CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Chillier temperatures have begun to set in across the Lowcountry, pumpkin spice is back, and the days are getting shorter which can only mean one thing: fall is coming.
The autumnal equinox arrives on Saturday, marking the official start of fall. The equinox, which always falls on Sept. 22 or Sept. 23 in the Northern Hemisphere, is one of two moments in the year when the Sun is directly above the Equator and day and night are of equal length.
It also marks the start of a awe-inspiring natural phenomenon that is synonymous with the season: leaves shedding their natural green color and fading into breathtaking hues of red, purple, yellow, orange, and brown.
“The sun angle gets lower, you get less sunlight, so they’re not producing as much chlorophyll and as that fades that’s what causes the change in the color,” Storm Team 2 Meteorologist Josh Marthers explained.
And while many across the country will get their first glimpse of this impressive display beginning in late September, South Carolinians will have to wait a little bit longer.
A fall foliage prediction map, produced by SmokyMountains.com, shows when areas in the U.S. will near, reach, and surpass peak colors using historical temperature and precipitation data, forecasted temperature and precipitation, the types of trees known to be in the area, and user-reported information.
In South Carolina, the map shows that fall color will begin to spread across the upper portions of the state by early October, but peak fall foliage won’t come until late in the month.
You can explore the interactive map below, courtesy of SmokyMountains.com.
And while other states may be better known for their autumnal landscapes, South Carolina’s Upstate still boasts an impressive display.
According to the state parks department, fall colors often appear more brilliantly and last longer in South Carolina than in other parts of the country. Even so, those hoping to go leaf-peeping this season will need to travel upstate to experience the fall foliage in all its glory.
“We [in the Lowcountry] do have a little bit of a higher sun angle, we stay milder in the winter, and our trees are a little different,” Josh explained. “It’s mostly climate-driven.”
So where do sightseers have the best chance of finding fall foliage in the Palmetto State?
Officials recommend taking a ride along Scenic SC Highway 11, also known as the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, which winds along the Blue Ridge Escarpment — the line at which the Blue Ridge Mountain Range plunges down toward the foothills of the Piedmont Region.
Here are the best places (in no particular order) to go leaf-peeping, according to South Carolina State Parks:
- Caesars Head State Park
- Chester State Park
- Devils Fork State Park
- Jones Gap State Park
- Keowee-Toxaway State Park
- Kings Mountain State Park
- Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
- Oconee State Park
- Oconee Station State Historic Site
- Paris Mountain State Park
- Poinsett State Park
- Table Rock State Park
You can always keep an eye on fall foliage conditions in the Upstate with S.C. State Parks’ live webcam overlooking Table Rock State Park in Pickens County.