Fall Foliage Forecast: Where and When to See the Leaves Change in 2018

Fall is here. That means it’s time for pumpkin-spiced everything, Oktoberfest, and leaf-peeping. If you think the latter is only for senior citizens and fanny-pack-wearing Midwestern housewives, you’re not entirely wrong. However, if you love trees and pretty colors and scenic grandeur, the annual turning of the leaves here in the United States is the ideal time to kickstart fall hiking season. Here are our predictions of where and when to enjoy the best fall foliage for 2018.

New England

autumn The White Mountain
Claire Gentile/Getty Images

The leaves have begun to turn in some areas of the Northeastern United States. For 2018, the foliage should fully peak around the second week of October (October 8-15) in upstate New York and northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), and just begin to peak in Massachusetts at that time. Thanks to the abundance of sugar maple, oak, and alder trees, Stowe, Vermont and The White Mountains offer some of the best leaf-peeping in New England. However, fall is also the region’s busiest time of year on the roads and hiking trails. Head north on I-91 or I-93, and look for the many less-trafficked secondary roads to escape the tourist crowds. For a bucket-list-worthy, foliage-focused adventure, check out the area’s ziplining, skydiving, and gliding experiences. For a more relaxed experience, Amtrak’s Great Dome Car offers panoramic views of the changing leaves in the Adirondack Mountains. For 2018, the vintage car once again travels the Adirondack line from upstate New York to Montreal.

The Midwest

autumn in the midwest
James Brey/Getty Images

The best leaf-peeping in the Midwest is found nearest the Canadian border. Here, the most brilliant colors begin to peak around the middle of October in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our money is on Minnesota. Driving the North Shore of Lake Superior — where a canopy of birch, yellow aspen, and scarlet maple blanket the landscape in every direction — is one of the best ways to take in the region’s fall foliage. The central Brainerd Lakes region also puts on a brilliant show amid thick woods of birch, oak, aspen, and maple. Bonus: it’s also the cheapest time of year to visit Minnesota as prices drop considerably on everything from flights to hotels to tours.

Rocky Mountains

Canadian Rocky Mountians
Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada Martinagebarovska/Getty Images

In the heart of The Rocky Mountains, the peak leaf-peeping period is brief. Thanks to the area’s notoriously dramatic and finicky weather patterns, it’s perhaps more fleeting than anywhere in the United States. This year, the best time to visit for maximum foliage enjoyment should be around the middle of October (beginning October 15-22). There’s no shortage of opportunities throughout Colorado. For something truly unique, however, head to Telluride where, every fall, the forests of quaking aspen turn a brilliant gold and shimmer at the slightest breeze. The mountain’s free, eight-mile gondola is the ideal way to take it all in.

For a detailed timeline of this year’s fall foliage predictions, check out this interactive map from SmokyMountains.com.

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