Fall color at Canaan Valley Ski Resort in West Virginia. (Canaan Valley/Twitter)

First came the hurricanes and then the record heat. News about these weather extremes has drowned out discussions about the advance of fall colors, but the trees are still changing.

In fact, prime fall color has already arrived on West Virginia’s soaring summits, 3,500 feet and higher. And patchy color is starting to emerge at lower elevations, too.


(Foliage Network)

The Foliage Network even shows “low color” impinging on the Interstate 95 corridor.

On this upcoming beautiful fall weekend, the West Virginia high country is the best place to go. Earlier this week, the changing foliage there was apparent from space.


Satellite view showing fall color in the West Virginia highlands on Sept. 23. (NASA)

West Virginia’s tourism office writes these higher elevations “show excellent yellow, gold and red colors.”

Bob Leffler, a retired climatologist who closely monitors weather and foliage in the West Virginia mountains, suggests anyone making the trip might manage their expectations, however.

“Several frosts in late August and early September got the change going early,” Leffler said. “Then the weather turned very warm and dry, which is a kiss of death for vibrant fall colors. Thus, this year’s fall colors there are very dull with many leaves withered, brown and down due to the extremely mild temperatures and very dry conditions.”

Views of the region posted to Twitter from photographer Larry Brown suggest a trip to areas like Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls and Davis, W.Va. might still be worth it:

If you’re headed out to Skyline Drive or the higher elevations in mountains of western Virginia, Virginia.org’s foliage report said, “a mix of hardwoods, including maple, gum, ash, beech and birch are about a third of the way to peak colors.”

Shenandoah National Park added: “Things are starting to smolder in Shenandoah. The hillsides in the Park’s Central District remind us of the coming October, treetops just starting to recast to reddish brown, as if Stony Man and his neighboring hills and hollows got themselves a henna rinse.”

Peak color in the Skyline Drive is probably a couple weeks away.

In Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources said the best color is in Garrett County at elevations above 2,500 feet. “Deep Creek Lake State Park is reporting that foliage is coming along with red maples starting to turn bright orange,” it wrote. “The low areas, which are cooler and moister, have the most color.”


(Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Interested in where and when fall color will be at its finest? The website SmokyMountains.com has developed an interactive map as a guide, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other sources.

“The SmokyMountains.com predictive leaf map uses tens-of-thousands of data points including area elevation, historical and forecast temperatures, and historical and predicted rainfall,” said SmokyMountains.com data scientist Wes Melton. “In addition, we carefully analyze the accuracy of previous years and update our proprietary algorithm to increase the accuracy each year.”

The map is embedded below: