Where and when to see fall color in Ohio

Latest Update: 10/27/2017

According to the Fall Color Report almost the entire state is at peak fall color now with the following exceptions:

Northwest Ohio
Harrison Lake State Park — Fall colors are fading
Southeast Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park — Near-peak fall color
Southwest Ohio
Pike Lake State Park — Near-peak fall color

According to Ohio forester Casey Burdick, yellows are dominating the fall color palette this year due to the warm weather we had just preceding the development of leaf color.

Typical Development of Fall Color in Ohio

Traditionally fall color in Ohio develops as described below, with peak fall color moving from north to south:

  • Northern Ohio: end of 2nd full week of October (with the exception of trees along Lake Erie)
  • Central Ohio: end of 3rd full week of October (plus trees near the Lake Erie shoreline)
  • Southern Ohio: toward the end of October

At least that’s is how fall color develops in theory. However, in practice I have noticed that peak fall color sometimes arrives at the end of the second full week of October throughout most of the state.

We get our best fall color when there is a decent amount of rain throughout the growing season and when autumn days are bright and sunny, while autumn nights are cold, but not freezing.

Some of the earliest displays of fall color are seen in these two vines: Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper, both of which can turn bright red. Among early changing trees are the sycamore and cottonwood. These trees are found in low-lying areas and turn yellow. And the Ohio Buckeye Tree also shows color early, with leaves varying from golden to red hues.

At near peak fall color the leaves on our hickory and yellow poplar trees turn yellow. Maple trees often show off dazzling reds.

Online Fall Color Report

A great way to keep track of the development of fall color across the state is to check out the Fall Color Report at Ohio.org. This page is updated weekly throughout the fall. It has a map of Ohio that is a bit like a weather map, but is marked by leaves that change color at different Ohio sites as the season progresses.

Where to View Fall Color

Great destinations include hilly terrain, shorelines, tree lines at the edge of fields, and fire towers. At TrekOhio we’ve posted a list of Ohio’s Scenic Overlooks that you might want to consider as possible viewing destinations. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) also publishes Fall Foliage Reports to help you find colorful, fall locales. Among other things, they suggest routes for Fall Color Driving Tours and identify some of the state’s fire towers that provide great views. If you live in or near Lake County, you might want to look at some of their suggested fall-color hikes.

According to National Geographic’s article, Top 10 Places to See Autumn Leaves, Holmes County, Ohio is one of the top ten places in the world for enjoying fall color. If you like to cycle, there is an excellent bike trail in the county. The area is a well-known site to experience Amish culture, whether that be food or crafts.

Sharing Your Photos

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) encourages people to use a hashtag when posting fall photos on social media (like Facebook or Instagram). Generally, it is in the form of #OhioFall followed by the last two digits for the year. So for the current season this will probably be #OhioFall17. In the past ODRN has awarded prizes to some of the best photos. If they offer prizes for the current year, I will announce that here.

10/5/2017 Update on fall photos: ODNR is encouraging people to upload their fall-color photos to social media with the hashtag #OhioFall17, but it sounds like doing so does not enter your photo into a photo contest. Nonetheless, there is still a photo contest taking place, but the submitted photos can be in any one of six categories, and the focus is on our state parks in general, not fall-color (check out the rules). According to ODNR:

ODNR and TourismOhio encourage people to take fall color photos and upload them to social media using the hashtag #OhioFall17. Follow @ohiodnr and @OhioFindItHere on Twitter, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio. Find it Here. on Facebook and @OhioDNR, @OHStateParks and @Ohiogram on Instagram to see more fall color photos.

Ohio State Parks is also having a photo contest this fall. Help us highlight the best of the great outdoors in a variety of categories for a chance to win great prizes, including free camping and gift cards! Enter today at ohiostateparksphotocontest.reserveamerica.com.

