Fall Foliage Forecast Delivers Some Surprises

Posted: September 21, 2022 10:34 pm

Areas That Have Been Inundated with Moisture Will See the Best Leaf Peeping Conditions

Now that fall is officially here, it is time to start thinking about your leaf peeping adventures. The vibrancy of the fall colors largely depends on the weather in the weeks and months leading up to the fall season. Where will the colors pop the most and when can you expect the peak of the fall foliage in your area? Read on for all of the details for this year’s fall foliage forecast.

Lack of Moisture in Northeast Dulls Typical Fall Colors

Unfortunately for those planning to head out to the Northeast to see the typical colors, this year’s forecast is calling for less vibrancy. A lack of rain throughout the Northeast and the Appalachians this summer is to blame for the duller colors on tap.

The lack of precipitation caused many trees to become overly stressed and lose their leaves throughout much of southern and central New England and down into New Jersey, southeastern New York, and eastern Pennsylvania. While the area did see more rainfall later in the summer, it was not enough to bring back the trees.

As a result, leaf peepers can expect to see less than ideal conditions stretching from New York City up through Boston. In fact, some trees in Connecticut and Rhode Island have already lost their leaves.

While this part of the East Coast is not expected to see a particularly great fall foliage season, the upper reaches of New England should shine. A surge of late-summer rain for Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and northern New York is setting up the region up for better than average leaf peeping conditions.

However, the heat as of late is expected to delay the peak of the season in this part of the U.S. While the peak typically happens in late September and early October, you may need to wait until the second or third week of October to catch the colors at their brightest.

Expect Bright Colors in Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and Beyond

One area that is forecast to see ideal leaf peeping conditions is the Upper Midwest, stretching into the Great Lakes and through some portions of the Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi valleys. Wet weather in September will contribute to the brightness of the colors, however, it may delay the start to the season.

Although the Tennessee and Mississippi valleys saw dry and hot conditions during the first part of the summer, the increase in moisture by the end of July will likely be enough to make this region a hot spot for those looking to catch some of the country’s greatest colors this year. This is because the moisture level and temperatures across the second half of the summer greatly impacts the last stage of leaf development heading into the fall months.

Because it was so wet in Missouri and Illinois at the end of the summer, you can expect this part of the nation’s heartland to see a bold leaf season. However, the lower than average rainfall amounts in the Carolinas will translate to a duller season this year. In addition, any tropical activity along the Southeast coastal areas could also bring the leaves down from their branches and knock out the chances of a good leaf-viewing season.

Stunning in Rocky Mountains

The monsoonal moisture over the last few months should lead to a beautiful leaf season in the Rocky Mountains. The Aspens will be in full bloom by late September throughout Colorado’s high country. The golden hue of this quintessential Colorado tree will appear brighter this year when compared to 2021’s dull showing.

The leaves on the other trees will also change earlier than usual in the higher elevations. However, the lower elevations of this region will see the leaves hang on until the middle of fall.

The northern Rockies and the interior Northwest will also enjoy a brighter fall foliage showing when compared to last year thanks to a wetter than average winter and spring. The national parks and forest areas in northern Wyoming and Montana will be especially beautiful this year.

What About the West Coast?

The majority of the West Coast will follow the same pattern of the last few years with a fall foliage season that leaves a lot to be desired. You can thank the ongoing drought for this lack of color. Most of the trees in this region are stressed, including a significant part of California and Nevada.

While colors should be average in color in Northern California, the presence of wildfire smoke will hinder the ability of people to head out and catch the changing leaves.

View of Downtown Portland

The Pacific Northwest will be the place to be on the West Coast if you want to see the brightest fall colors. An abundance of moisture over last winter and this spring is creating better than average foliage viewing conditions in western Oregon and Washington. Olympic National Park in Washington will be a top destination for leaf peepers hoping to catch some of the best views in the country this fall.

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