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.