Northwest GA Specific (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):
Fall color change in Northwest GA remains approximately one week behind last year. Many areas from 1500 to 3000 feet are currently at peak, displaying a wide variety of vivid yellows and dull reds. A large percentage of red maple have transformed into differing shades of bright and vivid yellows with occasional reds dramatically changing the views seen from overlooks and valleys. Chestnut oak, red oak, and white oak have made significant changes as they are currently exhibiting shades of gold, brown, and yellow.
While oak and maple have made the largest contributions to overall color this week, previously vivid sourwood, blackgum, and dogwood have surpassed peak. Leaves have dropped and bright shades of red are becoming less vibrant. Yellow poplar has also made significant changes as nearly all of their leaves have dropped resulting in patches with little to no color. A larger percentage of sweetgum are showing colors ranging from dull red and maroon to yellow and brown. Hickory continues to retain leaves displaying a range of vibrant yellows.
Overall, total color change is around 75% as overlooks and ridges have shifted to a range of dull yellow, brown, and gold with occasional patches of maroon and vibrant yellow. Views from Lookout Mountain and Fort Mountain are showing similar characteristics in color as many species are at or approaching peak. Rain and wind intensity throughout the coming week will be the predominant factor in whether overall color change will increase or disappear as winter rapidly approaches.
- Dogwood – fading to maroon and brown with significant leaf loss
- Birch – fading to brown and yellow
- Yellow-poplar – most of the leaves have dropped. Remaining few leaves show yellow or brown.
- Redbud – fading to yellow
- Sourwood – vivid and deep reds fading to yellow and maroon
- Sumac – bright reds are beginning to dull
- Maple – shifting from green to yellow or red
- Birch – mostly green with brown edges
- Oak – green slowly fading to brown with occasional dull reds
- Blackgum – Vibrant reds beginning to dull or fade to yellow
- Sassafras – shows a variety of yellow, orange, and red
- Sweetgum – fading to dull red and maroon
- Hickory – continues to display a range of yellow
Estimated percentage of color change from green to date: 75%
Many areas are currently at peak while others are soon to follow. Lack of severe wind or rain throughout the following week has encouraged leaf retention and led to progressive increases in foliage color change.
Scenic NW drive:
Take Hwy 136 to the top of lookout mountain from I-75. Turn right onto Hwy 189 (or continue on 136 and turn right to go to Cloudland Canyon). Follow Hwy 189 to Sunset Rock, Point Park, or Rock City. Drop down into Chattanooga via Ochs Hwy / 58. Then take Hwy 193 back to Hwy 136.
Higher elevations have likely reached the “peak” color change. Oaks have turned and create that bronze color we all love to see. Some early turning species like poplar have faded, but a majority of the canopy is showing great color. The variation of reds from the sumac, sourwood, and dogwoods contrasts with golds from the remaining birch leaves. Sassafras has also showed up with their own yellow/orange contributions. Lower elevations are likely a week or two behind on peak time.
- Dogwood – Red / Burgundy
- Birch – Yellow
- Yellow-poplar – Sparse Yellow/Gold
- Sourwood – Red / Burgundy
- Sumac – Bright Reds
- Maple –Bright Reds
- Beech-Slight Yellows
- Oak – Bronze and Yellows
- Blackgum – Reds
- Sassafras – Yellows
- Hickory-Beginning to show yellows
Estimated percentage of color change from green to date: 75% above 3000’; 45% or less below 3000’.
November’s cooler weather has prompted more changes in leaf color change has improved the last few weeks. High elevations have reached peak, but north GA isn’t far behind and the next few weeks should yield some great color.
The continued pattern of sunny warm days with cool night temperatures make for favorable conditions. Last year we lost a lot of the color due to high winds and storms. Fortunately, we have not had that issue this year. Enjoy the fall colors that have been able to persist this year.
Scenic NC drive:
Most of the routes through the North GA mountains will yield beautiful color this week. Richard Russell Parkway is always a crowd favorite. State parks like Vogel offer some great opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy this crisp fall weather and beautiful fall colors. Roadways with elevation changes will display the color variation really well.
Understory colors are still dominated by the sourwood and younger maples, Sourwood ranges from a deep glowing red to dark pink while maple ranges from deep red to light yellow. Overstory trees in the upper elevations are dominated by oaks that are ranging from light yellow to deep red. River corridors are exhibiting a lot of yellow in both the understory and overstory. This is contributed by the Yellow birches which are quickly losing their leaves. Very little green is found above 1500 feet within the deciduous species.
Elevations above 3000 feet are within peak period and elevations above 4000 feet are past peak. Elevations above 2000 feet are entering peak. Species that have begun to fade are river birch, dogwood, black gum, and yellow poplar.
- Dogwood – primarily complete
- Birch – Yellow Birch Good/ River Birch Poor
- Yellow-poplar – Defoliated/Brown but past peak
- Sourwood – Bright Red / Burgundy
- Sumac – Bright to deep reds
- Maple – Above 2000 feet most are yellow/red with many fully changed but good color in all elevations
- Oak – Above 2500’ light red/yellow with some deep and bright reds
- Black gum –Red/ Fading
- Sassafras – Reds and Orange.
- Sweetgum Purple to Yellow and some Red
- Hickory- Yellow/ Bright Yellow
Estimated percentage of color change from green to date: 100% above 2500’; 85 % or less below 2500’.
Cooler temperatures through this week and into the weekend should create conditions that will accelerate the transition process. This will likely shorten the season, but increase the intensity of coloration.
Below freezing temperatures later in the week in higher elevations will bring the growing season to a close. Due to this, many of the higher elevations will be within or possibly past peak season.
The Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway has the best coloration for species that are in peal this week. Highway 180 has good roadside views and views of changing mountainsides. In the lower elevations, leaf colorations along roadsides are beginning to have a good display for viewing.
The Southern Highroads trail is also nice with many spectacular views of oak-covered mountains and agricultural fields in the foreground.