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Love fall color? Better get on your hiking shoes now

October 21st, 2013 11:28 am by Tony Casey

Love fall color? Better get on your hiking shoes now

Ron Campbell photos

Consider this your official reminder to make some time to enjoy the bright seasonal colors around you. That is, if you hadn’t noticed.

Trees in the East Tennessee area are on the cusp of exploding with bright colors, and time is of the essence. Although it changes from region to region, peak fall foliage season typically lasts for about three weeks, and because Johnson City has not yet reached that point, there’s still time to plan a chance to enjoy the colors around you.

University of Tennessee Extension Agent in Jonesborough John Hamrick says it’s as easy as looking to the higher elevations to enjoy the myriad of colors. He said he’s noticed the leaves have started to drop in great number, but following foliage-tracking maps shows the area is almost at peak.

“Get out from behind the buildings,” Hamrick said. “You should be able to see those bright colors in the distance.”

The Weather Channel has an interactive map on that shows which parts of the country are experiencing their color climax at any given time, and while the Northeast region of the country is currently in the midst of its peak, it hasn’t quite been cold enough for our local part of the country to see the brightest colors just yet. 

A recorded message from a hotline on a national leaf peeper website,, says it’s that cold weather that will bring about the vibrant greens, golds and reds.

“Cool weather has become a catalyst for color change, especially in northeast Tennessee, where warm golds on the American Beech, Mountain Ash and Mountain Maple trees flourish,” the recorded voice says, summing up what the region can expect in leaf color. “Lower elevations provide a touch of yellow and deep red, mixed with vibrant greens on Dogwood, Sumac and Sourwood. The wild Cherry trees are beginning to turn yellow, and Sumac and ornamental Pear trees are showing various shades of red.”

Bays Mountain park ranger Bob Culler said the plan is to provide more opportunities for people to enjoy the scenery in the upcoming weekends by allowing for more barge rides around the reservoir.

There are a handful of local spots that might provide the perfect vantage point for fall foliage.

Buffalo Mountain Park offers trails to lookout points above Johnson City and is just a few miles from downtown.

Pinnacle Mountain fire tower can be reached by a trail that is just a stone’s throw from Interstate 26. On top is a safe, modern fire tower that provides a spectacular 360-degree view.

Bays Mountain Park, located just outside of Kingsport, will be upping the amount of available barge rides on the weekends during peak fall foliage.

The Beauty Spot on the Appalachian Trail in Unicoi County provide another picture-worthy view of the area from high above.

Yankee Magazine, a publication that takes leaf peeping very seriously, provides tips to enhance the experience. They recommend practicing proper foliage etiquette on back roads, having leaf peepers pull over to ooh and ahh rather than holding up traffic. Not rushing is another important part of experiencing each view properly, and not to fear that peak is passing you by.

Getting to your spot early is crucial, they say, as the morning view and morning light will make the colors the most vivid. The dawn mist rising off a body of water or lake will be most dramatic in the early hours of the morning. If the morning’s not on the agenda, another tip is taking advantage of the late-afternoon light.

Additional Photos

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