The family and I are going up to the Northeast to check out the fall colors and a few of the festivals. If you have never made the trip, and you get the harvest finished early, I think it’s worth your time. The views and little towns along the Atlantic Ocean from New York or Boston up to northern Maine are awesome. Lots of great places to stop and get the best lobster rolls, amazing views, American flags on display everywhere, and tons of Americana. Just a great place to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty.
Every year the USDA Forest Service hosts a Fall Colors webpage chocked full of information about where and when to see fall colors in your part of the country. Along with sharing this, I wanted to include some interesting facts about how and why leaves turn colors.
While fall colors are brilliant, they are even more spectacular when you consider that the incredible collection of reds and golds depends in part on the timing of weather conditions reaching all the way back to leaf emergence in the spring. While it seems like sheer art, fall color is really a function of chemistry. Pigments are the chemicals in leaves that produce the colors we see. Some of these pigments, such as chlorophyll that appear green and carotenoids that appear yellow, are a natural component of healthy leaves during the growing season. Chlorophyll is instrumental in photosynthesis, the process by which energy from sunlight splits water and carbon dioxide to make the sugar that fuels plant growth. The health of a tree drives the production and function of these chemicals. If a midsummer drought causes a tree to lose leaves to reduce water loss, that leaf is not likely to develop such a brilliant coloration.
Too much or too little moisture is not the only factor affecting trees. Particularly for urban and community trees, de-icing salts can result in injury that stresses a tree and causes it to not have a timely display of fall color.
For more information on how leaves turn colors, you can check out U.S. Forest Service’s Kevin T. Smith who does a good job of not getting too deep into the woods explaining the details. Below I also wanted to include what is widely regarded as the top places to view amazing fall trees around the U.S. and the best times to view them.(Source: USDA, U.S. Forest Service)
Aspen, Colorado: Aspen season is short. It kicks in during mid-September and peaks at the end of the month. You may get lucky and have some pretty trees the first week of October.
The Catskills, New York: Now through mid to late October are prime time for fall foliage in the Catskills
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: Now to mid to late-October is the best time for fall foliage in the Columbia River Gorge.
Green Mountain Byway, Vermont: The northern Vermont leaf observation season is in full swing and may last a couple more weeks.
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is ablaze in fall color from early-October through early-November.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan: The best time is late-September to mid to late-October with the peak happening in October.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri: The last two weeks of October are the indisputable prime time for leaf-peeping at the Lake of the Ozarks.