Lowering temperatures and adequate rainfall has led to the beginning of foliage color change in NW GA. Overlooks and ridges are still predominately green with an occasional patch of red or yellow. Red maple, sumac, and blackgum are primarily responsible for the various patches of red, while hickory and poplar are providing shades of yellow and brown.

Sweetgum also provides a few areas of color showing occasional shades of dull red and brown, but still mostly green. Sourwood is primarily green with a few hints of red in higher elevations. Oak, birch, redbud, hickory, and remaining species are starting to shed leaves and beginning to show faint shades of yellow. At all elevations, dogwood appears to be the first species to show the most significant changes in color as it has already transformed from green to a mix of dull and deep reds while red maple is close behind.

The Lookout Mountain and Fort Mountain areas are currently showing similar characteristics in foliage color change. Color change is steadily increasing every week; however, it is about a week behind schedule compared to the previous year.

Species highlights:

  • Sourwood – mostly green but showing hints of red in higher elevation
  • Sassafras – fading to yellow with hints of red
  • Sweetgum – fading to red and yellow

Percentage of color change from green to date: 10%.

The previous wet summer should increase the chances of having a good season, barring any major storm events.

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.

North Central:

Yellows and golds of the poplars and birches mark the most noticeable changes in canopy this week. Roadsides continue to show reds with sourwood, dogwood, and sumac. Sweetgum is also showing some dull yellows along roads and river corridors. Oaks and maples are showing some nice reds at elevation. Overall, our canopies across the region are a majority green with some golds present throughout.

Species specifics:

  • Dogwood – Red / Burgundy
  • Birch – Yellow
  • Yellow-poplar – Yellow/Gold
  • Sourwood – Red / Burgundy
  • Sumac – Bright Reds
  • Maple – Muted to Bright Reds
  • Oak – Above 3000’ beginning changes to reds
  • Blackgum – Showing some good reds/increasing in color
  • Sweetgum-Yellow

Est. percentage of color change from green to date: 15-20% above 3000’; 10% or less below 3000’.

The 15-day forecast is excellent for continued color development. Overnight lows dropping into the 40-50s should really make the colors pop out from green. Peak time still expected in early Nov.

Scenic No. Central drive:

Higher elevations continue to provide the best color opportunities this early in the season. The Georgia Mountain Fall Festival continues this weekend in Hiawassee. Leaving the festival, take US 76 towards Blue Ridge. The gain and loss of elevation should provide some nice variation in colors.


This weekend should kick off significant changes, especially in higher elevations. Understory trees are exhibiting moderate to exceptional color. Sourwood is bright red in color, and the vast majority of all dogwoods have changed from red to burgundy, with many accented with bright red berries. Lower elevations are still primarily dominated by yellows from poplars and birches. Areas with meadows are enhanced with the addition of a full bloom of asters, golden rods, wild sunflowers, and bright red sumac. A combination of this and a hint of color change in the rolling hills make for a spectacular drive.

This week the canopies are starting to see most coloration occur in elevations above 2500’. Above 3000’ oaks are starting to be accented around the perimeter of their leaves with gold/yellow and light red. If you go on a clear day, the areas around Brasstown Bald are showing the most overall color for the northeastern region.

Roadsides are the dominant place to witness color change below 2500’ this week. This is primarily due to the abundance of understory trees such as dogwood, sourwood, sassafras, black gum, and the presence of birches, poplars, and sweet gums in the overstory.

Species specifics:

  • Dogwood – Red / Burgundy
  • Birch – Yellow
  • Yellow-poplar – Yellow/Gold
  • Sourwood – Red / Burgundy
  • Sumac – Bright to deep reds
  • Maple – Yellow to red on many
  • Oak – Above 3000’ beginning changes to light reds and yellows, especially on north-facing slopes.
  • Sweetgum Purple to yellow
  • Hickory- Yellow

Percentage of color change from green to date: 20% above 3000’; 10% or less below 3000’.

If forecasts hold true, next week should bring about rapid changes, with bright sunny days and cool nights. Peak time below 3000’ elevation should occur the last week of October and in to early November. Above 3000’ we may see the beginning of peak by the third week of October based on the percentage of trees that are beginning to fade from full green. The heavy rains we experienced over the last week have had an impact on leaf loss for birches and poplars, placing them at their peak this week.

Scenic northeast drive:

The Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway and roads transecting northern-facing slopes, along with Hwy 180.

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