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When will you see the best fall colors in Virginia this year?

View from Draper Valley overlook outside Pulaski, Virginia. Variety of coloring, including yellow, orange, and red can be seen in trees. Photo taken Oct. 27, 2022.
Roxy Todd
Radio IQ
View from Draper Valley overlook outside Pulaski, Virginia. Photo taken Oct. 27, 2022.

Fall is officially here. Pumpkins and warm soups could be how you mark the change in season, or maybe it’s a drive out to the mountains to see trees changing color.

Predicting the exact peak for foliage season isn’t a perfect science, and weather can vary the dates, but late October will probably be the time when you can see the brightest colors, according to John Seiler, a professor of tree biology at Virginia Tech. This is the normal time of year for the peak of trees turning color, and it’s marked by the longer nights.

He said some trees, like black gum and hackberries, are already turning. Others, like Oak, wait until October, and into November. To see the best colors, Seiler advises getting out on state roads, where trees face the sun at different angles.

“South versus northeast versus west and everything in between,” Seiler said.

As you change which direction you’re facing, you’ll see more variation in tree species, and colors.

“If one side of the mountain doesn’t look so good, well maybe the other side will,” Seiler said. Grinning, he added, “it’s not good for the car sick people, but you want to find a road that has a lot of winding and up and down.”

The New River Valley had a fair amount of rainfall this summer, but other areas had periods of drought, which could lead to a less inspiring show. If you get further down into the Mount Rogers area, you’ll see more variation of altitude, which means trees may change color sooner.

Compared with New England, Virginia has a longer stretch of time when you can see more colors. That’s because we have forests with more variety in our tree species—more than just maple.

Seiler said anytime in the next six weeks you will likely see trees changing in the Commonwealth.

Tree in Blacksburg, bright red in fall. Taken Oct. 20, 2022.
Roxy Todd
Radio IQ
Tree in Blacksburg. Taken Oct. 20, 2022.

Updated: September 21, 2023 at 1:30 PM EDT
Editor's Note: Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.