Fall Foliage Reaches Peak Color, Brings 'Autumn Wonderland' To MD
Patch Regional Manager Deb Belt wrote this story on Friday.
MARYLAND — Fall colors are at their peak brilliance from Cecil to Prince George's counties this week, the Department of Natural Resources said in its fall foliage report Nov. 2.
Allegany, Garrett, Washington, Frederick, and Carroll counties are past the peak of fall colors, DNR staff said. The rest of the state is near peak color change.
"Blink and you might miss it. Peak fall color that is. Some reports out of western Maryland this week describe past peak conditions, and foresters and park rangers in other regions of the state also report rapid changes, with tree canopies transforming from mostly green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red often in as little as 48 hours," the DNR report said. "A strong cold front at the beginning of the week brought a sweeping wind into the forests and mountain ranges, resulting in a colorful forest floor and a lot of nearly bare trees. Time is of the essence for those wanting to capture autumn’s glory before it’s gone."
In contrast to the conditions in Western Maryland, the central region of our state is reveling in a quintessential fall landscape.
“It is an autumn wonderland out here,” says Ranger Lead Melissa Carson. The Hollofield area of Patapsco Valley State Park is experiencing peak color, and visitors to the area can expect plentiful tree canopies ranging from fiery oranges to more subtle shades of burgundy and yellow. Located just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore, the Ole Ranger trail and Peaceful Pond trail provide a respite to embrace fall color.
Project Forester Chase Kolstrom reports from La Plata this week, where signs of peak leaf change have made their way into the landscape.
“I am happy to report that most of the southern region is experiencing the beautiful color change we’ve been patiently waiting for,” said Kolstrom. “And I expect we’ll see peak fall foliage in the southern region by later this week or this weekend.”
Acting State Forester Anne Hairston-Strang reports significant changes in eastern Maryland this week with “sugar maple, blackgum, and sassafras taking center stage” in the fall color show at Tuckahoe State Park.
Bohemia River State Park and Fair Hill Natural Resources Area are alive with fall color this week, with dazzling shades of scarlet, persimmon, and gold lighting up the landscape. Seasonal Park Ranger Shin Ae Gonzalez reports peak to near peak conditions in the area, with many of the leaves still on the trees, withstanding (for now) the windy conditions resulting from the recent cold front. Scott’s Mill Bridge was just reopened after an extensive renovation, allowing visitors access to one of the area’s best fall foliage viewing spots.
Forest Manager Melissa Nash describes “well past peak conditions” in Garrett County with 80% of the leaves on the ground and those remaining on the trees a dark russet brown. Maryland’s westernmost county has seen a dramatic shift in both fall color change and the weather, receiving its first snowfall of the season overnight on Tuesday.
The USDA Forest Service says three primary factors influence autumn leaf color: leaf pigments, length of night, and weather.
The 2023 Fall Foliage Prediction Map indicates leaves will peak the week of Oct. 30 in much of Maryland.
The predictive map, from the travel site Smokymountains.com, uses a refined data model based on historical and forecast temperatures and precipitation, the types of trees prominent in specific geographic areas, and real-time user reports.
The slider at the bottom resets weekly to include the latest data. To see when leaves are expected to peak, move the slider to the right. Leaves haven’t started changing yet in green areas, and the brown color means foliage has passed its peak.
For people planning to travel, the site curated a list of the best places to see fall foliage in every state.
Here are some suggested Maryland fall leaf-peeping road trips:
- Patapsco Valley State Park stretches 32 miles along the Patapsco River in Baltimore and Howard counties and offers some of the best autumn scenery in Maryland.
- Turkey Point Lighthouse Trail, North East: Set atop a 100-foot bluff, the lighthouse provides a 360-degree view of the Chesapeake Bay and all the fall colors. As you take the two-mile trek up to the lighthouse, you’ll get to experience the beauty of Elk Neck State Park located on a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Elk River.
- Adkins Arborteum: Across its 400 acres, this garden features more than 600 species of plants, ranging from trees and shrubs to wildflowers and grasses near Ridgeley in Caroline County. Trek the five miles of paths through the grounds of the arboretum.
- Oregon Ridge Park near Cockeysville has hiking trails that showcase a tree-scape of yellow, orange and red.
- Other areas to visit close to the Baltimore-Washington metro area: Gwynnbrook Wildlife Management Area in Owings Mills, Baltimore County; Sugar Loaf Mountain Natural Resource Area in southern Frederick County; Seneca Creek State Park just southwest of Gaithersburg; and Dierssen Wildlife Management Area situated between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River in Montgomery County, offering first-rate opportunities for waterfowl watching and quiet interludes for strollers along the Canal Tow Path.
More 2023 Fall Foliage Predictions
- The Farmer’s Almanac predicts that much of New England will be at or near peak fall color by October 11; a little further south in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it looks like mid-October is Maryland's best bet for peak fall color.
- According to the Washington Post, Maryland should see peak colors by mid-October with an ultimate peak arriving around Oct. 23. The northern half of Virginia should be past peak by then.
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