The most vivid and underappreciated US regions for fall foliage

By Carolyn Sistrand, AccuWeather staff writer
September 28, 2018, 8:35:59 AM EDT

As fall begins, people all across the country are anticipating the beautiful foliage that comes with the leaves changing colors.

“In New England and the Midwest, you are going to have more deciduous forests so you are going to get different colors of leaves,” said Greg Peters, director of communications at the National Forest Foundation. “You’ll have maple trees that change to red, oak trees that change to more orange, you’ll have birch and poplar trees that change to yellow. Then there are also a lot of shrubs.”

The array of different reds, oranges, yellows and greens brighten up the landscape as the weather begins to cool. Although most know that leaves change color, some do not know why.

During the spring and summer, chlorophyll, which keeps the green color in leaves, is constantly being replaced due to longer days and more sunlight.

maine fall foliage

The State House is surrounded by fall foliage, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

As the fall and winter months come along, the days get shorter and the nights get longer, so chlorophyll can't be replaced at the same rate as during the spring and summer months. The cells by the juncture of a leaf and its stem are dividing but not expanding, forming an abscission layer which blocks transportation of materials between the leaf and the branch as well as the roots and leaves.

This entire process does not allow chlorophyll to spread to the leaves and whatever chlorophyll is present in the leaves will begin to disappear. As chlorophyll dwindles, the changing of colors begins.

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For those looking to explore foliage all over the country, the National Forest Foundation’s website has resources to help you decide where to start.

“New England has what is called a ‘leaf peeping,' a full tourist season that is centered around the forest turning colors,” said Peters. “Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, those are all really popular places for people to go and take scenic drives.”

Although New England reigns as the place to be for fall foliage, other regions of the country have their own beautiful and unique scenery.

Upstate New York and Pennsylvania don’t have the same tourist attractions as New England; however, Peters says that these states experience foliage that have many of the same colors that visitors expect in New England.

“The mid-Atlantic, in particular the Appalachian region, is kind of an underground or underappreciated hot spot for colors,” said Peters.

colorado foliage

The aspen leaves are bright yellow in the Colorado high country near Ward, Colorado, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. This weekend is considered peak viewing season for the fall foliage. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Peters says the Midwest also experiences a slight ‘leaf peeping’ season during the fall, and that there are many beautiful drives in the region sightseers are encouraged to go on.

In the West, although it may not bring as many tourists as the leaves change colors, western United States residents are not left with boring, bare foliage.

“When the aspens and the large trees start to change, it is really just the yellows you get out West but locals certainly appreciate it,” said Peters.

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