I grew up in Southern Connecticut, and without a doubt, the prettiest time of the year there is autumn. The reds, oranges and yellows of the trees in peak leaf-peeping season are as spectacular just as they are in other parts of the country.

Right now is the absolute perfect time to plan a last minute a leaf-peeping trip. Usually, I don’t recommend traveling anywhere last minute since it tends cost more but not this year. With Covid-19 still running rampant going last minute is perfect to avoid places with high Covid cases and hospitalization rates. Besides it’s actually smart and with travel down you can get some great fares/rates.

Related: How To Check Hospitalization Numbers of Your Destination

Here’s a website to help get your fall foliage trip timing right. It breaks down the continental U.S. and uses a blend of sources to predict when the trees in that region will be in peak color.

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 2021. 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



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