Northwest GA Specific (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):
Cooler nights, sunny days, and adequate rainfall are signaling the beginning of the fall foliage season. Trees are on track to display vivid changes in color over the next four weeks.
Overlooks and ridges are still predominately green with sparse patches of red and yellow. Above 1500 feet, a small percentage of blackgum, sourwood, red maple, and dogwood are shifting from green to differing shades of red. Poplar and hickory are still predominately green, but are beginning to show shades of yellow and brown. In the lower elevations, a select few red maples and dogwoods are beginning to transition from green to light shades of red. Oak, birch, redbud, hickory, and remaining species are starting to shed leaves but have yet to show much change in color.
Overall, total foliage color change is less than 5%, but is most noticeable in areas above 1500 feet. The Lookout Mountain and Fort Mountain areas are currently showing similar characteristics in foliage color change. Grassy Mountain at 3600 feet showed a small increase in color change compared to areas below 3000 feet.
Suggested scenic drive:
From I-75 take Hwy 136 to the top of Lookout Mountain. 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.
Northeast GA Specific:
While it’s early in the season, many of the understory trees are exhibiting fair to moderate color.
Above 3000’ oaks are fading to lighter shades of green and other species’ underlying colors are beginning to peek through. Sourwood is starting to take on some bright reds, with many remaining that have yet to begin the color transition. Dogwoods have developed a deep burgundy and black gum trees are exhibiting some vibrant reds. The overstory coloration change is dominated by yellow poplar and birches, with the best bright yellows and golds in ravines and roadways above 1500 feet.
Roadsides are providing the best color at this time with most of the understory trees now visible. Yellow poplar and birches also occupy much of the roadways, providing a draping canopy of gold and yellow. Many yellow poplars are currently shedding leaves, with leaf showers common along your drive. However, there is still a solid population of poplar that are just beginning to turn.
Estimated percentage of color change from green to date: 10% above 3000’; 5% or less below 3000’.
With temperatures holding around average and diminishing rain chances by this weekend, 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.
Suggested NE scenic drive:
Richard Russell Hwy maples, sourwood and blackgum are showing nice reds, and yellow poplars and birch are showing beautiful yellows. GA 180 east of US 129 is especially nice for these species. Higher elevation drives provide the best color opportunity.
Oktoberfest is starting in Helen this month, and the Blairsville Sorghum festival is taking place this weekend as well. From the alpine village on the Unicoi Turnpike (GA 17), yellow poplars are showing some nice golds climbing towards Brasstown Bald. GA 180 from Brasstown towards Blairsville gives you some more reds with the Sourwoods.