Fall Foliage report: Washington, Frederick counties very near peak

26 October 2023- With colors intensifying across the state this week, parts of Maryland are right on the cusp of peak leaf change. The mountains of western Maryland are seeing bold shades of amber, crimson and gold, while other regions of our state are reporting marked increases in autumnal hues, spreading further along the tree canopies in central, northern, and southern Maryland. This weekend’s weather promises to bring warmer than average temperatures to the region, and we’re embracing the shift – and the burst in fall color – by including some of our best locations to enjoy a walk in the woods at one of our state parks and forests.

Western Maryland

As many Marylanders eagerly anticipate peak leaf peeper conditions, Forest Manager Sean Nolan thinks we still have a few days to go, even in Garrett County.

Hues of russet and copper provide a perfect fall backdrop to the concession center at Cunningham Falls State Park. Photo by Seasonal Ranger Carson Delauter.

“I can’t say I’ve noticed much change since last week,” he said. “There are certainly colors to see but the oak trees are still in the early phases of their transition. I would put this week in the ‘near peak’ category again.” Much of Garrett’s forested areas are dominated by oaks, typically the last tree to turn during the fall season. “We often base our peak conditions on the changing of the oak leaves,” added Nolan.

“Fall has arrived in full splendor” in Frederick County, according to Cunningham Falls State Park Manager Mark Spurrier. Cunningham Falls is located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains, an ideal spot for viewing fall’s bounty of colors.

Beaver pond provides reflection to yellow and orange treetops at Fort Frederick State Park. Photo by Seasonal Ranger Stacey Jones.

Walk in the Woods: The William Houck Area of the park offers five easy trails to choose from, ranging from a half-mile to two miles in length. 

Gorgeous autumnal views in Clear Spring. Photo by Forester Aaron Cook.

Aaron Cook, Project Manager/Forester in Clear Spring, predicts Washington and Frederick counties will reach peak leaf change next week as the area enjoys another weather pattern of sun-filled days and crisp, starry nights.  

“The leaves in Clear Spring are nearly peak; Sideling Hill is also pretty close,” said Cook. “South Mountain oaks are starting to pop, but most of the color on the ridge is from red maple which has just about peaked and is fading. Down by Sugarloaf the color is a little less uniform and a tad bit behind. If you get into the woods, rather than taking in the view from afar, it is very colorful and almost overwhelming. Anyone out for a hike on a trail at our parks, or afield hunting game will be able to enjoy the fall colors and smells.”

Forest Manager Scott Campbell checks in from Potomac-Garrett State Forest this week: “The lingering green of the oaks has given way to subdued yellow, orange and brown hues and the maples are standouts in vibrant yellows and oranges.

Sunrise at Piney Mountain in Garrett State Forest on the opening day of the black bear hunting season. Photo by Forest Manager Scott Campbell.