Plan for a small road trip this weekend because the weather promises largely beautiful conditions of leaf peeping.
Where we stand
Color continues to progress, especially in the higher elevations north and west of D.C. The Foliage Report, which aggregates reports of fall color in the Lower 48 states, noted some moderate color working into northwest parts of the D.C. region, while the remainder of the area is still hanging on to low color.
Change continues to be on the slow side this year because of warm conditions this October. Washington is running close to six degrees above normal through the first three weeks. It’s also the fourth warmest October to date. Surrounding states are experiencing similar trends.
Some cooling is expected through the end of the month, but it is unlikely to strongly offset the warmth already seen. Even so, rapid increase in darkness per day will continue to trigger foliage changes regardless of the weather.
In the immediate D.C. area, peak foliage is probably two weeks or so away and should be later than average this year.
For leaf viewing, high elevations to the west and northwest continue to offer the best fall views. Parts of Skyline Drive should be around peak in the next week or so, an indication that high color is on its way to the local area.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports Garrett and Allegany counties in the western part of the state are at peak. Further east, Washington and Frederick are approaching peak.
In Central Maryland, most of the area is about halfway to peak, with lower color toward the shore.
Among the various parks, the Maryland DNR reported that Cunningham Falls State Park is experiencing duller colors compared to past years.
“There’s certainly more color to come, but visit soon because the bright yellow hickory leaves aren’t going to stay around long,” wrote Melissa Carson of Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks.
Color dullness has been reported in multiple areas throughout fall so far. It can likely be heavily attributed to warm temperatures and the lack of many crisp nights lately.
Color is heading toward peak along Skyline Drive, a popular local destination that runs portions of the Blue Ridge west and southwest of the city.
“There is still plenty of time to see the color in the peak … it’s still pretty green in the lower elevations, which is awesome for you if you’re planning a trip to Shenandoah anytime soon,” employees said in their weekly update from Shenandoah National Park.
Elsewhere, color is also slowly increasing.
“There’s still a lot of green in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, but eye-catching reds and yellows appear along roadways and in urban landscape trees,” the Virginia Department of Forestry wrote in its weekly report.
Peak or near peak conditions can be found over southwest parts of the state and in the Allegheny Mountains.
Most of the Mountain State is bathed in fall color.
The West Virginia Department of Tourism wrote, “Color is still approaching its peak in Randolph County, with the most scenic areas being Kumbrabow State Forest, the Swiss mountain town of Helvetia, and along the Cheat River.”
In addition to the central highlands, the trees in the Appalachian spine across eastern parts of the state are running near peak and the very highest mountains are settling into the winter stick season.
Typically at this time of the year, the state would be beyond peak, but it continues to run on the slow side like most of the region.
Despite a return of cooler fall conditions, temperatures remain warmer than normal in the short term aside from Saturday.
Saturday may feature wind chills remaining in the 30s and 40s across the highest country of West Virginia and Maryland. Along the Blue Ridge, wind chill readings will range from the 50s to 60s, from high elevation to low. Occasional gusty breezes are likely as well.
Sunday is nicer, with minimal wind, lots of sun and temperatures at or above 60 even into the mountains. Lower elevations may reach the upper 60s.
After Monday, widespread moderate rain could occur. The first possible storm is expected on Tuesday, but more unsettled weather is possible after that. Temperatures will likely run above normal through the week. There may be a more substantial cool-down toward the end of the month.
The forecast in the local area seems mixed at best for moving toward vibrant colors. It’s a good bet that this season’s colors will remain somewhat dull, although there are always bright spots even in underwhelming years.