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Fall Color Guy gives foliage forecast

GREENVILLE, S.C. – It’s Fall, y’all! If you’re anything like us, you can’t wait for the leaves to start changing colors. We wanted to learn more about what to expect this leaf-peeping season, so we sat down with Appalachian State University’s Dr. Howard S. Neufeld. You may know him as the Fall Color Guy.

The Fall Color Guy Facebook account has more than 19,000 followers. While he is a biology professor at the college, he is also a Fall foliage expert who many people rely on for accurate information.

Of course, we had to ask how he got his nickname.

“I was doing the color predictions for NC Tourism for awhile and then I went off to do this by myself. Someone suggested that I should be called Dr. Leaf, and I didn’t really like that,” Dr. Neufeld said. “I wanted to be a little more relevant to most people, so I said, ‘Why not just do Fall Color Guy?’ And that seemed to stick, so I’ve been doing that for the last 15 years.”

While the Fall Color Guy page mainly focuses on North Carolina, he also shares articles about Fall foliage around the country.

On August 30, he posted the average times to see peak color by elevation:

• Above 4,500’: late Sept. into first week of Oct.
• 4,500’ down to 3,000’: around Oct. 10 to Oct. 20
• 3,000’ down to 2,000’: Oct. 20 – Oct. 31
• 2,000’ down to 1,000’: Oct. 31 to Nov 14
• Below 1,000’: Nov. 14 to end of Nov.

What are his current predictions for this year? 

“The thing that gives me some hope for a good Fall-color season is that we’re not in a severe drought situation. Even though it hasn’t rained for a number of days now, we recently had five inches of rain here a week and a half ago,” he explained. “So the trees have plenty of water; they’ll hold onto their leaves into the Fall-color season. We’ve had this nice, cool weather. The nights are really cool, and that’s really jump started the trees. When we have clear, sunny days and cool nights, that’s when you get your most vibrant colors and when they come on time. If we get warm conditions in the late part of September and early October, it can delay the onset of the colors, which has happened in some years.”

“We’re starting to see color at the higher elevations. We’re even seeing it now in the 3,000-4,000 foot [elevation], but it’s only about 10 percent color. It’s still mostly green, but you’re starting to see hints of color.”

When is best time to go leaf peeping around western North Carolina?

“So the Asheville area is around 2,400 feet in elevation. The lower down you are, the later the colors peak. So, right in the Asheville, Hendersonville, maybe a little bit of northern South Carolina [area], you’re looking at the latter part of October if it’s on time. But if you go to Asheville and you go up on the [Blue Ridge] Parkway and drive at the higher elevations, the colors are going to peak there sooner. I published a table a couple weeks ago, showing when the peak colors would be at different elevations. If you’re around 3,000 to 4,000 feet on the Parkway, that’s mid-October. If you’re higher, that’s going to be the beginning of October maybe even the end of September. And if you’re in the Asheville area and you want to see trees, like at the Biltmore Estate and places like that, it’s going to be the latter part, say the 20th to the end of October.”

“When you get below 2,000 feet, like Chimney Rock State Park or Stone Mountain State Park over in Wilkes County, they usually have their peak the first week of November.”

Dr. Neufeld said this area has the longest Fall-color season in the country. He suggested visiting higher elevations at the start of the season and lower elevations as the season progresses.

“You can see color all the way from the end of September to all the way through the middle of November,” he explained.

Tips:

  1. For the best pictures, get out early in the morning or wait until dusk. When the sun is at a lower angle, you’ll get better color saturation. You’ll get more vibrant colors in your photos.
  2. Beat the crowd by going out in the mornings and evenings compared to the middle of the day.
  3. Plan to leaf peep on weekdays if possible.
  4. Check to see if you need a reservation. Some parks require reservations to visit.

For more information and the latest predictions, follow the Fall Color Guy on Facebook.

To see his weekly Fall Color Reports, click here.

 

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