Foliage Plus Snow Equals ‘Snowliage’—Here’s Where to See It
Seasonal shifts just got a whole lot cooler.
For many, the transition from autumn to winter means nature’s color palette shifts from kaleidoscopic to snowy white (or dreary gray, depending on your state's winter misery). But leaf-peeping season doesn’t necessarily wrap up as winter slowly approaches, and a new term has been coined to describe what happens when fall colors mix with flurries before winter officially arrives: snowliage.
While the concept of fall’s fiery colors and snowflakes colliding is simple, it’s hard to describe this glorious vision, even if you’ve seen it in the wild. Thankfully, we have photos—and experts to tell us how and where to see snowliage this season.
Why are we seeing more snowliage lately?
If you’ve never heard of snowliage before, you aren’t alone. Scott Highton, a professional photographer and founder of Virtual Yosemite, says he hadn’t seen or heard of the word until a few years ago. A quick search on the internet reveals that snowliage has only recently entered the public vocabulary. While there’s a chance that’s because, well, trends are trends, Highton thinks the uptick is partially due to global warming.
“[Climate change] is causing increasingly dramatic effects on weather. These changes have become more significant in just the last five years,” says Highton. “The results, particularly in regional weather, have made previously unusual combinations—such as those creating ‘snowliage’ conditions—more frequent.”
The good news is that snowliage usually occurs at high altitudes, according to Highton, where it’s normal for snowfall to take place a bit earlier in the season. Addison Green, a national meteorologist, adds: “The key to finding these potential snowy and colorful scenes is to be in higher elevations above sea level, where the colder air is likely to be more prevalent and snow comes down easier, versus rain or an icy mix.”
Where are the best places to see snowliage?
Like any weather forecast, snowliage is almost impossible to predict until a few days before it’s about to happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a highly educated guess.
Green says that in the US, chances of seeing snowliage are higher in northern New England, Upstate New York, the upper portion of Michigan and Minnesota, western portions of Nebraska, and The Dakotas, as well as Colorado up to Montana.
Highton, who is based in the Bay Area, also notes that snowliage has happened in Northern California in recent years.
Tips and tools for timing it right
To catch some snowliage IRL, keep an eye on fall foliage forecasts from sources like The Weather Channel and Accuweather, as well as the Average First Snowfall maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Fall Foliage Prediction Map could also help figure out when peak foliage is taking place, so you can look out for weather forecasts around those dates. Green suggests starting your snowliage research as early as the beginning of September.
To up our chances, let’s look at where snowliage has fallen (and been captured) across the country to figure out where you might want to plant yourself when autumn rolls around. By no means does this list cover all the places that experience snowliage—it can technically be anywhere!—but these are places where it’s been frequently reported and where experts recommend you’ll have a better shot.
“Be sure to bring your camera to capture the two seasons as they collide,” Neilson says. Happy hunting.
Yosemite National Park, California
For three years in a row, Yosemite National Park has experienced the whimsical, wonderful event that is snowliage. Highton first witnessed it here in November 2020, where he was able to capture the magnificence in a 360-degree VR panorama. “The snow beautifully highlights the textures of the granite peaks surrounding Yosemite Valley, while the afternoon sun illuminates the changing leaves on the trees,” Highton writes.
This past year, Yosemite had snowliage on its grounds around the third week in October.
Green Mountains, Vermont
Over the past few years, there have been several instances of snowliage in the Green Mountains, which run through the center of Vermont. Many of the sightings have been tracked by social media posts and local news coverage, showcasing expansive views of foliage-meets-snow from the tops of Mount Mansfield and Killington Peak.
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Kris Neilsen, Communications Manager of New Hampshire’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development, says that one of the most dramatic snowliage scenes can occur in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, home to the highest mountain in the Northeast: Mount Washington (6,288 feet).
“When the mountain tops of the Presidential Range are covered in a blanket of fresh snow and all the autumn colors are still visible from the trees, it’s quite a majestic sight,” says Neilson. As a matter of fact, Mount Washington just had a snowliage happening this October. Seeing is believing!
Adirondack Mountains, New York
Green, who has reported on the weather in Upstate New York, says the western portions of the Adirondack Mountains is one of the best places to see snowliage in the region. (Here’s a photo to prove it.) To make a stay out of it, Green suggests visiting the towns of Watertown and Old Forge, both near the Adirondacks.
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
The Rocky Mountains, the largest mountain system in North America, offer multiple spots Green recommends for snowliage seekers to get their fix. The Rockies’ juxtaposition colors can easily be seen in several Colorado towns like Meeker, Craig, and Walton, as well as in Aspen and across the state's many staggeringly gorgeous national parks.
Eastern Sierra, California
Another part of Northern California that has seen a decent amount of snowliage activity in recent years is the eastern Sierra, part of the Sierra Nevada and not too far from Yosemite. Highton says that the Eastern Sierra is known for its fall colors that tend to be “more intense” then the other parts of Sierra Nevada, which makes it the perfect spot for when the snow falls.
Mono County is one area where snowliage has been spotted in recent years, especially in Mammoth. Highton suggests checking out June Lake and Mono Lake for spectacular displays, if and when the snow makes an appearance in the fall.
Letchworth State Park, New York
Located about an hour east of Buffalo, the so-called Grand Canyon of the East is one of America’s most beautiful state parks, and like much of the region it’s prone to early snowfall. Between the color pops against white snow, the picturesque cliffs, and the 235-foot-high railroad trestle, seeing slowliage here is like hitting the Instagram lottery.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Wyoming is known for its wildly unpredictable weather, and in the towering Grand Tetons, it’s not uncommon to see vibrant fall colors (as well as the stunning evergreens) get a garnish of snow, especially at higher elevations.
Wasatch Mountains, Utah
Spanning the Utah-Idaho border, the Wasatch Mountains are the mega-crags that provide the dramatic backdrop to Salt Lake City, and it’s not uncommon to see the vibrant color change contrasted against the cold white peaks in early autumn. However, with the first snowfall hitting the lowlands in early October this year, the Wasatch range’s foothills are revealing snowliage with more and more frequency… and much earlier, too.