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Fall Foliage and Festival Report: Oct. 20-21, 2018

Fall Foliage and Festimal Map

Welcome to the Fall Foliage and Festival Report for the weekend of Oct. 20 and 21, brought to you by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Hickory in Swanton

Hickory tree in Swanton

Overall in Garrett County, fall color remains pretty disappointing, according to Melissa Nash, Garrett County forester, “There are a few individual maples with some color, and we are seeing muted yellows in hickories and yellow poplar. Oaks have not started to change much yet. It’s not our typical fall.” She noted that white pine are currently casting their oldest inner-most needles, which are also turning a golden color before dropping, a normal, but more noticeable occurrence this year due to the lack of vibrant colors. “Although most of our conifers in Maryland are evergreen, they do shed their oldest needles,” Nash explains.

Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area

Fair Hill

Green and brown dominate across Western Maryland, from Garrett to Frederick County.“The pockets of autumn color have mostly fallen with the passing cold fronts and rain. The overstory is beginning to change, but throughout Washington County it appears the oaks are browning and the leaves are falling partially green. I am not sure we will have a big swath of color on the ridges in unison this fall,” Aaron Cook, state forester in Clear Spring.

“Our leaves here in northern Baltimore County are just on the cusp of changing; I feel like the colors will start popping this weekend, with the cool and dry weather we’re finally beginning to experience,” writes Andrea Townsley-Sapp, Gunpowder Falls State Park ranger. 

 Hereford Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park

“Dogwoods, tupelo, and some maples are turning nicely red, most of the others are still green or are bare,” reports Seasonal Ranger Park Lindsey Hughes from Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Cecil County. Park Naturalist Laura Fawks Lapole writes, “The leaves in Elk Neck State Park are only just beginning to change. It seems that about there is about an 8 percent color change. Mainly the sweet gum, hickory and tulip popular are what is turning at this point in time.”

In the meantime, Maryland is celebrating the season with Halloween events and crafts, historical drama, an American Indian Pow-wow, harvest and seafood festivals, and moonlight hikes.


Civil War re-enactors at Gathland State Park

Reenactors at Gathland State Park

In Western Maryland at Gathland State Park this weekend Twilight’s Last Gleaming will explore the significance of Crampton’s and Brownsville gaps during the Battle of South Mountain and the important role artillery played in the defense of the mountain during the Civil War, complete with cannon firing demonstrations.

On Saturday evening step back in time at Cunningham Falls State Park in Frederick County. Spirits of the Furnace is a guided tour through an historic village with a seasonal twist. Reservations and tickets required.

On the Eastern Shore the Martinak Fall Festival in Martinak State Park is a very popular free family event, kicking off at noon Saturday. Enjoy apple butter and children’s activities. Entertainment includes Driven Women, Square Dancing and the Choptank River Big Band. In nearby Denton, Scarecrow Wizardry invites you to bring a pair of pantyhose, a long sleeve shirt and long pants. They will supply the straw, string and decorations to help your scarecrow come to life.

Photo of Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge in the Fall by Greg Conderacci

Tilghman Island Day on Saturday is an annual favorite featuring arts and nautical crafts, boat building demonstrations, oyster shucking, crab picking and a look at the life of a waterman. Tilghman Island in Talbot County is a working waterman’s village.

Central Maryland is popping with many seasonal and annual events. This weekend, the Fair Hill International, one of the most prestigious international three-day equestrian events in the world, will be held at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in beautiful Fair Hill, Maryland. 

Celebrate Native American Indian culture and heritage with live traditional music, dancing, storytelling, archery, exhibits and crafts Saturday at the American Indian Festival at Patuxent River Park in Upper Marlboro. Free admission.

Heritage Harvest Festival bounty

Heritage Harvest Festival

On Saturday afternoon at locations throughout the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve be a part of the Heritage Harvest Festival. Visit a variety of farms with fun family activities including farm tours, markets, craft projects for kids, farm animals, historic structures and food for sale. Free admission.

The Howard County Conservancy invites you to Hike to Patapsco River on Saturday. This moderate to strenuous 4.5-mile hike will last up to 2½ hours and take you through the forest to one of the most scenic areas of Patapsco Valley State Park. Register in advance.

Come explore the books, crafts, specimens and more at Patuxent River State Park’s Nature Nook with a knowledgeable naturalist. Come with questions and a desire to learn Saturday. The park is located in both Montgomery and Howard counties.

In Montgomery County, Seneca Creek State Park is serving up a several family events. Spend some time in the great outdoors learning about the natural world. Meet a Volunteer Ranger Sunday for Nature Crafts. Then stick around for a fun Halloween Cookie Craft. We supply cookies, icing and “batty” decorations. You might also enjoy a Reptile Encounter, a 30-45 minute program for all ages. Meet a living snake or turtle and examine shells and skins from reptiles living in the park!  Or, spend an hour on a Trail Trash Pick-up along the Seneca Greenway trail. Be sure to bring water and comfortable shoes for walking.

Fairy Tales to Scary Trails Saturday is a family-friendly Halloween event sponsored by the Friends of Jerusalem Mill, an historic area of Gunpowder Falls State Park in Kingsville. See some favorite fairy tale characters like Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White and her evil stepmother, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent and her goons, Mag the Fairy Queen, Three Billy Goats Gruff and more. Bring a canned food item for the local food pantry and have your fortune told.

Trick or Treat on the Square

Trick or Treat on the Square

Hear ghostly tales of local lore on a Haunted History Hike at the Soldier’s Delight Natural Environment Area Saturday evening. See some of the night hunters that travel by wing that may have been the inspiration for some of the world’s ghosts. Reservations are encouraged. Good Morning Groundhog is a Sunday morning event for children, ages 0 to 4, and their caregivers. Join your little explorer for an interactive program at the Soldier’s Delight Visitor Center in Owings Mills. Activities will include music and movement songs, a short hike as well as a craft to do together.

At the top of Chesapeake Bay in Harford County Susquehanna State Park is hosting a Star Gazing evening Saturday. Take a step off the beaten path and enjoy the wonders of the autumn sky: planets, constellations and shooting stars.

In Cecil County, Turkey Point by Moon Light, is a two-mile round-trip hike from Elk Neck State Park to the Turkey Point Lighthouse, marking  “International Observe the Moon Night.”  Reservations required!

On Saturday at the Bowie Town Center, Concerts for Causes Inc. presents Prince George’s Fall Fest 2018, a food, wine and music event not to be missed. Concerts for Causes raises funds to give musical instruments to students in underserved communities. This is a free event!

Not to be outdone, Southern Maryland is serving up oysters and Trick-or-Treat on the Square.  Celebrate the opening of oyster season on Chesapeake Bay this weekend and take part in one of the oldest and most popular oyster festivals in the U.S. the annual U.S. Oyster Festival featuring the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Championships and National Oyster Cook-Off at the St. Mary’s Fairground in Leonardtown. On Saturday afternoon come in costume and bring your costumed pet for Trick-or-Treating at local businesses in downtown Historic Leonardtown. Free.


If you’re planning a get-away to this weekend or next, please keep in mind that state park cabins and campsites are still available for the fall season. You can reserve one for a fantastic autumn weekend by calling 888-432-CAMP (2267) or parkreservations.maryland.gov.

For more information or to see a full listing of Maryland Department of Natural Resources events, meetings and programs, please check out our online calendar.

Enjoy your weekend, Maryland! And as always, if you would like to share photos of your autumn adventures with us, please send them our way.


“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”

― Humbert Wolfe



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