I grew up in New England (Connecticut), and without a doubt the prettiest time of the year there was autumn. The reds, oranges and yellows of the trees in peak leaf-peeping season are spectacular. In fact, each year travelers from all over the world travel to New England and across the U.S. to witness first-hand the colors of the fall foliage.

And since so much international travel is restricted and 2020 is unofficially the year of the road trip, it’s the perfect time to plan a leaf-peeping trip right here at home in the United States.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip

The tricky part of any fall foliage trip, though, is getting the timing right. And here to help is SmokyMountains.com’s annual fall foliage map, which has just been released for 2020. As seen in the screenshot above (click the image or here to use the map yourself), the map breaks down the continental U.S. into counties (I think) and uses a blend of sources to predict when that county’s trees will be in peak color. To use it, you just move the slider at the bottom of the map from left to right. As you move the slider, you’ll see the map change colors in accordance with the date (week).

How accurate is this fall foliage map?

As far as I can tell, it’s one of the best predictors of fall color you’ll find anywhere. The data powering this fall foliage map comes includes, among other sets, NOAA historical temperature data, NOAA historical precipitation data, NOAA temperature forecasts, NOAA precipitation forecasts, historical leaf peak trends, and peak observation trends. I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate since it claims Connecticut will be past peak by October 8, which feels early. But only Mother Nature knows. And SmokyMountains.com knows that its predictions can only get so close.

“Although the scientific concept of how leaves change colors is fairly simple,” says data scientist and CTO Wes Melton, “predicting the precise moment the event will occur is extremely challenging. The major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. Although we cannot control Mother Nature and ensure 100% accuracy, our data sources are top-tier and each year we refine our algorithmic model achieving higher accuracy over time.”

More fall travel


Johnny Jet

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