Fall is coloring the national park

Fall color has finally started to take hold in Shenandoah National Park, said Claire Comer, interpretive specialist for the park.

“The photographers were up today,” she said. “We are reporting for Thornton Gap to Jeremy’s Run, the north district of the park. They said that the change from Sunday is dramatic. This cold snap has made a difference and we’re finally starting to see some good color. The dogwoods are coming along, the maples are coming along and there’s a lot of yellow.”

Comer explained how certain species of trees yield certain colors during autumn.

“We’re oak and hickory predominately,” she said. “The oaks go red, and the poplars and the beeches … go yellow. The hickory goes yellow too.”

While it’s difficult to predict when exactly the colors will change, it always begins with higher elevation and trickles down, usually starting with a particular species.

“It goes by elevation so the most color is going to be right around Skyland,  which is around mile marker 42 – that’s the highest point on Skyline Drive,” she said. “There are going to be the beginnings of good color there and then all the way to 1,000 feet or so. It’s been a late one for sure. The fact that we’re just now getting to the colder weather. The harbinger of fall is the Virginia creeper, which is a beautiful kind of maroon-red. It really depends more on elevation than species. In terms of our progression in the park, our higher elevations turn first and then it goes to the lower elevation.”

Comer said that despite the scheduling issues for visitors posed by the sluggishness of the color change, that visitors will still be able to enjoy the park during their visit. Comer said now is a great time to visit.

“Most of the visitors are trying to … plan to be here when it’s at its most vibrant,” she said. “Typically the 15th of October has been our target peak time and people will make reservations based on that. I will say that the park is gorgeous right now. The skies are gorgeous. These cold snaps are clearing the air and regardless of the fall color we have, it’s a wonderful time to be in the park. The lower humidity makes for easier hiking, the breezes make for no gnats.”

Comer said that in addition to a weekly newsletter, the park offers a webcam service, accessible via the park’s Facebook page and website.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.