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When and where to see the best fall colors this autumn

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Take your leaf peeping up a notch

Red and orange trees sit adjacent to a calm river, with the skyscrapers from the Atlanta skyline in the background. Shutterstock

The morning air is crisp and in many places, the leaves are already turning. As pumpkin spice lattes and chunky scarves come back into our lives, it’s a sure bet that soon you’ll be wondering: When will the fall color be at its best near me?

When fall color peaks in the U.S. depends in no small part on what city you live in. In certain parts of the country—we’re looking at you, central Rockies—the foliage has already begun to change, with yellow and orange aspens dazzling visitors in high altitude mountains.

In other parts of the U.S., prime leaf peeping takes off in mid-October, with vibrant reds and oranges topping out in early November. And for our country’s southernmost states, autumn colors can be seen as late as December.

It’s all a result of the days growing shorter, as trees react to having less light in a 24-hour period. Temperature and weather conditions impact when colors start, the intensity of colors, and how long they last. Drought, too, can cause leaves to brighten early or late.

Despite these factors, it is possible to estimate when to hunt for leaves in New York City or scrounge for color in North Carolina. The map below does just that.

Created by SmokyMountains.com, the map uses historical temperatures, precipitation, and trends—combined with long-range forecasts—to predict county-by-county leaf-peeping forecasts. The tourist-oriented website produces the map to help “potential travelers, photographers and leaf peepers determine the precise future date that the leaves will peak in each area.”

Slide the bar at the bottom to watch the foliage spread—believe us, it’s addicting—and consider planning a trip to see the fall colors. Perhaps one of these national parks that are especially alluring in autumn?