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Environment & Science

Pa. officials release 1st fall foliage report of the season. When will the Lehigh Valley see peak colors?

Helfrich Springs Grist Mill for fall foliage story
Donna Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
Fall colors are in full display outside Helfrich Springs Grist Mill along Mickley Road in Whitehall Township in this file photo.

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on Thursday released the season's first fall foliage report
  • The Lehigh Valley generally peaks in mid-to-late October
  • Residents shared several of their favorite leaf-peeping spots in the Valley

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Stores across the Lehigh Valley are already packed with Halloween candy and decorations, and autumnal festivals are scheduled.

But the leaves on the Valley’s trees haven’t changed much yet from green to brilliant yellows, oranges and reds — and it could be weeks until the region’s fall foliage reaches its peak.

"After a long spring drought, timely summer rainfall and moderate temperatures helped to green the canopy of Penn’s Woods, setting the stage for a very colorful autumn display," according to a post on the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Facebook page. "Fall temperatures seemed to arrive earlier than in recent years, compelling noticeable changes throughout commonwealth forests."

State officials on Thursday released the commonwealth’s first fall foliage report, an annual effort that maps the state’s six-week leaf-peeping season. While the Lehigh Valley is still a few weeks away from peak fall colors, residents can use the reports to plan outdoor activities.

"Peak color throughout most of the Keystone State should center around mid-October," according to the post.

The report, — for "week one," which runs from Thursday through Wednesday — shows only a handful of Pennsylvania’s northernmost counties are “approaching best color,” the majority the state either in “starting to change” or “no change” categories.

The Lehigh Valley was included in the latter.

Generally, the Valley hits peak in mid-to-late October, with leaves changing colors from north to south as the region moves into fall. However, temperatures and precipitation can change the schedule.

Earlier this month, Ryan Reed, a program specialist with the state DCNR, said September temperatures could impact when the region moves into peak.

His seventh year forecasting fall foliage for the state, Reed said he’d rather it be a little too dry than too wet, as persistent moisture could have a negative impact.

It is unclear how rainy weather to end this week followed by above-average temperatures could impact the leaves.

“Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation — or anywhere in the world."
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

“Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation — or anywhere in the world,” according to the state DCNR’s website. “ … Pennsylvania’s location between 40° and 42° North latitude and its varied topography from sea level on the coastal plain to over 3,000 feet in the Laurel Highlands supports 134 species of trees and many more shrubs and vines that contribute to the display of autumn color.”

While residents wait for peak colors, there’s time to plan outdoor excursions to get the best leaf-peeping views. LehighValleyNews.com this week asked readers for the best places to enjoy fall foliage across the region.

Below, find some some hikes and a drive offering the best views:

Have a favorite hike, drive or park to enjoy the fall foliage? Email mollyb@lehighvalleynews.com.