OK, so maybe you’re not ready for summer to be over quite yet (neither are we). But if you're the planning type—or a fall fanatic—it’s time to turn your attention to the 2021 edition of the Fall Foliage Prediction Map, an interactive guide from Smokymountains.com that shows folks when trees will hit their peak autumn splendor across the U.S. every year.
To make its predictions, the website’s model uses an algorithm that sources millions of data points from governmental and non-governmental sources like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—everything from historical temperatures and precipitation to peak observation trends. Once the data has been inputted, the model creates 50,000 predictive data pieces that are mapped out for users to browse as the season progresses. It’s not a completely fail-safe process, but the end result generates an exciting sneak peek at what's to come for the country’s fall foliage. Plus, for the first time ever, the team will release a mid-season update of the map in September this year, which Angotti said will help strengthen the accuracy of the model’s predictions.
“Similar to any meteorological forecast, leaf predictions will never be 100 percent accurate,” David Angotti, the statistical expert who founded the map, said in a statement. “However, after publishing our predictive fall foliage map for nearly a decade, we are quite confident in our data sources, process, and algorithm.”
In the Chicago area, trees will begin to show patchy coloring during the week of September 27; by October 18, they'll hit peak color. As we know, that color is all too fleeting—the city’s trees will be past their peak once we hit the week of October 25.
Ready to plan your fall foliage expeditions? Settle in with a nice PSL, fish out your binoculars and prepare to go leaf peeping all autumn long with the help of the map’s interactive tool below. You can also check out the site’s list of the top places to view fall foliage in all 50 states, in case you’re aiming to make a weekend trip from Chicago. Happy (almost) fall!