The Science and Beauty of Autumn Foliage: The Best Places to See the Changing Leaves

The fall season is one of the most beautiful times of year. Seeing the changing leaves may just be one of the most awe-inspiring experiences one can have. From bright reds and oranges to deep yellows and purples, autumn is full of spectacular sights. But what is it about the autumn foliage that makes it so beautiful? In this article, we’ll discuss the science behind the color change, as well as some of the best places to view the changing leaves.

The Science of Autumn Foliage

At the start of autumn, the leaves of deciduous trees stop producing food for the tree, which signals the start of the change from dark green to colorful shades. This process is known as senescence, and is caused by a decrease in sunlight as days become shorter and temperatures start to drop. As the days grow shorter and sunlight less intense, the leaves begin to shut down the chlorophyll production responsible for the green coloring of leaves. With less chlorophyll present, the other pigments in the leaves start to show, including carotenoids (yellow and orange) and anthocyanins (red and purple).

This transition usually happens slowly and usually peaks in mid- to late-November. It is also affected by a range of environmental factors such as elevation, temperature, humidity and moisture levels.

Beautiful Autumn Foliage Around the World

Novice leaf peepers and seasoned foliage-lovers alike can enjoy the colorful fall foliage no matter where they’re located. From sunny California to the evergreen landscapes of Scandinavia, here are some of the best places in the world to marvel at the changing leaves:


The leaves in England start changing color in late September. Peak foliage is experienced the last week of October and the first week of November. Some of the best places to find autumnal color in England include the Lake District, the Cotswolds, and Kent.


France is a great pick for leaf-peeping, with many opportunities for viewing the changing foliage all around the country. France is stuffed with vibrant autumn hues all through October. The Alps, Cevennes National Park, and Touraine are known for their colorful displays.

New England

Most people flock to New England to take in the turning leaves, and this is hardly surprising considering its nicknames, “The Leaf Peeping State” and “The Colorburst State”. Spanning Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the area is known for its vibrant displays, especially in the White Mountains.

South Korea

South Korea’s mountains are filled with glorious maples and walnut trees, as well as other hardwoods that turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. Peak foliage usually occurs during the last two weeks of October, and some of the best spots in the country to take it all in are Mount Seoraksan National Park and Apeak Mountain.


In Japan, foliage season is known as “koyo” and it is one of the country’s most beloved annual events. Peak foliage happens around the first or second week of November, with the trees of the Japanese archipelago displaying a spectrum of yellow, orange, and red. While Tokyo provides plenty of foliage-viewing opportunities, the best bet is to head to Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, Naruko Gorge in Miyagi Prefecture, or Koyo Route in Gunma Prefecture.


Finland remains mostly green until mid-September, when the color of the landscape starts to change, changing from yellow to orange and red. While the far northern reaches of the country don’t usually get any autumn foliage, you can find stunning autumn hues in the more southern regions, such as the Bear’s Trail in Rovaniemi and Tampere.


Iceland has impressive autumn foliage displays that are well worth checking out. In cooler parts of the country, like the highlands and fjords, you can witness a subtle but stunning canopy of yellow, orange, and deep red hues. Some of the best places to go include Akureyri, Reykjavik, and Jökulsárlón beach.

Tips for Enjoying the Changing Leaves

Now that you know where to go to take in the autumn beauty, here are a few tips for enjoying the colorful foliage:

  1. Start planning for the fall early. Autumn foliage can be unpredictable, so if you want to catch the best displays, it’s best to start planning your trip in advance.

  2. Don’t forget to bring a camera. With so much color, autumn is the perfect opportunity to take photos. Bring a durable camera to make sure you’ll get good shots that can be framed and remembered forever.

  3. Make sure to dress appropriately. Fall weather can be a bit fickle, so it’s important to layer up and wear comfortable shoes so you can make the most of your sightseeing experience.

  4. Take advantage of the daylight. The most vibrant colors typically happen during the morning or late afternoon, so if you can, try to plan your trips around dawn or dusk when the light is at its most magical.

  5. Follow the locals. Don’t hesitate to ask fellow leaf peepers where they’ve seen the most stunning fall foliage. Local knowledge is often the best way to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time.

Fall foliage is a truly beautiful phenomenon, and with the right knowledge and planning, you can get the most out of your leaf-peeping experience. While it’s easy to jump right in and start scouting for vibrant hues, it pays to be aware of the science behind the color change and to know some of the most beautiful places to experience nature’s spectacle. Whether you travel to England or stay in your hometown, take the time to appreciate the season and the spectrum of color it offers us each and every year.