“Leaf peeping” is travel jargon for viewing, photographing, or simply enjoying the fall foliage.
As you know from many of our posts, Jennifer and I can never get enough of fall foliage. Every year, landscapes transform as if God decides to get out his paintbrush and remind us of the surrounding beauty.
Leaf peeping has become so popular that RVers even plan trips around the changing leaves. And luckily, there’s an amazing interactive tool to help you do just that!
Fall Foliage Prediction Map
This fall foliage prediction map, or leaf peeping map, is created by SmokyMountains.com. It gives you a nationwide view of the changing leaves.
You can check travel dates by using the slider bar at the bottom. The different colors denote different stages.
Green denotes no change yet and brown means that the leaves are past their peak. The colors in between show the colorful progression of fall.
It’s so easy to use, and frankly, it’s fun! I couldn’t help sliding the bar back and forth to see the colorful flow overtake parts of the country.
How Accurate are its Predictions?
Just like you can’t completely predict the weather, leaf predictions can never be 100% accurate. However, SmokyMountains.com has published this predictive leaf peeping map for nearly a decade.
It started out as a fun project to meet the needs of their customers. SmokyMountains.com offers 2,000+ cabins and vacation rentals in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. So, it’s easy to see how the leaf peeping map could benefit their customers.
But what started as a fun project for their clientele rapidly grew into a top fall resource that tens of millions of people use annually.
The founder of SmokeyMountains.com and creator of the map, David Angotti, is also an Airline Transport Pilot. As such, he was required to fully understand weather patterns and was highly trained to use meteorological tools. The combination of his expertise and love for travel led to this highly accurate tool.
What Data Does the Map Use?
I love to know how things work and algorithms, in particular, impress me. The algorithm SmokeyMountain.com created analyzes several million data points, including:
- NOAA historical temperatures
- NOAA historical precipitation
- NOAA forecast temperatures
- NOAA forecast precipitation
- Historical leaf peak trends
- Peak observation trends
- Historical model outputs from previous years
It outputs approximately 50,000 predictive data pieces that forecast county-by-county the precise moment when peak fall will occur.
And last year, they announced how it’s more accurate than ever, with mid-season updates.
“Due to the complexity of applying a humongous, multi-faceted dataset, we have historically published our map annually without mid-season updates,” creator David Angotti explains. “However, for the first time ever, we plan to release a mid-season update in late September. By applying the mid-season update, we believe the accuracy and usefulness of the tool will be increased.”
How is the Fall Foliage Prediction Map Useful?
As RVers, you probably instantly see the usefulness for travelers. We’ve all too often mistimed our trips and begrudgingly enjoyed the “leftovers.” A tool like this changes that.
Now, you can perfectly time your trip for the:
- Best Fall Color Drives in New England
- 20 Delightful State Parks for RVing in the Fall
- 5 Awesome RV Destinations for Fall Color
It’s also a great opportunity to pull out your RV Lifestyle Adventure Guides for:
- Adirondack Park and Finger Lakes
- Yellowstone National Park
- Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
- Michigan’s Lower Peninsula
- The Great Lakes Shoreline
Even if you’ve been to the above places before, it’ll be like visiting a whole new place if you go at peak times.
However, clever folks have used the fall foliage prediction map for more than travel.
“The vast majority of individuals use the leaf map to simply check when leaves will peak near their home or use it to plan a leaf peeping trip,” David Angotti says. “However, through the years, we have heard some fascinating stories about how the tool was leveraged.”
He goes on to share some of the favorite stories from leaf peeping map users.
One example is a bride in the northeast changing the date of her outdoor wedding. Another is a director scheduling a movie shoot on location based on our predictions. Even school teachers have used the map to plan field trips and add to their lesson plans.
The Great Lakes Adventure Guide Bundle
Use the leaf peeping map to its fullest with the Great Lakes and Upper Peninsula bundle. Used together, these resources can lead to the best fall trip you’ve ever taken.
Mike and Jennifer’s Great Lakes Bundle – 2 ebooks!
This bundle is our popular Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide PLUS our newest Adventure Guide – The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour! Both ebooks will give you plenty of ideas and resources to enjoy this part of the US.
The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour — One of our favorite RV trips has been driving the United States side of the five Great Lakes. It is a trip of over 4,000 miles and takes you to 8 states! And it’s filled with beautiful vistas, welcoming towns and villages, and fabulous places to camp, hike, and explore.
Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide — Whenever someone asks us “Where is one of your favorite places in the US for RVing?” Our answer is unquestionably, in unison, “The UP of Michigan.” The “UP” meaning Upper Peninsula, of course.
Other Nifty Leaf Peeping Resources
SmokyMountains.com also offers some helpful information and fun resources on their fall leaf map site.
You can see a scientific overview of why leaves change colors, colorful illustrations, fall coloring sheets for kids and a list of the Top Places to See Fall Foliage in All 50 States.
We actually recommended this predictive leaf peeping map in one of our RV Lifestyle newsletters last year. For those who want more helpful tips and resources sent to your email, you can join our newsletter and receive a free packing list!