Northwest GA (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

The past week has been cool and sunny with little rain or wind, allowing many of the trees to progress with color change. Hickory and poplar are showing the most significant changes and are now providing bright and vivid yellows. Black gum and sourwood have continued to turn and are displaying bright and deep reds. White oak and red oak are slowing shifting to shades of brown and red, but still predominately green. Sassafras took off this week and is showing a variety of colors including orange, yellow, and red. Dogwoods have surpassed peak and beginning to drop leaves.  Although a few of the early tuners have already lost their leaves, the lost colors were rapidly replaced with vivid yellows and reds provided by recent turning of hickory, poplar, sourwood, and blackgum.  Overlooks and ridges are showing impressive patches of color this week and should continue to expand in the following days.

Species specific:

  • Dogwood – vivid red is beginning to dull and shedding leaves
  • Birch – slowly fading to brown and yellow
  • Yellow-poplar – shifting to bright yellow
  • Redbud – fading to yellow
  • Sourwood – vivid and deep reds
  • Sumac – bright red
  • Maple – dull reds
  • Birch – fading to yellow with brown edges
  • Oak – green slowly fading to brown and yellow
  • Blackgum – shifting to orange and red
  • Sassafras – shows a variety of yellow, orange, and red
  • Sweetgum – fading to red and yellow
  • Hickory – fading to yellow

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date:  20% to 50% at higher elevation.

Scenic drive:

Take Hwy 136 from i75.  Turn left on Hwy 157 on top of lookout mountain (Or continue on Hwy 157 to go to Cloudland Canyon).  Turn left on Daughtery Gap Rd to come out in front of Mountain Cove Farms.  Turn right on Hog Jawl Rd.  Turn right on Hwy 193 and follow back into Lafayette.  Turn right on South Main Street.  Turn left on Hwy 27 Bypass and follow to the next intersection to get back on Hwy 136.

Northeast GA

Color development continues across NE GA with roadside colors becoming vibrant. Georgia’s highest elevations (2000’+) continue to represent the greatest color opportunities currently but this week saw more developing change across mid-elevation locations (1000’-2000’) and the next two weeks should see these areas really start to show off their potential.

In the yellow/gold spectrum a number of hickories have entered the show with their golden yellows really popping in full sun. Many of the yellow poplars have shed their early turning golden yellows but many are still holding green so expect to see more from some of these species. The birch continues to hold some good yellow and in the understory and along roadsides you can find the sassafras holding some yellow and orange.

Maples, sourwoods and blackgums continue to provide some very vivid reds, burgundies and pinks.

And, not to be left out, many oaks can now be found in the early transition with both yellows and reds noticeable. It does appear that again this year we have seen some of our red oaks going straight to brown, but at nowhere near the levels we saw the last two years.

Species specific:

  • Dogwood  – Red/Burgundy
  • Birch  – Yellow
  • Yellow-poplar – Yellow/Gold
  • Redbud – Yellow
  • Sourwood – Red / Burgundy
  • Sumac – Bright Reds
  • Maple – Muted to Bright Reds
  • Beech – Golden to lemon yellows
  • Oak – Above 3000’ beginning changes to reds and yellows
  • Blackgum – Showing some good reds/increasing in color
  • Sassafras – Occasional saplings showing some reds and orange.
  • Sweetgum – Yellow to red to purple
  • Hickory – Excellent golden yellows are becoming more common

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date: 50 to 80% above 2500’; 20-50% below 2500’.

We are seeing high percentages of the canopy changing above 2500’ though we have not developed the vibrant shades just yet at these locations.

Overall peak should still be on track for the last week in October and first week of November.

Weather forecasts continue to be favorable for good additional color development. 

Scenic drive: Higher elevation drives continue to provide the best color. Roadsides throughout the mountain counties are providing regular color. The standby drives continue to provide some of the best opportunities including Richard Russel Scenic Highway, Dicks Creek Gap (US 76 between Clayton and Hiawassee) and GA 180 west of Wolf Pen Gap.. Also this week, GA 60 north of Woody Gap running through Suches and down to the Morganton/Blue Ridge areas should provide for some good color.

Mountain traffic on the weekends has been especially heavy this season with trailheads, overlooks, and other high profile locations crowded. While weekday traffic is also up this year, leaf peepers may want to consider a weekday trip to avoid the heaviest of the traffic and crowds.

10 thoughts on “GFC Leaf Watch: October 23, 2020

    1. You should still see nice color throughout north GA in early November. Leaves will begin to fall around mid-November, so the sooner the better if you want to see the beautiful leaves!

    1. We’re expecting the peak of leaf season to be around the end of October/first of November, so within the next couple of weeks.

  1. Planning to visit Cloudland Canyon. Best if visiting the week of Nov. 1st or Nov. 8th for peak in leaf color change?

  2. Hi! I’m finally able to break my elderly Mom out of her ACLF in Central Fl and bring her up this week to enjoy her favorite thing in life – fall leaves. Doing last-minute planning because we just got doctor’s ok. She has MS so mobility and accessibility are big issues. Want to mostly drive so am looking for roadside overlooks of mountains, valleys and perhaps even waterfalls. Need to find a nearby hotel with accommodations. Which highway and town do you recommend me focusing my search on?

  3. What is the estimated peak for middle ga? Like around the hills of Macon area below 1000ft but between 300 and 600ft elevation?

  4. Did the winds from Hurricane Zeta blow the leaves down in northern Georgia? Is it still near peak?

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