Leaf Peeping Opportunities Abound in Southern West Virginia’s Mountains

Last updated: August 30, 2021

When it comes to leaf peeping in southern West Virginia, opportunities abound. In Mercer County, where mountains and valleys unite in scenic formations, leaves gradually transform throughout the month of October.  

Tom Cover, who has served as the regional forester in Southern West Virginia for the past 17 years, says Mercer County has some of the state’s most remarkable views, especially if one can catch both the early- and late-changing leaves at the same time.

“Mercer County has a wide variety of species,” he says. “By the time the maples change, if they stay on the trees, and the oaks change later, if you get that and get it all together, you couldn’t ask for anything more beautiful.”

This year, he says, residents and visitors can expect to see the majority of the foliage changing colors around the third week of October. “If there’s anything in color now, it’s the maples, yellow poplars, and sweetgums,” Cover says. “They’re usually the first to change at higher elevations.” 

In northern Jefferson and Tucker counties, he says, foliage change tends to start toward the end of September, weeks before leaves shift to amber, yellow, and burgundy in the southernmost parts of the Mountain State. “That’s what Mercer County offers: different elevations and an extended time that they change,” he says. “There are a lot of different species that change, and you have the variation in the colors.” 

Though a hot summer often leads to leaves wilting and falling faster, leaf peepers shouldn’t expect dry, unseasonably warm conditions to ruin their chances of catching some scenic southern views.

“Every time we have a dry year, we end up with nice foliage toward the end of the season,” Cover says. He recommends driving along U.S. Route 19 toward Flat Top, toward Camp Creek State Park and Forest, or near East River Mountain, where the poplar leaves are already changing and falling. 

The county’s two other parks mean leaf peepers can take multiple trips throughout the month to check out the changing foliage up close—and from overhead.

At Pipestem Resort State Park, located on the border between Mercer and Summers counties, there are limitless options for checking out the leaves atop the one-of-a-kind zipline, along the Bluestone River, and from the top of the Bolar Lookout Tower.

On the southern edge of Mercer County, Pinnacle Rock State Park near Bramwell gives viewers a striking perspective at the overlook, from which they can catch a striking view of the changing foliage juxtaposed against the Appalachian Mountains. 

Pinnacle Rock

And at the southern edge of Mercer County, the overlook at Pinnacle Rock State Park near Bramwell gives peepers a striking view of the changing foliage juxtaposed against the Appalachian Mountains. 

For more information on prime times to view foliage in your area and how to identify changing leaves by color, Cover recommends visiting www.wvtourism.com/fall/# and www.wvforestry.com/wv-fall-foliage/.