Will we miss them again this year? For two years, we were too late to enjoy the gorgeous leaf colors of Virginia’s Skyline Drive at their peak. Last year, it rained too hard to make the trip.
For the most vibrant foliage colors, pick a cool, clear day. With the shorter hours of daylight and sinking temperatures typical of Fall, each leaf gets a signal to stop making food. Once leaves have consumed the food they stored during the summer months, their green pigment fades, replaced by vivid red, yellow or orange hues.
For maximum color intensity and duration, the best conditions are a warm, dry summer followed by a rainy autumn. The most brilliant colors occur when autumn days are warm and sunny, and nights are relatively cool. Even an overcast day can affect the intensity of leaf color.
If you enjoy a special weekend every Fall to view the beautiful red and gold displays of foliage that dress up so many part of the country, you’ll want to make sure you arrive when the leaves are at their peak. Here’s a handy guide, thanks to the 2010 Farmers’ Almanac:
September 28 – October 8: If you plan to check out the foliage in northern Vermont, this is the ideal time.
September 28 – October 29: You can pinpoint the best days for New York State by finding out a locale’s elevation and distance from the coast. The most brilliant colors occur at the highest elevations and in areas the greatest distance from water.
October 5 – October 15: This range of dates is best for viewing autumn leaves in Colorado, the inland portion of Maine, northern Michigan, northern Minnesota, central Montana, inland New Hampshire, New Mexico and the southern part of Vermont.
October 12 – October 22: This is the time to head for the prettiest leaves in Arizona, Idaho, northern Illinois, the northern part of Indiana, Iowa, eastern Kentucky and coastal Maine. It’s also peak season for inland Massachusetts, southern Michigan, southern Minnesota, northern Missouri, western Montana, coastal New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
October 19 – October 29: Pack your bags for the Ozarks in Arkansas, northern California, Connecticut, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and western Kentucky. It’s also prime time for leaves in inland Maryland, coastal Massachusetts, southern Missouri, inland New Jersey, inland North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, inland Virginia and Washington state.
October 26 – November 5: It’s the season for the prettiest foliage in our warmest states and coastal areas. This is when you’ll see the loveliest leaves in northern Alabama, Delaware, northern Georgia, coastal Maryland, northern Mississippi, coastal New Jersey, coastal North Carolina, South Carolina and coastal Virginia.
If you’re trying to pinpoint a time within any of the date ranges above, remember that the higher the elevation of any given spot, the earlier the leaves will peak. If you don’t see a state listed, don’t expect any major autumn foliage display there.