Peak Times for Fall Foliage Tours
By Burt Carey
From Vermont to the deep South, the Midwest and the Rockies, fall is one of the best times of the year for sight-seeing, especially among those of us who relish autumn colors.
It doesn’t take much preparation to see the annual deciduous hues that range from green to yellow, orange and red. What is really required is timing. Knowing when to point the family car or SUV toward the countryside makes all the difference in witnessing the blushed shades of trees before winter strips them bare.
Here’s a quick guide and some tips on various states that draw leaf watchers each year.
By late September the far northern reaches of the New England states put on displays of reds, yellows, purples and oranges as trees prepare for winter. In fact, you could stay through the end of October and never miss a breath-taking view.
Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine draw thousands of visitors this time of year, so be prepared for some company. Start in northern Vermont or the mountains of Maine, then work your way south and toward coastal areas. Connecticut and Massachusetts experience peak times between the second week of October through Nov. 1.
The Upstate of New York and northern Pennsylvania are best viewed in late September, with lower-lying regions turning color by mid- to late October. Inland Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee have vast tracts and mountain areas that draw heavy crowds in mid-October.
As you move south into the Carolinas and Georgia, late October and early November offer the best viewing times, with trees in the northern mountains turning earlier than low-lying locales.
Some of the earliest changes of the season take place in the far-western reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in mid-September through early October. Other parts of the UP typically peak in the four weeks of late September through mid-October.
Skip westward and you will see splashes of red and orange dominating the Minnesota landscape from the middle of September to early October. And in Wisconsin, the best times to see the changing colors are in mid-October.
Ohio and Missouri don’t sport the mountains of some surrounding states, but beautiful shoots of reds, oranges and yellows crest in mid-October.
Fall leaf watching in the Rockies can be tricky because the dominant species with the color everyone wants to see – gold – is fleeting. Aspen leaves can turn and fall quickly, sometimes within just a week.
If you want to see this spectacle in Wyoming or Colorado, the best plan is to visit in mid-September, ask around where the best colors are showing, then go there.
Both Washington and Oregon are renowned for their trees that sport yellows and reds each fall. You’ll want to strike out for the Evergreen State in late September or early October and stay east of the Cascade Crest, then drive down to Oregon. Both the Cascades and the Coastal Mountains can be loaded with colors.