Videos from the Division of Forestry

The Division of Forestry publishes weekly videos with updated information on the state’s fall color. Below I’ve embedded their most recent video: 2017 Fall Color Update #4. If you’d like to watch it directly at YouTube, here’s the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwl80HSrK9M

Forester Casey Burdick listed four state park events in her latest video that might be of interest. All are being held on Oct. 28th:

  • Lake Hope State Park — ROAR Day: Celebrate Appalachian culture through crafts, music, food, and fun. Celebrate Appalachian Halloween too! (10am – 4pm)
  • Shawnee State Park — Un-haunted Forest: Bring the family on this guided walk lit by lanterns to learn more about creatures of the night on an easy ½ mile loop trail, costumed animal characters tell their stories, marshmallow roasting and music around the campfire, birds of prey and much more. (6-9pm)
  • Findley State Park — Venison Chili Cook Off: Join us at the campground pavilion for this contest. Participants must pre-register for park provided venison. Chili will be judged for prizes and enjoyed by other contestants and on-lookers. Please call the park office at (440) 647-5749 ext#100 or 102 for more information. (1-3pm)
  • Burr Oak State Park — Halloween Spooktacular! Come out for an evening full of fun activities for all ages. Pumpkin carving and kids’ activities from 5-7 pm. A Spooktacular Night Hike at 7 pm featuring animals associated with Halloween. Campfire and s’mores at 8:30 pm. Activities meet at the lodge shelter house except for the night hike which meets at the lodge boat ramp. For more information, call 740-767-2981. (5-9pm)

In addition Casey Burdick mentions the ongoing Halloween campouts taking place at Ohio state parks. We provide a listing of these on our Halloween Events Page.

Here are links to their previous videos for 2017:

If you’d like to see some of the places that we have visited in the fall, you can click on any of the photos below to find out more information, or you can look at a more extensive list of TrekOhio posts on fall color.



© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and TrekOhio.com 2012 to 2017

12 thoughts on “Where and when to see fall color in Ohio

  1. Your third report would have actually been helpful if I knew what cities your guest was referring to in her recommendations. Just because she knows what cities they are in doesn’t mean your audience does. As it was she was of no value.

  2. Hello, this is a random request but wondering if anyone knows of a spectacular fall foliage location in Knox County for my family’s holiday card photo shoot? Thanks!

    1. It is actually difficult to shoot fall foliage when you are in the midst of a forest, and you can perhaps get better results viewing it from a distance. So places with hilltops vantage points, or fields with treelines, or bodies of water with trees around them, all make for good photo shoots. And of course you want to see forests with deciduous trees, not evergreens

      I haven’t been at the parks in Knox County at peak fall foliage, however some places that come to mind are Wolf Run and Honey Run Highlands Park. Although we haven’t written up Indianfield Bluffs, that might work, too (you can find its address on the Knox County page in our guide).

      Wolf Run has rolling hills and a mix of fields and forests. There is also an overlook and a pond.

      Pond at Wolf Run.

      Pond at Wolf Run.

      The observation deck at Wolf Run is located on the crest of the hill about 1/3 of the way over from the left.

      The observation deck at Wolf Run is located on the crest of the hill about 1/3 of the way over from the left.

      View from the observation deck at Wolf Run.

      View from the observation deck at Wolf Run.

      Indianfields Bluffs has a short trail. When I was there the leaves were not on the tree. Below is a photo of the bluffs. It is also possible to walk down to the edge of the water.

      The bluff at Indianfield Bluffs.

      The bluff at Indianfield Bluffs.

      Honey Run Highlands Park has low, rolling hills, open fields and forests (both deciduous and evergreen). Below is a photo.

      Overlooking field and forest.

      Overlooking field and forest.

      If you like cycling, the Kokosing Gap Trail is excellent (more information on the Knox County page).

    1. Arnold, if this year’s fall color forecast turns out to be correct, peak color should be occurring in the northern third of Ohio (which I would say includes Lima) during the weekend of Oct. 17-18.

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