BUDGET TRAVEL EXPLORER: Weekly Fall Foliage Report Offers Tips on Best Color, Scenic Drives

Barry Cook, Budget Travel Explorer

Autumn in West Virginia is a brief but beautiful window, when the days grow cooler and the leaves begin their transition to vibrant hues of orange, red and yellow. If you plan your schedule just right, you can hit peak color times in all regions in the state over the next few weeks.

To assist you with your trip planning, the West Virginia Division of Forestry, together with the West Virginia Office of Tourism, will prepare a weekly Fall Foliage Report, beginning Wednesday, September 26, detailing the percentage of color change throughout the state, recommended driving routes for prime leaf peeping, and local fairs and festivals taking place in areas of peak color.

Several factors help determine the intensity and timing of fall color, so every season is unique. We should have great color this fall because we have had plenty of moisture this summer, which keeps foliage from drying up and turning brown before full color is achieved.

As the evenings begin to cool and frost begins, the first color will start in the northern part of the state in the higher elevations like Dolly Sods and Canaan Valley, then gradually work its way south and to lower elevations. You should expect to see some color in different parts of the state for the next six weeks or so. We advise you to monitor the weekly reports to find the best color occurring at that time.

In these reports, the DOF identifies three stages of fall foliage. Stage 1 (1% to 70%) is when the leaves begin to transition from green to the fall colors of orange, red or yellow. Stage 2 (71% to 85%) identifies areas that are near peak to peak (100%). Stage 3 means that color is past peak, but there still might be some pockets of color remaining.

Throughout West Virginia you’ll find numerous ways to enjoy the fall colors, from guided hikes to scenic drives to sightseeing cruises and train rides. West Virginia State Parks and Forests are always beautiful this time of year. It’s also a great time to get out on the river and experience the adrenaline rush of Gauley Season—West Virginia’s “fifth” season.

The cooler weather and changing color also sets the tone for numerous fall celebrations taking place throughout the state in September and October: can’t-miss events like the Mountain State Forest Festival, Official Bridge Day, C-K Autumnfest, and many others.

We encourage West Virginians to take time to get out and enjoy the beautiful colors of fall. We also invite our friends in neighboring states to visit during this time and discover why the Mountain State truly is “Almost Heaven.”

Visit www.wvtourism.com/fall to view a fall color map and the weekly Fall Foliage Report, or to find information on scenic drives, fall festivals and other seasonal fun. We also encourage you to share your favorite West Virginia fall photos on social media using #AlmostHeaven.

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Barry L. Cook is the Director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry. A veteran of 46 years in the hardwood industry, Cook also is a past board member of the West Virginia Forestry Association. He holds a B.S. in Forest Management from West Virginia University and an Executive M.B.A. from Duke University.

This post was last updated on March 17, 2022