Fall Foliage: The best time to see leaves changing colors in Indiana

Posted at 5:28 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 17:56:00-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Autumn is prime time to see the leaves change from green to vibrant orange, yellow, and red.

Although the states on the west and northeast sections of the United States have already reached peak color change, the Midwest is just getting started.

The Midwest is a prime spot to be during October, especially Indiana.

As the leaves have already changed colors in Wisconsin and Michigan, the Hoosier state, Illinois and Ohio are only beginning. Fall foliage is the marvelous backdrop wherever you're enjoying seasonal activities like a corn maze or festival and even on the drive home.

Northern Indiana has started to see a partial color change. It appears to be well on its way to peak foliage time by October 18, according to the Smoky Mountains Ninth Annual Interactive Fall Foliage Prediction Map.

Central Indiana, and most of the state for that matter, typically experiences its best fall colors in the third or fourth week of October, Lenny Farlee, an extension forester for Purdue University's Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, confirmed.


Leaf predictions will never be 100% accurate. Climate and seasonal weather changes impact just about everything when it comes to the environment, including plant pigments.

"If we get heavy rains, wind, or hard freezes, that can take the leaves off trees and reduce the time we can enjoy the fall leaf display," Farlee stated.

Even though much of central and southern Indiana will not see peak fall colors until the week of October 25, some Hoosiers in those regions are already noticing piles of leaves hitting their lawns. Farlee says that's a sign that some trees are stressed.

Trees can be stressed from drought, damage, disease, or insect attacks; Farlee explained this "makes leaf color change as the chlorophyll breaks down and exposes the other pigments."

"I see this in some city trees that are in tough growing conditions, and some rural trees that have experienced drought or other stresses earlier this year," Farlee said. "One example is our state tree, tuliptree, (which) needs good moisture to grow well. We often see some tuliptree leaves turn yellow and drop early when we have a late summer drought. Some trees naturally show earlier fall color as compared to others — their leaf dropping schedule is ahead of many other trees. I see sumac and sassafras provide early leaf color many years, while oaks are often pretty late to change."

Purdue's Department of Forestry and Natural Resources explains in detail why leaves change colors here.

If you're in Indianapolis and wondering where some of the best places are to see the changing of leaves, my personal favorite is Crown Hill Cemetery. Although a gravesite, it's one of the most beautiful places to visit for foliage. You'll often see people walking their dogs, bikers pedaling up its notorious steep hill (which is the highest point in Indianapolis) and, it also makes an excellent spot for ghost stories this time of year.

Other great options to see leaves change color in Indy are Marott Park, Holliday Park, Eagle Creek Greenway, and Pleasant Run Trail.

Anywhere in Indiana is really a prime location to see fall foliage, and you can't go wrong wherever you go.

MORE | Fall Festivals to check out in central Indiana |