Fall will officially begin Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 3:20 p.m. EDT. The West Virginia Tourism Office is set to post updates to keep leaf peepers informed on where to find the most spectacularly brilliant sites as the Mountain State adorns its amber, apricot and ruby garments.
This is the most perfect time of year to plot a road trip around the state to catch nature’s glorious display before it’s gone. The Tourism Office provides details for the best route to take, links to sign up for emailed weekly updates and an inspiration guide.
“Nature works her astounding magic every autumn in West Virginia” notes the WV Tourism Office. “As the third most forested state, our hallowed country roads are a sight to behold in the fall. Download your free fall inspiration guide today for insider tips on where to find the best leaves, scenic drives, hidden gems and more. Peace and quiet, panoramic views and pumpkin spice await, all in the mountains of Almost Heaven.”
The Old (often relied upon) Farmer’s Almanac explains more about the fall season noting, “The autumnal equinox — also called the September or fall equinox — is the astronomical start of the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere and of the spring season in the Southern Hemisphere. The word “equinox” comes from Latin aequus, meaning ‘equal,’ and nox, ‘night.’ On the equinox, day and night are roughly equal in length.”
The Farmer’s Almanac expounds on the word equinox when the “Sun crosses what we call the “celestial equator” — an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line. When the Sun crosses the equator from north to south, this marks the autumnal equinox; when it crosses from south to north, this marks the vernal equinox.”
Astronomy, a molten ball 92,955,828 miles above the Earth, where in the world that celestial object crosses, how long the days and nights are — what does any of this have to do with amazing color along the hills of West Virginia?
The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) answers this question, “As summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaf to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and the reds, oranges, and yellows become visible.”
NOAA further explains, “In the fall, trees put on a pretty impressive fashion show. Leaves that were green all summer long start to turn bright red, orange, and yellow. But where do these colors come from? It all starts inside the leaf. Leaves are green in the spring and summer because that’s when they are making lots of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important because it helps plants make energy from sunlight — a process called photosynthesis. The summer sunlight triggers the leaves to keep making more chlorophyll. But trees are very sensitive to changes in their environment.”
According to the WV Tourism Office, those anticipating autumn’s splendor can begin seeking it out starting late this month and early into October in the Potomac Highlands, billed as “a leaf peepers paradise on U.S. 48 and U.S. 219.”
Perfect for a day trip, “The Potomac Highlands region is a mecca for spots with incredible fall beauty. Follow the timber flanked roads on U.S. 48 and appreciate the charming mountain towns along U.S. 219 to Canaan Valley Resort State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park and the Monongahela National Forest, which all boast stunning fall foliage. But that’s not all if you’re looking for some more jaw-dropping views this fall, visit the overlooks at Pase Point, Lindy Point, Table Rock, old Olsen Fire Tower or catch the changing colors of the beautiful blueberry bushes at Dolly Sods. The leaves in the Potomac Highlands change just in time for the Leaf Peepers Festival in the rural town of Davis, held annually the last full week of September.”
If that neck of the woods is too far, by mid to late October, “Take in the amber mountain views on U.S. 19. Venture further south on U.S. 19 and experience the beautiful New River – Greenbrier Valley region in the fall. Here you can surround yourself with beautiful leaves and visit iconic spots at every corner.
The New River Gorge Bridge is the perfect backdrop to any photo or head to Grandview, which always provides stunning views. Visit Hawks Nest State Park and ride the aerial tramway for a close-up of the leaves and go up to the park’s scenic overlook for a bird’s eye view of the New River Gorge National River. Babcock State Park is one of the most iconic fall spots thanks to its changing leaves and the Glade Creek Grist Mill.”
Visit wvtourism.com/seasons/fall/scenic-drives for other routes that the most avid seeker of colorful foliate can travel from late September clear up until Halloween without experiencing the same view twice.