So, you had to cancel your summer vacation for the second year in a row because of the pandemic. For a while, this year was really looking good—what with the vaccine rollout and declining cases and all—but the Delta variant had other plans (ruining ours).
Now, perhaps you’re considering an autumn road trip, taking in the colorful leaves and staying in a cozy, secluded vacation rental. Well, if that’s the case, you’re not alone, and someone else may have their eye on that cabin you favorited on VRBO months ago.
But if fall foliage is an integral part of your trip, it can be hard to know when a particular area will reach its vibrant peak. Fortunately, there’s an interactive map that uses data to predict when different parts of the country will be at their most colorful. Here’s what to know.
How to use the 2021 fall foliage prediction map
Once again, this interactive map comes courtesy of David Angotti, a statistician and founder of the website SmokyMountains.com. It uses historical temperature and precipitation data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as this year’s forecasted temperatures and precipitation, and historical leaf peak trends to predict when fall foliage will reach its most colorful peak anywhere in the continental United States in 2021.
The map is intuitive: Select a date using the slider at the bottom of the map, and see where the foliage will peak that week. For example, if a you select September 6th, you’ll see the leaf forecast for the week of September 6th to 12th.
Of course, like any type of weather-based forecast, the leaf-peaking predictions will never be completely accurate, but Angotti and his team have been doing this for nearly a decade, so they’ve been able to fine-tune their algorithm over the years.
As you’d imagine, Angotti says that the vast majority of people who use the map do so to plan a fall trip, or check when the leaves will peak near their home—but some people have gotten especially creative.
“Some of our favorite [uses of the map] include a bride in the northeast changing the date of her outdoor wedding, a director scheduling a movie shoot on location based on our predictions, and even a grade-school teacher planning a trip to a nearby state forest,” he tells Lifehacker via email.