There’s a lot to love about fall ― the change in weather, apple picking, pumpkin picking, pumpkin spice everything, Halloween and more ― but if there’s one thing in particular that we love most about the season, it’s the leaves changing color. Yes, we love the way the trees look in spring and summer too, but looking out and seeing a sea of different colors gives us a feeling we can’t describe!
Would you say that you love fall foliage just as much as we do? If so, we bet you’ll enjoy this guide that we’ve put together. It covers everything from fall foliage facts to different leaf colors, how leaves change color, and where you can go for the best views.
Fall foliage facts
- Although we notice the leaves change color in the fall, the red, orange, and yellow pigments are actually present in leaves all year round. The only difference is that during other seasons the pigments are primarily underneath the leaves’ surface.
- The reason these beautiful colors come out in the fall has to do with the change in sunlight. As the summer sun starts to die down, the chemical chlorophyll breaks down, which brings out the hidden colors.
- Some suspect that global warming may have a negative impact on fall foliage, since part of the reason leaves change has to do with the change in temperature.
- A leaf’s color is typically a result of the species of tree on which it is found. For example, the leaves on aspen trees are generally a golden yellow during the fall months.
- Leaves that fall to the ground during this time of year are extremely important for the ecosystem, as they become a form of protection for tree seeds as they germinate during the winter.
How do leaves change color?
While the colors we see in fall leaves are actually present all year long, they only become visible during the fall. This has to do with chlorophyll, an important chemical that helps plants absorb energy from the sun. It is eventually used to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars and starches. Its color is a deep green, so it makes perfect sense that leaves are green when this chemical is abundant.
In the fall, however, the chlorophyll begins to break down as a result of changes in both temperature and the amount of sunlight present each day. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the deep green color naturally begins to diminish as well, allowing the leaves’ other colors (red, yellow, orange, etc.) to pop out.
The science behind leaf colors
While it may seem like the trees just pick and choose their colors at random, the truth is that there is a science behind which leaves turn which colors.
For example, take the leaves of the sugar maple. After they go through a series of shades of green, the leaves eventually turn yellow and orange, and then finish the season by displaying a beautiful red color. This differs greatly from sourwood trees, as, after being green, their leaves change to red, yellow, and even purple. Another example is oak trees, whose leaves tend to be mostly brown.
And what is the reason for the difference in color? It could have a lot to do with the amount of chlorophyll left over and the other pigments that mix with it during the fall.
The best places to see fall foliage
Looking for the best places to see fall foliage? Here are the top seven places we recommend.
- Stowe, Vermont. Vermont is one of the best places in the world when it comes to fall foliage, and Stowe, Vermont, in particular, is one town to check out. You may recognize the name, as it is where the Trapp Family Lodge is located!
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an awesome destination if you’re looking for the best fall foliage in the state. It’s an outdoor museum that occupies 10 acres, and, in addition to the views, you can also take in all the history that surrounds this New England town.
- Camden, Maine. It’s one thing to just view mountains with rows and rows of trees, but it’s another to view fall foliage with water in the background too! Essentially, this destination will give you the best of both worlds: You’ll get a little bit of the mountains and a seaside experience.
- Kent, Connecticut. If you’re looking for somewhere that’s cute, charming, and quaint, the farming community of Kent, Connecticut, is your answer. For some awesome views of the Catskill Mountains, head to Macedonia Brook State Park.
- Keene, New York. You can’t go wrong with this New York town, as it is home to the highest peak in the Adirondacks ― just imagine the views you’ll get from there! This is an awesome spot to visit all year round for that very reason, but especially in fall, when the leaves are bursting with color.
- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The Smoky Mountains offer breathtaking photo ops all throughout the year, but fall will give you a breathtaking look at golden yellow leaves. October to November is the best time to visit.
- Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. Not too far from Manhattan is Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, and the name says it all. As with Camden, Maine, a visit here will give you the best of everything ― a great look at fall foliage as well as some awesome lakeside views.
Did you know there are also fall foliage tours you can take? There are! These are especially prevalent in the New England area, but remember to plan your tour well in advance to ensure that the timing is right for you to see the best sights.