May the Foliage Be with You: How to Find Peak Color This Leaf-Peeping Season

To experience foliage in its full kaleidoscopic splendor, you need to know when and where color is reaching its peak. As the brilliance of fall marches south from northern New England to the shores of the Mid-Atlantic, keeping tabs on a few key resources can help you go out in a blaze of leaf-peeping glory.  

Get the Big Picture
First, it's worth getting a quick handle on when foliage typically peaks at locations around the Northeast. As a general rule, color peaks in far northern New England and New York in late September, then steadily moves south over the next four weeks. Peak foliage typically reaches its broadest expanse in early to mid-October, and lingers through the latter half of October and the first days of November in low-elevation, near-coastal regions across southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

For a general overview of foliage timing in New England, take a look at this excellent animation from Yankee Foliage (one of the most comprehensive sources for all things New England foliage).
For the popular foliage destinations of New Hampshire and Vermont, the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development produces a useful interactive map of likely foliage conditions by date, and Foliage Vermont offers this animation of foliage progression.

For the latest conditions across the Northeast, from New Jersey to Maine, The Foliage Network produces foliage updates twice a week for the entire region, including broad overview maps of the current foliage situation. 

Watch the Weather
Once you have a handle on likely peak foliage times, next pay close attention to the weather forecast—fall conditions can have a significant influence on foliage. For maximum fall colors, the best weather consists of long stretches of warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights. Keep a particular watch for any early frosts, which halt the development of fall colors in their tracks and can significantly reduce the brilliance of foliage in affected areas.

Also keep an eye out for the approach of stormy weather, which can strip leaves en masse and bring an abrupt end to peak foliage season. If you see inclement weather approaching during the height of color, make an effort to get out and leaf-peep before it strikes.

Follow the State of the States
State-specific resources, including real-time updates of current foliage conditions, are available throughout the Northeast. Several states have adopted the use of Instagram photo streams for the 2014 season, which can help provide daily insights of real-time conditions. From north to south, here are some of the best resources to watch. 
This column originally appeared in AMC Outdoors. Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman

 “Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.