Autumn Foliage Color Season in Maryland

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A Patapsco campsite in early fall: Glynn Wilson

Secret Vistas –
By Glynn Wilson –

It’s that time of year again, time for the leaves on the trees to start changing colors in one of the most beautiful annual displays in nature. Get outside and enjoy.

You might be amazed to find few other people taking advantage of some of these places.

It’s not that easy to find well kept and regularly updated Websites to figure out when and where to go to see this, but we’ve found a few to share today. For starters, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has a Fall Foliage and Festival Hotline page, where it is being confirmed that reports out of Western Maryland show the first signs of the autumn foilage season is beginning to show up, as the region’s early reds, yellows and oranges are starting to pop out, particularly visible in Garrett County’s higher elevations above 2500 feet.

At Herrington Manor State Park in the southwestern part of Garrett County, near Oakland, a significant portion of the foliage has changed, most notably among the sugar and red maples and hickories.

The weekend forecast for the Oakland area looks chilly with a chance of showers on Saturday and highs barely cracking the low 50s, “so be sure to pack rain gear and a sweater if you’re planning to be out exploring the western wilds,” according to the state agency.

If you happen to be in Garrett County this weekend, one place to enjoy the changing fall foliage is at the Sub-Arctic Swamp near the Garrett State Forest, locally referred to as the Cranesville Swamp, and along the road to Swallow Falls State Park.

Also, Deep Creek Lake State Park is reporting that the foliage there is coming along, with the red maples starting to turn bright orange, the black gum a bright crimson, and the sassafras a golden yellow.

The leaves in neighboring Allegany County should be showing substantial change in another week to week-and-a-half.

Now may be the time of year to drive the “loop”: west from Cumberland along Route 40 out to Keysers Ridge, then south along 219 through McHenry and Thayerville in the vicinity of Deep Creek Lake State Park.

While in the Oakland area, the agency recommends breaking for lunch in either the Herrington Manor or Swallow Falls sections of the Garrett State Forest, or continuing south toward Backbone Mountain. From Oakland, turn east along Route 135 and plan an afternoon in the Savage River State Forest.

Particular points of interest in this area are the Big Run State Park, or further north, the Monroe Run Vista off of New Germany Road near New Germany State Park.

“These spots are guaranteed to delight foliage fanatics over the next several weeks,” the state agency says.

After crossing back into Allegany County, turn north on 220 near McCoole, wind through Dans Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and head back toward Cumberland.

“Or (simply) turn off onto a quiet country road and surprise yourself with more breathtaking, unspoiled panoramas,” the agency says.

If you’re planning a get-away to Western Maryland, keep in mind that cabins are still available for the fall season in many state parks. You can reserve one for a fantastic October weekend today by calling the Maryland Park Service’s Reservation Service at 1-888-432-CAMP (2267).

If you’re heading out to the western region this weekend, Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County will host its annual Fort Frederick in the Civil War event, designed to take visitors back 150 years: To commemorate its role in the American Civil War, re-enactors will return the fort to much the way it looked and operated in the 19th century for a weekend of living history and tactics demonstrations. The 258-year-old stone fort protected Maryland’s frontier settlers during the French and Indian War, and also saw service during the American Revolution as a prison for British soldiers. During the Civil War, Union troops were often stationed near the fort to guard the C & O Canal. For more information, call (301) 842-2155.

In Central Maryland, an event you don’t want to miss is Harrison Mule Days at the Carroll County Equestrian Center in Mt. Airy, a celebration of the mule and mule people, offering something for everyone: mule riders and competitors, the mule lovers, and even for those spectators who may not know the difference between a mule, a donkey, and a horse. Activities include a mule show, mule pull, camping, auction, evening entertainment, vendors and kid’s corner.

Celebrate the Great Pumpkin this weekend: Near Germantown in Montgomery County, the 34th Annual Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival will be held on weekends throughout October. In addition to pumpkins a’ plenty, hayrides, pony rides, hayloft jumping, food, crafts, animals, entertainment, the Twisted Pumpkin Corn Maze, pedal tractors and Spider Web will be part of the fun.

There are some fun events taking place in Maryland’s state parks this weekend as well.

On Saturday, Patapsco Valley State Park in Baltimore County will hold a one-hour Be a Park Explorer hike from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Designed for children ages 5 to 11 years of age, participants will take a short hike with a park naturalist, collecting their findings in an “explorer jar” they will decorate once back at the Nature Center. Registration is required; please call (410) 461-5005 in advance.

Later Saturday evening, Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, also in Baltimore County, will sponsor an Owl Prowl from 8 to 10 p.m. Participants will follow a naturalist on a one-mile hike to listen for owls, while learning a little bit about the basic biology, habitat, diet and conservation of the birds. Captive owls from the aviary will also be on hand at the Visitor Center for an up close experience. For ages 16 yrs and up, unless accompanied by an adult. Call (410) 461-5005 to sign up.

And over on the Eastern Shore where significant leaf change is still a few weeks away, Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area in Kent County will host its annual Knocks Folly Fall Fest on Saturday, from 12 to 4 p.m. Take the family out to this free event celebrating the joys of autumn with games, food, scarecrow making, pumpkin decorating and more while searching for blazes of the first fall colors among the area’s maples and sumacs! For more information, call (410) 820-1668.

For more details or to see a full listing of events taking place in Maryland State Parks this weekend, check out the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Calendar of Events.

For more information on events around the state this fall, contact the Maryland Office of Tourism.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.