Take Your Peak: A Guide to Fall Foliage on the East Coast

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Predicting peak fall foliage is a fluky process, dependent on variables ranging from rainfall and temperature to local tourism departments' desire to fill B&Bs. For an impartial overview, we turned to Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Ressler, who says this summer's plentiful rainfall throughout New England and the northern reaches of Pennsylvania and New Jersey will make for uniformly good peeping in those parts.

"The trees were as minimally stressed as they ever get in the summer," he says, so they had the chance to produce lots of sugar (which translates to vivid leaf color) and won't have dropped a lot of leaves before folks can enjoy them. Farther south along the Atlantic coast, Ressler says, the summer's rainfall was heavy in some areas, light in others, so foliage might not be consistently bright. Early cool weather is already bringing color out in northern New England, Ressler adds.

As a rule, peak foliage periods occur first in the north around late September and proceed southward through mid-November. But there are exceptions: Higher elevations, for instance, get gorgeous before low-lying areas. And in some states, such as North Carolina, the color moves west to east.

The following predictions come from state tourism offices and are largely guesses based on what happened last year. Here's a week-by-week sneak peek at peak foliage. (Note that some areas are represented more than once during extended periods of top color.):

Sept. 24-30: Northern Maine; northern New Hampshire (Great North Woods); Vermont's northern and high-elevation spots; New York's Catskills and Adirondacks; western end of West Virginia's eastern panhandle, Potomac Highlands and high elevations.

Oct. 1-7: Central and western mountains of Maine; northern and western New Hampshire; central and northeast tip of Vermont; western (including the Berkshires) Massachusetts; most of central New York; West Virginia's northern panhandle, part of the western Potomac Highlands and high elevations.

Oct. 8-14: Eastern, southern and mid-coast Maine; all but north and southeast tips of New Hampshire; pretty much all of Vermont (including the Lake Champlain area); western and central Massachusetts; central New York, as well as the northern Adirondacks, Niagara area and upper Hudson Valley; northern (including "Grand Canyon") and central Pennsylvania; Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains; Western Maryland/Garrett County; central West Virginia and the Greenbrier Valley.

Oct. 15-21: All of Vermont except for the northeast tip and very center; most of New Hampshire (except far northern and southeastern tips); northeastern (including Boston) and coastal Massachusetts (including Nantucket, Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard); Connecticut's northeast and northwest corners (including Litchfield County); New York's northern Adirondacks, the Niagara area and the whole Hudson Valley; central Pennsylvania; Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, and the Piedmont and coastal areas; Western Maryland and Allegany and Washington counties; central West Virginia and Greenbrier Valley; western North Carolina (including Asheville) and high elevations (including Mount Mitchell).

Oct. 22-28: New Hampshire's tiny southeast tip; southeast and southwest edges of Vermont and Lake Champlain area; Connecticut's central valley and southwest tip (Fairfield County); New York's lower Hudson Valley; New Jersey's "Great Northwest," Delaware Water Gap and central region along Delaware River Valley; southern Pennsylvania; all of Delaware; Frederick County (including Camp David) and much of central and southern Maryland; the Piedmont and coastal areas of Virginia; West Virginia's southwestern and easternmost counties, including tip of eastern panhandle; North Carolina's northern mountains and lower elevations of already-peaked mountains, and the Winston/Salem and Charlotte areas.

Oct. 29-Nov. 4: New York City and Long Island in New York; New Jersey's southern shore; all of Delaware; southern Pennsylvania; Maryland's Eastern Shore; North Carolina's shore (including the Outer Banks) and Raleigh/Durham, Greensboro and Fayetteville.

Nov. 5-11: New York City and Long Island in New York; Maryland's Eastern Shore.

-- Jennifer Huget

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