This weekend, sunny skies and cool temperatures will help accentuate the expanding color.
Where to look
Over the past week, fall color has grown from spotty to patchy locally. Some of our western areas are seeing more significant change.
This year we sadly lost the weekly reports of the Foliage Network because of the diminishing numbers of spotters. However, reader Kyle Cotner has taken up the effort himself in a personal newsletter. His maps below show the general progression of the season so far across the region:
Western and west central Maryland
According to the latest foliage update from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, fall color has already past peak in the high elevations of the western part of the state, and leaf drop has taken over. But the color is vibrant and near peak below mountain tops and at somewhat lower elevations.
The Maryland DNR states Washington and Frederick counties are approaching peak color. “Cunningham Falls [in Frederick County] is really changing now,” park manager Mark Spurrier reported. “Beech and hickory trees are turning bright gold.”
Western Virginia and the Blue Ridge
The Virginia Department of Forestry reports color is approaching peak in Southwest Virginia at elevations above 3,000 feet. “In the Blue Ridge, the percent change is a little lower, but the mixture of green with other colors makes for fantastic viewing,” it says.
Webcam views along the Skyline Drive show colors near or even a little past peak at the high spots, with vibrant foliage at somewhat lower elevations (see recent foliage photos from Shenandoah National Park here).
Immediate Washington area
In the immediate area, we see moderate color emerging in our western areas, with lesser color change east and south of Interstate 95. Maples continue to shine brightly in and around Washington as they approach peak along with other early-turners.
Thus far, colors are generally reported to be bright, compared with past years. After a wet summer, this fall has delivered an abundance of sunny, mild days and clear, crisp nights — a great recipe for intense autumn hues.
Forecast for the weekend and beyond
It will be a picture-perfect fall weekend, ideal for taking a hike at a local park or a road trip into the mountains. That said, you’re probably going to want to dress in layers.
It will be a cold start, if you’re headed out early Saturday. Temperatures will be in the 30s over much of the area and even near freezing at higher elevations.
Sunny skies will help temperatures rise to near 60 Saturday, except 50s in the mountains. On Sunday, it will be a little less chilly. Sunny skies will persist with highs from 60 to 65.
After this weekend, much of next week appears warm without major storminess. By next weekend we may be talking about another cool down.
Last week a reader wondered about the best places to see fall color. There are, of course, the well-known spots like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (which seems likely to be packed this weekend), but that’s just a small slice of what this region has to offer.
I asked Capital Weather Gang photographer Kevin Ambrose about some of his favorite spots locally and where he might be headed soon. Kevin told me he was recently in Capon Springs, about 80 miles as the crow flies to the west of D.C. The colors looked fantastic.
“That’s one of my favorite places to shoot foliage before fall color peaks in the D.C. area,” he wrote in an email. As we get deeper into fall, toward the end of the month and into early November, the show pushes into the immediate area.
“My two favorite fall foliage locations are Great Falls and the Tidal Basin,” Ambrose wrote.
As a carless city person myself, I agree with Ambrose about the Tidal Basin. Then there’s Arlington National Cemetery and many nooks within Rock Creek Park. It also may be the best time of year to wander neighborhoods taking in all the ever-changing sights, sounds and smells.
Do you have any particular favorite fall spots? We would love to know. Perhaps they can be detailed further in a future post as peak color arrives in the immediate area during the weeks to come.