KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trees across the Kansas City area will soon start to change colors as the temperatures cool off and we lose daylight.

That means it’s the perfect time to start planning that leaf-peeping trip.

In the Kansas City area, fall colors will likely peek in mid- or late-October. But some leaves are already changing, and the colors will really ramp up throughout October.

You can see an interactive map below, courtesy of SmokyMountains.com, that tracks peak fall colors across the United States.

The site uses historical temperature and precipitation data, forecasted temperature and precipitation, the types of trees known to be in the area, and user-reported information to develop its fall foliage forecast.

While it may not be completely accurate, it does offer insight into how soon the autumn colors will peak. 

What ignites the trees to erupt into reds, oranges and yellows is largely the length of day.

We’ve been slowly losing daylight since the summer solstice in mid-June, and it will only become more noticeable as we move through September and October. Our trees are tuned into that lack of light and will begin to wind down for the year. 

“The first trees to turn are sumacs, dogwoods and even poison ivy,” Wendy Sangster with the Missouri Department of Conservation previously told FOX4 last year. “Those will change first in splashes of red.”

Bright orange, red, and yellow fall leaves line a road in the autumn in Kansas City, Missouri

“Then, you have your maples and walnuts (trees), and those turn yellow. Sugar maples will turn a bright orange, while sweet gums are kind of burgundy yellow.”

Sangster said oak trees are the last to turn, remaining green for a long time and then abruptly turning reddish-brown around mid-October. 

If you’re ready to go leaf-peeping in the Kansas City area, here are some of the best drives, sites and scenic cities to check out:

Scenic drives

If you want to take a relaxing drive surrounded by colorful fall foliage, there are several beautiful routes to explore in the Kansas City area.

On the Missouri side, check out Highway 45 in Platte County.

This rural highway will take you from Kansas City’s Northland through Parkville, then up to Weston. You could even continue up to Lewis and Clark Village before crossing state lines to Atchison. Highway 45 is also close to the Missouri River if you want to stop for more scenic views.

Speaking of the Missouri River, Highway 224 in Lafayette County also follows the Mighty Mo.

It starts in the east in the small town of Napoleon and continues through Wellington and Lexington to the west. The state tourism department says Highway 224 has been designated as the Old Trails Road Scenic Byway because of its history and picturesque drive.

On the other side of the state line, Glacial Hills Scenic Byway will give you all the Kansas fall views.

In the south it starts in Leavenworth, once again by the Missouri River, at the intersection of K-7 and K-92. Then head north up to Atchison and you could even drive all the way up to the Nebraska-Kansas border.

If you’re looking for an easier route, in the middle of Kansas City, cruise down Ward Parkway, where colorful trees line the street. You can check out the massive, historic homes just south of the Country Club Plaza before heading to Brookside or Waldo for shopping or a meal.

Sites to visit

Kansas City tourist spots:

One of the most iconic sites in Kansas City is Loose Park, and it’s fall colors will surely put on a show. Roam throughout the trees, take a walk around the trail or enjoy a picnic with friends to soak up a pleasant fall day.

Up in Kansas City’s River Market neighborhood, the City Market offers an urban dose of fall foliage. Visitors will find trees spaced throughout the shops, restaurants and farmers market.

The 217-foot-tall Liberty Memorial Tower at the National WWI Museum and Memorial stands beyond an oak tree displaying fall colors Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas City’s tourism department recommends the National WWI Museum and Memorial, where colorful trees line the Liberty Memorial Mall against the green grounds and incredible limestone tower.

The KC Parks Department calls Swope Park the “crown jewel” of its system. Trek through miles of hiking and biking trails to immerse yourself in nature and its fall foliage.

State parks:

If you want plenty of open space to explore the fall colors, the state parks in Missouri and Kansas offer that and more. Visitors can go hiking, canoe while the weather is still nice, and camp for the night, too.

Here are some nearby state parks in Missouri:

Here are some nearby state parks in Kansas:

Flint Hills Trail State Park, running from Osawatomie to Council Grove, Kansas, is also a great option for bikers and hikers. As the longest trail in Kansas, discover the Flint Hills and its fall colors.

Other unique stops:

Take a drive on 50 Highway to Kingsville, Missouri, and you’ll find Powell Gardens.

This popular botanical garden is nearly 1,000 acres. The nonprofit says some of the best areas for fall foliage views are the Missouri Silo Barn, Milestone Plaza and Perennial Garden, among others.

In Johnson County, the 300-acre Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens features over 1,700 species of plants, plus hiking trails, sculptures and a children’s discovery garden.

A woman takes a photo of a maple tree sporting fall colors Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, at a park in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Normally, Cliff Drive Scenic Byway would be a gorgeous route for drivers, but it’s closed to vehicles. Still, you can go on a hike or bike ride along the drive in the historic Northeast or explore the rest of Kessler Park.

Wyandotte County Lake Park is filled with color in the fall. You can get out and explore the whole park or take East Drive and West Drive to make a loop around the lake.

Top cities

If you’re up for a day trip a little farther outside the KC metro, these three cities have quaint, historic downtowns with fall colors galore.

Baldwin City, Kansas, is known for the colorful maple trees that fill its downtown area. In fact, the weekend of Oct. 21-22 is the city’s annual Maple Leaf Festival. Surrounded by colorful trees, enjoy craft exhibits, live entertainment, family activities and food.

Parkville, Missouri, was previously named one of best leaf-peeping small towns in the United States, so it’s clear you’ll find great views in this Northland city. Visit the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, Park University or English Landing Park for fall foliage.

The town of Atchison, Kansas, is filled with history and haunts, plus beautiful trees great for leaf peeping. Check out the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, tour one of the city’s haunted houses, and snap a picture of the fall colors along the Missouri River.

Weston, Missouri, is a fall favorite and a great getaway. Take Highway 45 to start soaking in the foliage. You’ll find cute shops and restaurants downtown. Then visit Weston Red Barn Farm, known for its great pumpkin patch, or Weston Bend State Park for more fall colors.