Fall Colors - scenic drives and maps

Are you ready for fall color? The National Forests are! Across the highest peaks in north Georgia early indicator species are just starting to turn brilliant reds and yellows. These early heralds of fall color include tulip poplar, dogwood and maple trees. However, most of the mountains and valleys remain a vivid green.


2015 fall color map of the continental US.


2015 fall foliage prediction map for the continental US. The week of October 24th is predicted to be the peak for the north Georgia mountains. Credit: National Forest Foundation


How spectacular will the colors be?

Due to a drier summer, much of the Appalachian Mountains will potentially have spectacular fall color. In other words, drier soils will likely result in more intense red fall color. Cool morning temperatures throughout September will also help fall colors develop. Great fall colors will keep longer if October is also clear, dry and cool. 

As usual, colors will cascade down the mountains starting at the highest peaks. From those lofty ridges, color will eventually work down into the valleys, with ‘peak’ colors dropping approximately 1,000 feet in elevation every week. 


Where can I see them?

  • Hiking: Hiking the short .02 miles to Helton Creek Falls south of Blairsville is a great way to see high elevation colors and an 80 foot water fall too.  
  • Driving: Easy driving tours are also readily available through the mountains in the fall. Top suggestions include:
    • Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
    • U.S. Highway 76 between Blairsville and Clayton
    • State Highway 197 between Clarksville and U.S. Highway 76.


red leaves in water on the forest


Leaves on the National Forests. Photo credit: USFS


Weekly Updates and Tracking?

Updates will be posted weekly to this page. You can get the latest forest news and alerts by texting ‘follow chattoconeenf’ to 40404, 'liking' us on facebook, following us on twitter @ChattOconeeNF or taking advantage of our mobile app for your smartphone or tablet. Free, high resolution, fall color photographs from across the National Forests are also available at www.flickr.com/photos/chattoconeenf/albums 


Fall Color Viewing Tips?

Be prepared to be outdoors in cool temperatures and rapidly changing conditions. Always remember safety first and bring:

  • Hat and a sweater or jacket
  • Good walking shoes
  • Water
  • Snacks or a picnic lunch


Map of driving tours in north Georgia

Map of the favorite scenic drives, waterfalls and other recreation spots in north Georgia. 


Why do leaves change color anyway?

Leaves turn green each spring as they use pigments (chlorophyll, xanthophyll, and carotenoids) to harness the sun’s energy. The chlorophyll absorbs red and blue wavelengths but not the green ones that are reflected back to our eyes. In other words, the other ‘fall’ colors are always there, they are just hiding underneath the chlorophyll!

As temperatures cool and days get shorter, leaves on deciduous trees stop producing new chlorophyll, and the familiar green color breaks down to reveal the other pigments that have been masked all season. Chlorophyll is expensive to make (for the tree); so when there isn't enough light to make it worth expending energy on, the green fades and the colors beneath show.