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Opportunities for viewing colorful fall foliage are dwindling, but there are still a few spots of color around north Georgia. While there isn’t a “go to” area to recommend visiting, the yellow-gold of hickories and the deep red-browns of the red oaks are still out there and looking good.

It should be noted that with leaves coming down, many roadside vistas that are obscured during the growing season are now clear. That makes it easier to see creeks, waterfalls and rock outcroppings on the mountain slopes, and those are beautiful sights to enjoy!

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Across North GA: 

Even the hardiest of the annual leaf peepers have to be feeling challenged this year due to the weather. While the leaf show is not over, it has started to wind down and continues to show the effects of wind and rain. At upper elevations many of the canopy trees have dropped their leaves, leaving understory and mid-story trees to carry the show. Overall, peak leaf viewing time has come and gone, but there are still gems to be found. Hickories can still be seen sporting some awesome golds, and maples continue to peak with their red/yellow/orange progression on different sites at different times, including this weekend. And you can still find dogwoods with vibrant reds; beeches transitioning from green to yellow to bronze; and the sweetgums with colors ranging from yellow to orange to red and purple! Most oaks have now also joined in, and we’ll continue to see them changing for the next couple of weeks with colors from vibrant red to golden yellows.

We frequently get a resurgence of color around the second week/weekend in November, as some of the late turners peak with an encore round generally composed of more earthy gold and orange tones, as opposed to the vibrant neons seen earlier.

Across the region, color change is about 80%.  This does mean that there are still trees beginning the transition, and some that have not started, so expect color to be common in many areas throughout the next 10 to 14 days.

Continued rain and wind have increased the rates at which our trees are losing leaves. With more rain this week and possible thunderstorms Friday we can expect more of the same.

For a scenic drive this weekend, the best color will be found in the lower mountains and upper piedmont.

In northeast GA, travel up to the Clarkesville/Cornelia area. You can drive

GA 197 north out of Clarkesville up towards Batesville, or take old US 123 from Cornelia towards Toccoa and Currahee Mountain.

In north central GA, head out of Calhoun on GA 53 and then turn north up towards Carters Lake on US 411. You can then head east on GA 136 over to Talking Rock and on to Jasper.

If you’re in or headed to northwest GA, go from Summerville on US 27 to Trion, and then up GA 151 to Ringgold.

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This week’s rain and wind left over from Hurricane Patricia have brought a lot of leaves to the ground across all of north Georgia. The effect of thinning the roadside canopy has been to open the view into the understory, where there is plenty to be seen.

The north Georgia fall foliage show is now in full swing! Hickories have emerged in the last seven days with brilliant golden yellows. Maples‘ multi-colored displays of bright reds, yellows and orange have intensified this week — and so have the sourwoods with their deep reds and burgundy.  The overstory yellow poplars are about finished for the season, though young understory poplars are just now producing some glowing yellow greens. Adding to the yellow spectrum in greater numbers this week are the birches and the beeches, while the blackgum and sweetgum continue to have impact with deep red and purples.  Sumacs are coming in with bright reds…and sassafras is showing off with yellow, reds and orange. And not to be left out, the mighty oaks are starting to make their transitions with color ranging – from the chestnut oaks’ golden yellows to the northern red and scarlet oaks’ deep reds.

Above 3000’ elevation is at or past peak (90% from green). 2000’-3000’ is peaking this week and weekend (80% from green). Below 2000’ much color is developing daily, and many areas will be peaking over the next 10 days (40% – 80%).

This weekend as well as next weekend will likely represent the peak for leaf viewing around the area, though we usually get a second wave starting about the second week in November when some of the late turners, especially oaks kick in.

Just about any drive in north Georgia over the next couple of weeks should provide the leaf- peeper ample opportunities for scenic views. 

In northeast GA try traveling up US 441 to Clayton and then turning west on US 76 to Hiawassee. An option here is to take GA 197 off of US 76 and travel around Lake Burton.

In north central GA head out of Ellijay on GA 52 towards Chatsworth and the Fort Mountain area.

In northwest GA head out of Lafayette on GA 136 and cruise over to the Cloudland Canyon/Lookout Mountain area for some higher elevation leaf peeping.


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Northeast and North Central GA:

Georgia Forestry Commission foresters report things have definitely moved into a higher gear this week, and again, altitude and latitude are key to enjoying the color. The highest elevations are approaching peak, though there is still green in the canopies. The deep reds of sourwood, dogwood, and maple make up most of the crimsons, and birch and hickories are showing their yellows and golds. The early turning poplar is still holding some yellows, though many leaves have been shed, leaving lacy openness in the canopies. Black gums are showing deep reds this week and redbuds are getting in on the act with their mellow yellows. On the highest ridges and in the highest gaps look for peak conditions to be from this weekend into next week. Below 3000’ elevation, things are also picking up a bit of speed, but slow and easy is the rule for the weekend. Peak at these locations is still expected the last week of October.

