There is nothing more picturesque than a Log Cabin in an October surrounded by a brilliant patchwork of foliage in every conceivable shade of red, brown, orange and yellow. Apricot-colored hues glow in the afternoon light. Maybe there are warm coals in the fireplace and hot cider on the stove… Ahh, perfect!
This beautiful scene comes to life every autumn day in a hardwoods forest filled with maples, birch and oaks. Trees reign supreme this time of year, yet each region transitions to winter in its own unique and wonderous way. Here’s a short description of why the tress give us this un-be-leaf-able view every year!
Leaf Changing Process
Those spectacular autumn colors that we love so much are present in tree leaves all summer, but they are hidden while the most important pigment, chlorophyll, does its job all summer long. Chlorophyll is responsible for photosynthesis; it absorbs sunlight, and then reacts with water and carbon dioxide to make the sugars that trees depend upon for food. However, as summer fades to fall and the sunlight wanes, so does a tree’s ability to produce chlorophyll. In the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.
Autumn colors vary based on the summer temperatures. Warm days and chilly–but not freezing–nights seem to bring out the best color.
Planning your Trip
Autumn expresses itself differently depending on the region.
If you want a classic hardwood forest, the Northeast and Great Smoky Mountains are good destinations. Check out the Adirondacks in New York, Vermont’s Green Mountains, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and anywhere in Maine.
The Rocky Mountain States are known for rivers of yellow, thanks to the quaking aspen, flowing down evergreen mountain sides and pooling into the mountain valleys below. The contrast of dark green with the brilliant yellow makes for stunning scenery. If diversity in color is what you seek, head to Utah. The combination of canyon maples, quaking aspen and scrub oaks deliver the prized combinations of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.
Across the plains, people are treated to the softer palette of honey-colored grasses rippling in the wind, with a rich quilt of textures and colors. Pale green sage adds a distinct fragrance to the air. Montana is loaded with state and national parks serving up expansive meadows backdropped with riverbeds swathed with yellow cottonwoods, aspen and soaring peaks.
Not to be outshone, the Pacific Northwest also puts on a spectacular show: buttery yellow aspens, big leaf maples dressed in a bright lime-yellow, dogwoods, red alder, cottonwoods and western larch will treat your eyes. Northern California is filled with oak trees, some are deciduous. For a demure version of autumn color, head to wine country where the vineyards cover the hills in gold and red hues.
The exact dates for peak fall foliage change every year depending on weather patterns, but generally the leaves transition in Late September and November, starting in the north and moving south. Check local tourism websites before planning your trip to ensure you catch the best and brightest colors. Also, if camping or renting a cabin to take in the glorious vies of fall, we would recommend early reservations. Here is a link for some of the best places to go to see breathe taking fall foliage, enjoy!