex algorithm to help predict peak viewing opportunities by state and date. While leaves started changing in August, there is still time to catch some spectacular colors in most of the country. But grab your fall boots and get peeping quickly, because by the end of October, you’ll be past peak season.
And hey, if you need a quick refresher on the science behind the changing colors: Year-round, leaves contain pigments such as chlorophyll — which cause their green color — and carotenoids — which cause yellow, orange, and brown colors (carotenoids are also why carrots are orange). Red and purple hues are caused by anthocyanins, which are produced in leaves during late summer. During the shorter fall days, the reduced amount of daylight causes chlorophyll to break down, letting the leaves’ greenness give way so other colors can shine through. Basically, like the rest of us, trees are showing off their fall style, and we are here for it.