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This map predicts when Chicago will hit its fall foliage peak

Trying to go leaf peeping in the city? Here's the best time to do it.

Emma Krupp

If you peek your head down the nearest tree-lined street, you'll probably notice that some of the leaves overhead are starting to turn yellow—but only ever so slightly. That's because northern Illinois and the Chicago area are still in the "patchy" phase of leaf progression, according to the annual Fall Foliage Prediction Map from

The interactive map, produced each year to help folks plan leaf-peeping vacations in the Great Smoky Mountains, uses a data-informed algorithm (drawing from sources like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to triangulate when trees across the country will reach their fieriest color. According to its predictions, the trees of the Chicago area will start to shift dramatically to shades of red, orange and yellow around October 19; they'll reach peak splendor during the week of October 26. But, as all longtime Chicagoans know, the beauty of the season is fleeting—the map shows Chicago hitting "past peak" just one week later, on November 2.  

That prediction differs slightly from that of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which puts the peak of fall color around the second week of October. In any case, weather fluctuations make the science of prediction difficult to pin down—cloudier days can cause yellower leaves, for instance, while drought might make them drop with little tint at all—so barring extenuating events, you'll likely catch good color within the middle two weeks of October. 

You can play around with the map's sliding bar below to view countrywide leaf color progression from week to week. And if you're looking for the best places to spot fall foliage in Chicago, we've got you covered.


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