Wander Far and Wide to Enjoy Fall Colors

Wander Far and Wide to Enjoy Fall Colors

Although it may be hard to believe with this messed up 2020, autumn is just around the corner. That means that Mother Nature’s color show will begin in about six weeks, spreading from the north to the south across the nation. Have you planned your leaf looking road trip yet?

Just like predicting the weather, forecasting how colorful the fall season will be is just as inexact. There are a lot of factors that determine how colorful the fall foliage will be. These include the amount of rainfall an area received over the year, the amount of sun and cool temperatures as fall begins and the overall health of the trees.

Among the first of the woodland plants to begin their change is the poison ivy and sumac. According to scientists, color on these plants begins to show in September. The last to change are the larches and weeping willows. A larch tree is a conifer that flourishes in colder northern hemispheres, such as the mountains in the Pacific Northwest. The color change ends when frost and freezing temperatures arrive.

Except for the states in the deep South, most states in the continental United States experience some color change. The most vibrant and widespread changes occur in the northern states, helped along by colder temperatures and the abundance of tree varieties with the necessary chlorophyll.

Taking to the road in your RV to experience the most colorful season of the year is a great way to enjoy the season and spend some time outdoors while the weather is bearable. Campgrounds are still open and there is fun filled stops you can make along the way to celebrate the season, such as apple picking, visiting pumpkin patches, navigating a corn maze and shopping fall festivals for those one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.

Here’s the predictions for those areas of the nation that draw visitors in for the fall color show:

  • New England: Color begins to show in mid-September in the northern states (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) and travels south into the region’s southern states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). Peak for the region will likely be at the end of September into mid-October.

The color palette is red, oranges and yellow. Most common species of trees that contribute to the colorful fall landscape are maple, beech, birch, oak, gum, and willow.

  • Pocanos: This mountain range in Northeastern Pennsylvania has a diverse forest of more than 125 species of trees, shrubs and plants that add to the fall leaf looking experience. It spans 2,400 miles with three distinct color zones moving from north to south. If 2019 is any indication, changes begin in early September and gradually change in intensity into October.

Red and orange hues are most prevalent in this region. Species of trees responsible for these colors are the Ohio buckeye, but oak and shingle oak.

  • Smoky Mountains: Color literally cascades down the mountains from the higher elevation to the lower peaks beginning in September and peaking in mid-October. The earliest changes occur in the yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush, and pin cherry. This is followed by the color changes of the sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and the varieties of Hickory trees.
  • The variety of trees, shrubs and plant life in the Smokies produces a unique color palette that includes the yellows, reds, and oranges commonly associated with fall, as well as some darker colors such as purple.
  • Great Lakes: a drive along the great lakes is always a scenic trip, but these drives are especially beautiful when fall comes. Northern reaches of these states begin to see the colors peak in mid-September to early October. The intensity and duration of the leaf season depends on weather and wind. Wet and cool summers can start an earlier display and a dry summer can could affect the brightness of the leaves. Strong wind gusts can also cause a tree to lose its leaves faster.

Among the tree species found in the region are white pines, sugar maples, oak, ash, birch, serviceberry and dogwoods. Colors prevalent here are red, yellows and oranges.

  • The Ozarks: This mountainous region in the Missouri – Arkansas area typically has orange, yellow, red, and purple on the fall color spectrum. The fall foliage season begins in late September and peaks about two to three weeks later, in mid-October. Leaves begin changing in the north moving southward into the mountains.

Most common tree species that brighten the fall are 50 varieties of oak trees. Common oaks include the red oaks, white oaks, and black oaks.

  • The Rockies: Unlike the variety of colors seen in other regions, the Rocky Mountains are painted yellow for fall. Thanks to the abundance of aspen trees, a drive through this region is marked by bright yellow and the dark green of spruce and firs. Other species contributing to the golden hues are cottonwoods.

The best time for Rocky Mountain fall color is mid-September into mid-October.

  • Pacific Northwest: The leaf looking season begins in mid-September with the peak of color happening in mid-to-late October. The color change begins in the Northeast corner and in the Portland area. It moves into the coastal and northern parts of the region, with the central and eastern part the last to peak.

The variety of trees indigenous to this region means there is a variety of colors to enjoy. The vine maple has leaves that turn yellow, orange, and red; the larch and aspen leaves are shades of yellow and gold.

When embarking on a leaf looking expedition, check with local tourism websites, the National Weather Service, or state parks office for tips that include possible scenic drives, and a color update. Remember to enjoy the season and savor the experience that RVing provides. It’s a colorful world out there, especially in autumn.

Aug 4th 2020 Lois Tomaszewski

Recent Posts