What to expect from this year's fall foliage

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ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ) It is the most colorful season of the year in Southwest Virginia and the mountains of West Virginia. Even before the calendar switches over to Autumn, the leaves are already putting on a show, with patchy colors on select trees across the region.

A cool start to September has triggered trees to changeover a bit early. However, the main attraction isn't for a few more weeks. You can already see major color changes across West Virginia's mountains, which reach peak the last week of September into early October.

HOW WEATHER PLAYS A ROLE

Weather conditions play an important role in the outcome each fall. The two worst weather factors are drought and heat, because they put stress on the tree. Fortunately, while it has been dry, we are not in a drought. And even though we have seen a late-September warm-up, you certainly wouldn't call low 80s "extreme heat."

Once cooler weather arrives in early October, expect a rapid changeover to the colorful palette we are used to. According to several forestry experts, this could be one of the best years for viewing foliage that we have seen in several years.

PEAK TIMES FOR VIEWING FOLIAGE

The ALLEGHANY HIGHLANDS AND GREENBRIER VALLEYS are already very colorful and the highest elevations in West Virginia, near Cass Scenic Railroad and Snowshoe Resort, typically peak during the last week of September into the first weekend of October. Hot Springs and and areas along the VA/WV border normally peak during the first two weeks of October.

NEW RIVER VALLEY
With varying elevation changes in the New River Valley, peak times are expected in the mountains during the first two weeks of October (10-20), and slightly later in the deeper valleys.

ROANOKE & SHENANDOAH VALLEY
The Blue Ridge Parkway and Bent Mountain will be some of the first areas to peak. A drive up 311 toward Paint Bank will also offer an early look at the colors as they transition into the valleys by mid October. Peak foliage is typically the first and second week of October in the mountains, and October 15-25 across the Roanoke Valley, Smith Mountain Lake and Southern Virginia.

LYNCHBURG AND SOUTHSIDE
Gradual changes occur last in Central and Southside Virginia in early October, but the peak typically occurs during much later during the month. The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests the last two weeks of October (15-25) as the best time for viewing.

SHARE YOUR REPORTS AND PHOTOS

We love seeing your fall photos, and encourage you to share your reports with our meteorologist each week. We will have an update on color changes during our newscasts and weather app.

Be sure to check back throughout the season for tips on viewing and things to do and see.