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What is Leaf Peeping?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Leaf peeping is a form of recreation which involves traveling to sites where deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and early winter. Peepers, as they are known, typically try to time their visit with the explosion of “color” which occurs in the mid to late fall as the foliage slowly dies. This form of recreation is especially popular in the New England states, although leaf peeping trips can also lead people to other corners of the world.

Fall color is quite remarkable, as anyone who has seen the changing of the leaves in person can attest. Often in the matter of only a few weeks, leaves transform, losing their green color and becoming yellow, orange, and red before finally withering and dropping from their parent trees. In a mixed forest, different trees may turn at different times, creating a blaze of color which can be quite stunning in hilly rural areas.

When people go leaf peeping, they typically want to also take advantage of the weather. When the leaves change, it heralds the start of late fall and winter, when the weather will be too unpleasant to go outside. On a peeping trip, however, the weather is often still fine enough to picnic, cycle, horseback ride, or participate in other outdoor activities while enjoying the leaves. Most peepers also take numerous photographs of the fall color, and some like to collect and dry fallen leaves to keep as curiosities.

In regions which are famous for their fall color, like Vermont, leaf peeping can be a major source of income in the fall. Some tourist firms specifically cater to peepers with custom trips to find the most colorful spots, and many inns and hotels offer peeping specials to encourage people to stay a few days to enjoy the fall color. Peepers may arrange to stay at several locations so that they can enjoy long, leisurely drives through the countryside to see the changing of the leaves.

Timing a leaf peeping trip is tricky. The peak is typically short, which means that people need to be flexible about when and where they go. In some communities, webcams keep Internet visitors abreast of the fall color situation, so that when the leaves start to change, people can quickly make travel arrangements. Other towns may post information about the fall color on their websites and in the local newspaper, to alert potential visitors to their window of opportunity.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By bluespirit — On Nov 18, 2011

I did not know there was an official term for people vacationing in or around certain places, especially New England, to spot the beautiful colors of the fall season.

I remember watching the comedy animated show Family Guy, where they had an episode making fun of the leaf peepers basically. I remember one of the characters hiding in the trees and doing silly stuff when the leaf peepers would crowd around.

I thought people went to the New England states all year around, besides the winter months, not just primarily in the fall. After reading this article, and people's posts, I can see why people make a special New England leaf peeping trip in the fall.

It sounds like New England foliage is a must-see at least once in every one's lifetime. I can see how if you are a resident of the town's that draw in leaf-peepers, how it can get kind of hectic and crazy though.

By golf07 — On Nov 18, 2011

I live in Vermont and am very familiar with leaf peeping season, because this is our busiest time of year.

This is the season we get more tourists than any other part of the year combined. It can be pretty hectic for a few weeks, but is really good for tourism and helping out our states economy.

I have lived here all my life, so don't have anything else to compare it to. I am always fascinated by how far some people travel to see the beautiful leaf color we have in our state.

While most of them take in the vast beauty of our countryside, they don't want to be around when winter hits! We are known to have very long, cold winters, and we don't get very many visitors during those months.

The weather really plays a key role in what the color is like every fall. If there is too much or too little rain, the leaf colors will not be nearly as dramatic.

By andee — On Nov 17, 2011

I find it interesting to read that I have been a leaf peeper all these years. I didn't realize there was an actual term for this!

I always try to schedule some vacation time in the fall so I can visit places that have spectacular fall colors.

Of all the places I have ever been, I really don't think you can beat the New England fall foliage.

Most everyone has seen pictures of serene New England settings with a backdrop of trees in various shades of orange, yellow and red.

Even though the pictures are beautiful, nothing compares to seeing these in person. Many of these places are simply breathtaking.

I always take tons of pictures and most of my screensavers are pictures I have taken when I have been leaf peeping.

I also love the weather this time of year because the air is so crisp, yet the days are still warm with sunshine. This truly is my favorite season, and I look forward to it all year long.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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