Northwest GA:

Poplars continue to provide yellows in the canopy and are dropping their leaves. Sourwood, dogwood, maple, and some individual sweetgum and blackgum leaves have turned to red and purple. Trees that enjoy open growing conditions show brighter colors at this time. The ridges that provide the best viewing options in Northwest Georgia are still a couple of weeks away from prime viewing (as shown in the attached pictures.)

Georgia Forestry Commission foresters estimate the percentage of color change from green to date is about 80% above 3000′ and 5-30% below 3000′.

Scenic drive suggestions this weekend:

In northeast/north central GA, travel on any of the high roads and passes through gaps will provide the best opportunities. Drive from Dahlonega up GA 60 to Suches and then to Moganton; or at Suches turn onto GA 180 and travel back over to US 129.

In northwest GA, James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park located off highway 27 near Taylor’s Ridge will provide good viewing opportunities. Many of the trees surrounding the park’s lake have changed color and provide a beautiful sight.


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The past five days have brought about noticeable change in north Georgia, with seasonal colors showing up above elevations of 3,000-feet. Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) foresters estimate 40% color change from green in these locations; just about 10% in lower areas.

As is true each year, northeast Georgia kicks in before northwest Georgia. At the higher elevations in northeast Georgia you’ll find sourwood, maple and dogwood showing deep reds and burgundies, and sumacs are also beginning to show bright reds.

Even below 3,000 feet, yellow poplars are in full swing, and sourwoods, dogwoods and maples are beginning to peek through the green. Some sweetgums are also beginning to pop with yellows and purples.

Northwest Georgia isn’t seeing a lot of leaf change yet, though you will see some poplars turning yellow and dropping their leaves. Sourwood, dogwood, maple and some individual sweetgum and blackgum are beginning to turn to red and purple.

Weather conditions expected for the next week are the perfect recipe for fall foliage colors: dropping temperatures and sunny days!

GFC foresters say the last two weekends in October will be the peak of the season for leaf watching, but scenic views can be enjoyed from now into November.


For some pretty viewing this weekend, drive north out of Cleveland on US 129 to GA 180 East, and then to GA 348 / the Richard Russell Highway. You’ll pass through Neels Gap and Testnatee and Hog Pen Gaps, which offer nice upper elevation vistas.

A trip to Brasstown Bald on the GA 180 Spur would also been an excellent choice – just be sure your brakes are in good shape for those steep grades.

For more information about leaf change and services provided by the

Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org.

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Northwest Georgia:

Northwest Georgia typically lags behind northeast Georgia in fall foliage changes, but in the higher elevations colors are beginning to emerge. Yellow poplars are showing some yellows, while dogwood and sourwood are also turning shades of deep red and burgundy, especially those in full sun.

For an early view of the changes, drive to higher elevations of 3000 to 3500 feet. Maples, yellow birch and cherries are starting to change as well.

Northeast Georgia:

This part of Georgia is always first to show change because of its higher elevations. Cooler temperatures and sunshine spark leaf changes. A ride up the Richard Russell Highway will provide plenty of pretty views, with many of the early species changes we’re beginning to see in northwest Georgia.

Watch for yellow poplars, maples, sourwoods and dogwoods and get a jump on the annual color show!

#gatrees #leafwatch2015

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At the Georgia Urban Forest Council’s annual College Tree Canopy Conference, held at Agnes Scott College (ASC) on Sept. 22, student Claudia Mitchell provided a presentation on the Urban Forest Sustainability & Management Audit System, designed to provide a framework for comprehensively evaluating urban forest management programs.

The primary objectives of the audit are to:

  • engage the full spectrum of the organizations’ management team: executive, financial, resource, and outreach,
  • provide program direction that increases the level of professionalism in urban forest management,
  • conduct a gap analysis of management practices and the health of green assets
  • increase the health of the green assets managed by the program, and…
  • optimize this management for identified ecosystem services (i.e. reach an acceptable benefit:cost ratio).

This audit system (the checklist and the process) can be used for municipal or county urban forest management programs, or to evaluate college or corporate campus management programs. The system is particularly suited for the independent evaluation of participants in Arbor Day Foundation programs like Tree Campus USA®, Tree City USA® or Tree Line USA®.

The checklist and spreadsheet tool were developed in cooperation with Agnes Scott College Office of Sustainability and the ASC Arboretum Advisory Committee. Agnes Scott College is located in Decatur, Georgia.

The information for this article was provided by the Leaves of Change Weekly of the Centers for Urban and Interface Forestry.


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