One of the best parts of fall is the changing colors of leaves. There’s a reason they’re on every piece of fall decor, from blankets to wreaths. They’re beautiful, colorful, and make autumn a little less depressing.
Because leaves are so pretty, most of us enjoy taking the occasional snapshot of them. But some people take it further by planning trips to see the best foliage all over the country- called leaf peeping.
If this sounds like an activity you’d like to try, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover all the steps you need to take to plan your own leaf-viewing extravaganza this fall, along with resources to help you along the way.
What is Leaf Peeping?
If you’ve never heard this term before, it might sound suspicious. But leaf peeping is the activity of traveling to and photographing fall leaves. You’ve probably done it at some point, even if you didn’t know the name then.
This is more than traveling during fall and appreciating leaves along the way. When leaf peeping, seeing leaves is the point of the trip. You pack your best camera and time it perfectly so the colors are at their brightest.
Planning a Leaf Peeping Trip
Decide Your Destination
First, you’ll want to pick where you’re going. Do you want to stick to your local area or tour states you’ve never visited? Keep it a short day trip or a week-long autumn vacation?
All of these are valid ways to do leaf peeping. It all depends on your goals. A local day trip is perfect if you just want to snap a few pics. But if you want to get the best pictures or see iconic fall views, consider a longer, further trip.
Once you’ve decided on the state or region you want to visit, research the best places to see leaves there. Find hidden gems, must-see views, or tiny American towns to hit on your travels.
If you have kids, factor them in too. They probably won’t enjoy the leaves as long as you will. Consider ways to get them in on the fall fun, whether with scavenger hunts or fall camping trips.
Plan the Best Timing
Timing is everything when it comes to seeing fall leaves. They start changing in the cold climates before moving down to warmer states. Once you’ve decided where you want to see the leaves, you need to plan the best time to go.
There are many resources to learn when the peak is for different areas. The Farmer’s Almanac has a wonderful fall foliage map that updates each year to show the estimated peak colors. Most states also have a foliage guide you can find with a quick search.
The peak colors only last for a few weeks at most. If you can, try to plan your trip during or right before they hit peak colors. If you wait too late, you risk dead or fallen leaves disappointing you.
While the trip is for seeing fall leaves, don’t forget to plan other activities along the way. Go on a hike in each location to see the colors up close. Camp in a beautiful autumn forest. Check out local events in nearby towns.
If you bring your kids, activities help them stay engaged the whole trip. It’ll give you time to bond and take a break from looking at leaves all day.
What to Bring
The farther north you go, the sooner it gets cold. Pack plenty of layers along with gloves, hats, and socks to keep you warm as you explore.
Bring your best hiking shoes to make walking through forests easy and comfortable. Good sneakers or boots are good alternatives if you don’t have specific hiking shoes.
You didn’t come all this way not to get high-quality pictures of the leaves. Your phone is fine, but if you have a nice camera, that’s much better.
You’ll need something to keep all your supplies in. Bring a nice, lightweight backpack to throw on as you view the leaves.
Water and Snacks
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Pack plenty of water and high-protein snacks to keep you energized and fed as you explore.
Leaf Peeping FAQs
Is it leaf peeping or peaking?
Both! The terms are interchangeable and mean the same thing- going to see the leaves at their peak.
What are the best places for leaf peeping?
When is the best time for leaf peeping?
Fall leaves start changing as early as the beginning of September and finish as late as the end of November. Your best bet for catching at their peak is researching where you’re going ahead of time.
How long after peak do leaves fall?
Most leaves only last about a week after they finish peak color. Once done, they turn brown and fall off. So make sure not to delay your leaf peeping trip too late.
Leaf peeping is a fun reason to travel this fall. Use this guide to plan your trip and explore the wonderful world of autumn foliage.