Fall Foliage Report November 2, 2023
“It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.” — Sarah Addison Allen, from the novel “First Frost”
Blink and you might miss it. Peak fall color that is. Some reports out of western Maryland this week describe past peak conditions, and foresters and park rangers in other regions of the state also report rapid changes, with tree canopies transforming from mostly green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red often in as little as 48 hours. A strong cold front at the beginning of the week brought a sweeping wind into the forests and mountain ranges, resulting in a colorful forest floor and a lot of nearly bare trees. Time is of the essence for those wanting to capture autumn’s glory before it’s gone.
Forest Manager Melissa Nash describes “well past peak conditions” in Garrett County with 80% of the leaves on the ground and those remaining on the trees a dark russet brown. Maryland’s westernmost county has seen a dramatic shift in both fall color change and the weather, receiving its first snowfall of the season overnight on Tuesday.
Aaron Cook, Project Manager/Forester in Clear Spring, Washington County, sums up the season’s rapid change: “I am not sure I have seen the foliage peak and fade so quickly. I was watching a red maple in my neighbor’s backyard over the weekend. On Friday, it had splashes of orange and red in individual branches; the bulk of the canopy was green. By Sunday morning, the entire tree was in full color, and Tuesday (after the passing of a strong cold front), it was half bare.”
This is true for much of the Blue Ridge Mountains and higher elevations in Washington and Frederick counties, with maples, gums, hickories, and birches reaching peak color and then quickly losing their leaves. The oaks are the draw now, with the trees showing shades of rich scarlet and purple. Cook recommends catching the last pops of peak color while you still can.
“We are now past peak, with some pockets of color remaining, however I believe there will still be some foliage to admire this weekend in the lower elevations,” Cook says.
Seasonal Park Ranger Stacey Jones reports past peak conditions at Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, but a few fall gifts remain for leaf peeping visitors.
Watershed Forester Bob Schwartz reports from along South Mountain in western Frederick County this week: “We were around peak prior to the rainfall over the weekend, which caused a lot of leaf-drop and pushed the mountainsides from vibrant yellows to mottled colors in a matter of days. However, there is plenty of burnished gold and blue sky left to see, particularly in the mountain coves or other sheltered areas that experienced less direct impact from the storms. Hopefully the return to cooler weather means we get an elongated end of season color flush.”
In contrast to the conditions in Western Maryland, the central region of our state is reveling in a quintessential fall landscape.
“It is an autumn wonderland out here,” says Ranger Lead Melissa Carson. The Hollofield area of Patapsco Valley State Park is experiencing peak color, and visitors to the area can expect plentiful tree canopies ranging from fiery oranges to more subtle shades of burgundy and yellow. Located just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore, the Ole Ranger trail and Peaceful Pond trail provide a respite to embrace fall color.
Administrative Specialist Dave Gigliotti reports from Susquehanna and Rocks State Parks this week where “visitors are seeing fall’s magnificent colors in the maples, hickories, and beeches.” Best views for leaf peepers? Head to the King and Queen Seat or Deer Creek, a popular spot among anglers.
Project Forester Chase Kolstrom reports from La Plata this week where signs of peak leaf change have made their way into the landscape.
“I am happy to report that most of the southern region is experiencing the beautiful color change we’ve been patiently waiting for,” said Kolstrom. “And I expect we’ll see peak fall foliage in the southern region by later this week or this weekend.”
Acting State Forester Anne Hairston-Strang reports significant changes in eastern Maryland this week with “sugar maple, blackgum, and sassafras taking center stage” in the fall color show at Tuckahoe State Park.
Bohemia River State Park and Fair Hill Natural Resources Area are alive with fall color this week, with dazzling shades of scarlet, persimmon, and gold lighting up the landscape. Seasonal Park Ranger Shin Ae Gonzalez reports peak to near peak conditions in the area, with many of the leaves still on the trees, withstanding (for now) the windy conditions resulting from the recent cold front. Scott’s Mill Bridge was just reopened after an extensive renovation, allowing visitors access to one of the area’s best fall foliage viewing spots.
Photos from Our Readers
We welcome all of Maryland’s outdoor enthusiasts to send in photos capturing the beauty of the fall season. Please use the online submission form to send your entries directly to us. Your photo might be selected to appear in a future edition of the Fall Foliage Report!
When most of us think of Maryland’s best spots to see fall color, we don’t often consider Maryland’s seaside areas like Assateague State Park. However, this area of Maryland experiences seasonal transitions as unique as its ever-evolving landscape.
“Here at Assateague we have our own shift in color during the fall months,” says Assistant Park Manager Meghan Rhode. “Seaside goldenrod explodes into bloom, transitioning from green to gold and attracting Monarch butterflies on their way to Mexico. We witness changes in our skies with the fall migration of many species of birds that use the Atlantic flyway to head south. Tree swallows come through by the hundreds as they head to Florida and as far south as Central America. Even the sunsets seem to get brighter and more colorful in the fall.”
Visitors to Assateague, a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Sinepuxent Bay on the west, can enjoy walks along two miles of ocean beaches and explore marsh areas, home to a variety of wildlife including deer, waterfowl, and the island’s famous feral horses.
Watch the Sky
Saturn will end retrograde motion November 4 and the last quarter moon occurs November 5. The celestial highlight of the week is the peak of the Southern Taurids meteor shower, occurring on November 6. Head outside shortly after nightfall and look east. But don’t forget a warm jacket and maybe some cocoa – it’s going to be chilly outside.