CLEVELAND, Ohio – Fall officially starts this week, but you’ll have to wait a bit longer for peak autumn color.
Trees in the northern third of the state are expected to reach peak color change by the week of Oct. 16, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
David Parrott, a forester with the department, is out with his annual fall-color forecast and it comes with a caveat: Weather this year has been so variable across the state that any predictions are subject to change.
In particular, dry weather in the southern half of Ohio may yield stressed trees that change their colors early.
“I’m hopeful that this year will give us the same spectacular fall color we saw last year,” he said. “However, due to the weather being so dry now in some places, it might result in earlier leaf drop in some trees.”
Southern Ohio, in particular, is already seeing some trees change, said Parrott, who typically works in Portsmouth, along the Ohio River.
Despite a dry September so far, Cleveland is still 5.5 inches above average for precipitation this year, due primarily to summer storms in July and August, according to the National Weather Service. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is about 2 inches below normal for year-to-date precipitation.
Parrott predicts peak fall color in central Ohio for the week of Oct. 23.
In Southern Ohio, peak fall color should arrive the week of Oct. 30.
Parrott noted that his prediction is subject to adjustments. “Things can change very quickly,” he said.
Two years ago, he said, a warm rainy fall yielded colors that were underwhelming. Last year, conditions were perfect, including average summer rainfall followed by ideal autumn conditions. “When we got to fall, it was dry with crisp sunny days and those cool evenings. That’s how we get those red colors.”
The state Department of Natural Resources will again track color change across Ohio, with observers at state parks and forests noting hue variations weekly on an online map. Changes should be updated on Thursdays at fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov.
The state website also has information on popular fall events; places to hike, mountain bike, kayak and more; plus places to stay overnight in the parks, including camping, cabins and 10 overnight park lodges.
Meanwhile, the state tourism website, at Ohio.org, also offers lots of fall travel ideas, including 100 Things To Do in Ohio This Fall; a list of events and festivals; a recommended fall foliage road trip; haunted Ohio options and more.
And if your travels take you out of Ohio, check out the interactive fall color map put together by the tourism site SmokyMountains.com. A sliding button at the bottom of the map shows how fall color is expected to progress from north to south, Maine to Florida. The site is predicting that peak fall color in most of Michigan, for example, will arrive the week of Oct. 9.