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A sneak peek at fall foliage times this year

(WDBJ)
Published: Sep. 20, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT
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As we begin the transition from Summer to Autumn, the number one question we get is: When is the best time to see the fall foliage?

It's not an easy question to answer because of the many factors that go into the changing of the leaves and color intensity.

I've lived here my entire life and I could count the truly "bad" years on one hand. However, some years certainly look better than others. A lot of that has to do with the weather, but that's not the only factor.

Elevation and side of the mountain the tree is on can play a huge role, along with the type of tree and the health of the plant. Then there's the amount of rainfall and temperatures.

Ideally, cool nights followed by warm (not hot) days are the best for bringing out those perfect hues.

THE WEATHER THIS YEAR

By late-September, you like to see the temperatures dropping into the 70s so the leaves can begin their change. While our weather this year is certainly not as hot as previous years, it is still well above average. Our nights have been anything but cool lately. At this point, fall colors similar to last year are likely unless we see a drastic drop in temperatures in the coming weeks, which may indeed happen. It's tough to say if our wetter than average Summer will play a big role.

WHEN TO EXPECT THE PEAK COLORS

Leaves begin changing color at higher elevations, and the color change works it's way down in elevation.

The ALLEGHANY HIGHLANDS AND GREENBRIER VALLEYS

These areas are very slowly starting to experience color changes. Highest elevations in West Virginia, near Cass Scenic Railroad and Snowshoe Resort, typically peak during the first few weeks of October but are a bit slower this year. Hot Springs and areas along the VA/WV border normally peak during mid-October.

NEW RIVER VALLEY

With varying elevation changes in the New River Valley, peak times are expected in the mountains during mid/late October and slightly later in the deeper valleys below 2,000 ft.

ROANOKE & SHENANDOAH VALLEY

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Bent Mountain will be some of the first areas to peak in the Roanoke Valley. 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 second week of October in the mountains, and late October across the Roanoke Valley, Smith Mountain Lake, and Southern Virginia.

LYNCHBURG AND SOUTHSIDE

Gradual changes occur last in Central and Southside Virginia in mid-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, but that can sometimes last even into early November.

BRENT'S TIP:

Late October is always a good time to plan for the best colors. If you must plan far in advance, pick a date, but you might need to change your destination slightly based on how the leaves are unfolding.

Get your cameras ready, we can't wait to see how this Fall will turn out. Share your photos and reports with us!