Fall Foliage on the Wayne

Download a brochure for driving tours on each of the three units of the Wayne or see maps below.

Fall Update for October 26, 2015 - The Forest is at or near peak fall color! It is the perfect time to take a drive through the forest or visit one of our recreation areas for some beautiful fall photos.Scenes from the Forest are shown below (Lake Vesuvius, Long Ridge Road, and the firetower at the Nelsonville office).

 Lake Vesuvius in Fall, 2015 Long Ridge Road, Athens Ranger District Wayne Fire Tower in the Fall


Check out the Region 9 fall color website for fall foliage information throughout the Region. Photos of fall color on the Wayne as well as other national forest are inlcuded. 

Fall color display around Lake Vesuvius.

Photo courtesy of local photographer Tim Gladeau. Taken in 2014 on the road above Lake Vesuvius.



  Milkweed pod and seeds, 09/23/2013 Snake Ridge Lookout Tower 09/23/2013.  

Fall Color Hillside

For driving tours of each unit click the unit of choice

Athens Unit

Marietta Unit

Ironton District

For fall foliage information around the country, call the fall color hotline at 1-800-354-4595 or go to the national website online.

Fall color on Covered Bridge Trail Why Leaves Change Color.

Most people suppose fall frosts are responsible for the color change in trees, but this is not the case. Many years the leaves change colors long before we have a frost.

According to Indian legend, celestial hunters slew the Great Bear in autumn, and his blood, dripping on the forests, changed many leaves to red. Other trees were turned yellow by the fat that splattered out of the kettle as the hunters cooked the meat.

We now know that trees change color as a result of chemical processes. During spring and summer a green pigment in the leaves, called chlorophyll, absorbs energy from the sunlight and uses it to transform carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates. Along with the green pigment, the leaves also contain yellow and orange pigments. Most of the year these pigments are masked by the greater amount of green chlorophyll. But in the fall, partly because of changes in the period of daylight and changes in temperature, the green pigment breaks down; the green color fades; and the yellow colors become visible.

At the same time, other chemical changes occur causing the formation of additional pigments that vary from yellow to red to blue. These pigments are responsible for the reddish and purplish fall colors of leaves, such as dogwoods and sumacs. Others give the sugar maple its brilliant orange or fiery red and yellow. The various colors result from different amounts of the pigments in various tree species during the fall season.

Fall weather conditions favoring the formation of brilliant red colors are warm, sunny days with cool nights of temperatures below 45 degrees. Sugars are made in the leaves during the daytime, but cool nights prevent the sugars from moving from the leaves. The red pigment is formed from the trapped sugars. The degree of color may vary from tree to tree. Leaves directly exposed to the sun may turn red, while those on the shady side of the same tree, or on other trees, may be yellow. Depending on weather conditions, the colors on one tree can vary from year to year.

Color changes are not the only changes taking place in the leaves in Fall. A layer of cells are laid down at the base of the leaf stalk to gradually sever the leaf. The layer also acts as a healing scar once the leaf drops. The oaks and a few other species may keep their dead leaves until growth starts in the spring.

The leaves still provide a function to nature even after they've fallen. Leaves contain relatively large amounts of valuable elements, which when decomposed return to the soil.

Color Guide for Fall Tour

American Elm pale yellow
Ash yellow-dark purple
Beech clear yellow
Black Oak dull red-orange brown
Butternut yellow
Hawthorn brilliant, varying colors
Poplar yellow and golden yellow
Red Maple bright scarlet and orange
Scarlet Oak brilliant scarlet
Sugar Maple bright scarlet to orange and scarlet
Sumac brilliant red
White Oak deep red to orange brown
Willow light yellow
Witch Hazel bright yellow orange, sometimes purple