“Fall is a great time to get out,” said David Parrott, Ohio Department of Natural Resources fall color forester. “Beautiful colors and moderate temperatures make this the perfect time to take advantage of everything Ohio has to offer.”
There is a science to forecasting those beautiful fall colors that takes into account variables such as length of days, sunlight, temperature, wind, and rainfall. Those variables can impact both the intensity and longevity of leaf color. A dry spring and summer are having an impact on color throughout the state.
“These dry conditions can lead to trees being more stressed, and stressed trees tend to lose their chlorophyll earlier and drop their leaves,” Parrott said. “As a result, we are seeing trees in central and southern Ohio changing earlier than usual.”
According to Parrott, fall color might be more sporadic this season with a few colorful trees dotting a hillside rather than the entire hillside or a few lone holdout green trees in a sea of orange and yellow. The region should experience peak color between the third and fourth week of October.
“As long as we get enough precipitation to help the leaves hang on through the fall — without any storms that blow the leaves off — the cool evenings we are starting to experience with the sunny days are setting this fall up to have some great fall colors in many areas throughout the state,” Parrott said.
With 75 Ohio State Parks and 140 State Nature Preserves there are plenty of opportunities to take a hike and enjoy the vibrant season across the state.
Closer to home, Five Rivers MetroParks offers more than 165 miles of managed trails, including 78 miles of hiking trails and a 29-mile backpacking trail.
“Fall is a great time to get out and enjoy nature,” said Jordan Hart, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator. “There are stunning fall colors now and once the leaves fall, you can see even farther and enjoy a different look in our parks.”
With wide temperature variations, layering is advisable this time of year. And with earlier sunsets, a headlamp could extend your hiking time.
Take to the trails for fall color and family fun
Five Rivers MetroParks staff weigh in with suggestions as to fall color hot spots for hikers of all ages and ability levels.
“Adirondack Trail at Hills & Dales MetroPark is kid-friendly,” said Chris Buck, outdoor recreation events coordinator. “Enjoy the section where the trail splits off and goes into the woods between the Paw Paw shelter and Dogwood Pond. There’s a solid backcountry feel in your own backyard.”
Several parks offer short, easy-to-navigate trails ideal for families. Nature play areas and water features can add to the fun.
Hills & Dales MetroPark, 2740 S. Patterson Blvd., Kettering: The wetlands boardwalk provides an easy walk from Paw Paw Camp to Dogwood Pond.
Englewood MetroPark, 4361 W. National Road, Vandalia: At just over one mile, the white trail is short and kid friendly and there is a nearby nature play area.
Sugarcreek MetroPark, 4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook: The 1.3-mile Orange Trail will take you through the Osage Orange living tunnel and past the ancient Three Sisters oak trees.
Possum Creek MetroPark, 4790 Frytown Road, Dayton: The .3-mile Green trail can include a visit to the farm/nature play area or enjoy a .5-mile hike around Argonne Lake with views of the prairie, meadow and woodlands.
“The wetlands boardwalk that hugs a portion of Cedar Lake at Carriage Hill MetroPark is really beautiful in the fall and showcases a bunch of red and yellow leaves,” said Lauren Lemons, marketing coordinator.
The MetroParks offer a variety of accessible options for people with mobility challenges or families with strollers or wagons packed with children.
Cox Arboretum MetroPark, 6733 Springboro Pike, Dayton: ADA-accessible paved paths wind through a variety of scenic features and gardens.
Germantown MetroPark, 7101 Conservancy Road, Germantown: “My dad has limited mobility and we often meet my parents at Sunfish Pond,” said Shane Sheldon, Possum Creek Park manager. “He can watch from the bench swing while my kids explore the edge of the pond.”
Island MetroPark, 101 E. Helena Street, Dayton: Paved trails loop around the northern section of the park, providing scenic views of the river. The park also features ADA-accessible bathrooms and shelters.
Hikers looking for a longer challenge have several parks to choose from.
Germantown MetroPark’s Orange Trail is a 10-mile loop while Twin Creek MetroPark’s Orange Trail offers a 6-mile loop. If that’s not enough of a challenge, the Twin Valley Trail combines the existing network of trails in those parks with a connection that creates a challenging and scenic almost 30-mile backpacking trail.
Worth the Drive: Hocking State Forest Fall Color Tour
What: Enjoy a day of free fall fun in Hocking State Forest and learn from professional foresters about Ohio’s forest resources. Take a wagon ride through the forest, learn about wildlife management and tree identification or enjoy forestry trivia. Refreshments are provided.
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28
Where: Hocking State Forest Headquarters, 19275 SR 374 Rockbridge, Ohio
More info: Visit https://ohiodnr.gov/home.