Our fall foliage update for 2022 is here!
Last updated: October 4, 2022
Soon the Mercer County greenery will start to glow with new golden hues as visitors flock to view the vibrant landscapes. Planning a leaf-peeping trip can be challenging since foliage varies each year depending on the weather. And we know how frustrating it is to arrive with your camera in hand, only to be a week late and miss all the autumnal beauty! To assure that you know the perfect time to visit this month, we talked to our local meteorologist to try to nail down an accurate fall forecast.
According to Joe Fitzwater, chief meteorologist at WVNS-TV, the peak color for the Mercer County area this year will be mid to late October. Across the entire state, peak color times are slightly delayed. These times are highly dependent on summer weather patterns and elevation.
Luckily, Fitzwater believes that all weather signs point to a good leaf-peeping season.
“For the full color changing process to take place, you want a good balance of water and sunlight,” Fitzwater said.
The above-average rainfall that took place during the middle to late summer, combined with summer-like temperatures lasting into the fall with no significant cold spells are the perfect ingredients for stunning fall foliage.
In addition to weather conditions, foliage also depends on elevation.
“Mercer County is an interesting county for fall foliage because there are some fairly significant differences in elevation,” Fitzwater said.
For example, Black Oak Mountain (3,300 feet) and some of the higher peaks on the county’s eastern side will likely start to see peak foliage in the middle of October. Areas in lower elevation such as downtown Princeton (2,400 feet) will take another seven to ten days before the leaves hit their peak.
Besides weather patterns and area elevations, there is actually more than meets the eye with this celebrated seasonal transition.
“The whole things is fairly complicated because of the chemical processes that take place in the leaves that enable the color to show up,” Fitzwater said.
When days start getting shorter, the leaves on trees stop producing chlorophyll — which appears green from photosynthesis. During the spring and summer months, chlorophyll is very active, overpowering the other leaf colors like yellow, orange, red and purple. When the daylight hours begin to shorten in the fall, the sun’s rays become less direct which causes the leaves to start breaking down the chlorophyll and exposing the other colors.
As leaves lose their green pigment, it allows the colors of the other compounds that are present to be seen. Fall leaves get their orange colors from beta-carotene, red colors from anthocyanins (which actually increase in fall), and yellow colors from flavonols. The typical trees and colors you may see in the area are birch and maple (yellow), oak (red), hickory (orange), and dogwood (purple).
Make sure to start planning your fall trip now because peak foliage only lasts one to two weeks! From our accessible hiking trails to our scenic mountain drives, find the best places to view the captivating foliage in Mercer County. And don’t forget to tag us on Instagram (@visitmercerwv) so we can keep track of the transitioning colors this season.
Check out the WVNS-TV StormTrack59 Weather Team to monitor the Mercer County weather forecast for any upcoming trips.