It’s Leaf Peeping Time!  Getting Out and Enjoying the Colors of Fall in Nature’s Mountain Playground

Refer to the bottom of our blog for fall foliage updates. Most recent: October 4th, 2022

Michael Moore

With the passing of Labor Day, we say goodbye to another summer and turn our attention toward fall, the promise of autumn colors, and the beloved pursuit of leaf peeping.  For the uninformed of you out there (don’t feel bad, I too was once among your ranks), leaf peeping is the moniker given to the traveling quest of locating and visiting wooded areas within your county, state, or multistate region that has reached peak fall colors.  These destinations can include state parks, state forests, national forests, scenic highways, or just about anywhere you can find fall scenery to enjoy.  And make no mistake, for many, this is a serious undertaking.  A quick internet search of “peak fall foliage 2022” will yield a wide assortment of foliage trackers and multi-colored maps bejeweled with predictive dates of peak leaf color.  And you can be sure by late September any weatherman worth his blue blazer will begin featuring weekend “fall leaves forecasts” right up until the autumn trees have shed the last of their brilliant hues.  Armed with data from a multitude of reports, charts, maps, and predictive dates, eager travelers hoping to find the best and brightest of fall leaf colors, make their way to tree-lined back roads, hiking trails, secluded valleys, and mountain peaks; each in search of the most vibrant fall colors they can find.  They travel by car, train, even kayaks and canoes to immerse themselves into the colors of autumn.  And I must admit, it sounds like a lot of fun.  In fact, I can’t think of a better excuse for a fall road trip than leaf peeping.

Now for all of you looking for some of the best spots for leaf peeping fall foliage in West Virginia, may we humbly submit, for your consideration, Nature’s Mountain Playground right here in Pocahontas County.  At over 940 square miles in size and home to more than one third of the Monongahela National Forest, Pocahontas County offers leaf peepers more opportunities to find and enjoy those brilliant colors of fall than just about anywhere else in West Virginia.  And we have the terrain options to match your leaf peeping tactics.  Are you looking for some serious elevation with panoramic views to take in as much fall foliage as possible?  Nature’s Mountain Playground has you covered.  Reaching the highest average elevation of any county east of the Mississippi, Pocahontas County offers breath-taking views across rugged mountain ranges and deep isolated valleys.  On a clear, sunny day, at the peak of the leaves changing color, high points like Snowshoe Mountain Resort and the Highland Scenic Highway will give way to a collage of red, gold, and orange, for miles in every direction; a view no artist could reproduce.   

Photo: Michael Moore

Maybe your ideal leaf peeping experience is to be right in among the colors of fall.  Hiking and exploring trails where the only sound you hear are the crunching of dried leaves under your feet while you stop for the occasional shower of a fresh batch as they fall from the trees covering your tracks.  If that scenario is more to your liking, then be sure to check out any of the five state parks and two state forests that call Pocahontas County home.  With destinations like Watoga State Park, the Greenbrier River Trail, Beartown State Park, and Seneca State Forest (to just name a few), you’re bound to find hiking trails that will take you into the heart of fall foliage. 

To add to your leaf peeping options, how about a good old fashion country drive?  One of the best ways to pack in a full day of fall foliage hunting is by car.  And with the most scenic byways of any county in West Virginia, Nature’s Mountain Playground offers you some of the best country roads for fall foliage anywhere.  Whether it’s a drive along Route 219 from Slatyfork to Droop Mountain, Route 66 from Snowshoe to Cass, or Route 28 from Huntersville to Green Bank and on to Durbin, there’s just something special about cruising along a gentle, winding mountain road taking in the beauty of fall from behind the wheel.  And if you like the idea of meandering along, looking for the best of fall color but you’re not crazy about being stuck behind the wheel, you’ll definitely want to consider the scenic train rides of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.  Cass offers two excursions carrying its passengers high into the Allegheny Mountain Range.  Guests can choose a two-hour round trip to Whittaker Station or a four and a half hour round trip to Bald Knob.  And when the fall colors are at peak, either of these rides are nothing less than breath-taking.  So, pack a jacket and get your tickets early as these rides fill up fast. 

Photo: Michael Moore

There’s something captivating about visiting the mountains in the fall.  Each autumn sunrise is an unveiling – a raising of the curtain if you will, as the early morning fog, settled deep in the valleys, slowly lifts to reveal a patchwork quilt of vibrate, splendid hues of red, gold, and orange.  With Autumn comes a chill in the air and that all-too-brief window of bright blue sky and stunning color before the cold, grey-blue days of winter settle in.  So make the most of it!  Time is slipping away for us leaf peepers.  As of this writing, (September 20, 2022) here in Pocahontas County, the leaves at our higher elevations are nearing peak and the lower elevations are just beginning to display signs of turning.  No matter your leaf peeping strategy, gaining higher elevation with views that go on forever or hikes deep into the woods as falling leaves cascade down around you, whether you’re looking for a scenic drive, train ride, or kayaking a lake surrounded by the beauty of fall, Nature’s Mountain Playground has something for every leaf peeper out there.  So what are you waiting for?  Get out and enjoy the magic and beauty of fall.                

Autumn in the Alleghenies – Weekly Update: October 3rd

Expect to see peak fall foliage throughout most of county starting October 7th through October 16th.

Devil’s Backbone, Route 39 Between Huntersville & Minnehaha Springs
Highland Scenic Highway Route 150
Along Route 39 near Watoga State Park & Huntersville
Near peak foliage at Snowshoe Mountain Resort – image credit: Kurt Schachner/Snowshoe Mountain Resort