Fall Foliage: Views & Vistas Across The Tri-state Region
Not all countries across the globe experience the colorful change of seasons from summer to fall, when expansive swaths of verdant forest turn vibrant shades of gold, burgundy and orange.
The Eastern United States, along with the United Kingdom, Ireland and northwestern Europe; and northern areas of China and Japan, are some of the brightest spots.
Here in the Ohio Valley, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to leaf peeping. While New England may be the most famous of the U.S. fall foliage destinations, local leaf peepers need only look out their windows to witness a blaze of color.
Oglebay Park and Grand Vue Park offer beautiful vistas, and people come from all over the U.S. at this time of year just for the colors.
In addition, a couple hours’ drive (or less) will put you smack in the middle of state parks or national forests with breathtaking views.
Despite some concerns about the recent spate of hotter and drier than average weather, fall foliage experts are optimistic.
“They should provide a really good show this year,” said Ryan Reed, an environmental education specialist with the Bureau of Forestry, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Reed produces weekly fall foliage reports on the expansive state at www.dcnr.pa. gov.
Conditions for the most vibrant color include bright sunny days and cooler nights with temperatures in the low 50s and 40s, said Casey Burdick, Ohio’s fall color forester with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.
The cool-off that began Thursday occurred in the nick of time.
“I’m still expecting a good year this year,” Burdick said. Leaf peepers can follow her weekly podcasts where she reports on what trees are peaking, where to find the best color and what fall activities are happening, at http://fallcolor.ohiodnr. gov.
West Virginia has produced a new fall guide, a partnership between the Division of Forestry and the Division of Toursim. The guide features a leaf identification guide, regional itineraries and fall color stops and a listing of events in each region that tie into peak fall foliage season.
“It’s no question that fall is one of our peak seasons. People come here because it’s beautiful in every area of the state,” said Emily Amos with the tourism office.
REGIONAL BRIGHT SPOTS
With the Northern Panhandle at the epicenter of the tri-state region, there are colorful opportunities no matter which direction you head. The determining factor may be when you have the time to go. Peak time for color differs depending on latitude and altitude.
Reed said on Thursday that some northern regions of the state, including the Poconos region, are peaking now. As that is not exactly our neck of the woods, we are still in good shape for a trip to Ohiopyle State Park, for instance, or the Laurel Highlands.
However, if you don’t mind going farther afield, the area known as the Pennsylvania Wilds, which is home to the largest percentage of state forests in the state, is the place to go during the second week of October, Reed said. This is the north-central part of the state, north of State College.
“These areas are so heavily forested, it’s almost like a can’t miss,” Reed said.
In Ohiopyle and the Laurel Highlands, the third week of October should be peak time, around Oct. 14-20, he noted.
Ohiopyle’s new visitor’s center offers a fall leaf guide with the best spots for leaf peeping.
“It’s always beautiful. We have a number of beautiful overlooks for people to stop and check out,” said Barbara Wallace, environmental education specialist with the park.
Oct. 13-15 is the annual Buckwheat Supper festival, which benefits the local fire company, she said, and is a popular fall event.
Dysart Woods in Belmont County, Fernwood State Forest in Jefferson County, Wayne National Forest throughout the southeastern portion of the state — all offer wonderful opportunities to see fall color. If you want to head north, the northern one-third of the state will peak at the end of the second full week in October, so around Oct. 14, Burdick said. The central one-third will peak a week later, and the southern one-third by Oct. 28.
“We are very lucky in Ohio in that we have over 125 different tree and shrub species, so no matter where you go, really, you have the opportunity to see some really great color,” she said.
Hocking Hills State Park in Logan County has 10,000 acres of forest offering panoramic views.
Hocking Hills tourism office calls the area’s fall color offerings and “ideal concoction of fiery red maples, blazes of orange sassafras, flashes of yellow hickory, brushstrokes of brown oak and pops of green hemlock and pine.” Fall color provides a pretty backdrop to the area’s other attractions: hiking trails, rock formations and waterfalls, cozy cabins, and unique experiences such as canopy tours (ziplining from treetop to treetop) and eco trips.
When asking friends about best fall foliage in the Mountain State, several of them cited Canaan Valley, smack in the middle of the million-acre Monongahela National Forest. There’s lots to explore there, including Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob, the state’s highest point at 4,863 feet.
But with 78 percent of the state covered in forests, it’s hard to miss out on the splendor of fall color.
The state’s new fall guide lists notable events occurring in the state from late September through late October, with accompanying state maps that highlight the areas with the “best mountain color views” at that time. It lists the Northern Panhandle as having the best views this week, just in time for Oglebayfest. In mid-October, the Mid-Ohio Valley and central portions of the state should be at peak, while the Eastern Panhandle and southwestern third of the state will have great color in late October, coinciding with Bridge Day, Oct. 21. To order a free guide, call 800-CALL-WVA or pick one up at any of the eight West Virginia Welcome Centers.
Happy leaf peeping!