5 great places to enjoy fall scenery

Ohio is on track to have a vibrant color season.

Blazing reds, luminous yellows and rich violets — the Miami Valley is exploding with color as fall is in full swing.

But those who want to soak in the rich hues better not delay as peak color days will come earlier this season than in recent years.

“The trees are pretty healthy right now, which means fall color will be more ‘on time’ than the past two years,” said Casey Burdick, Ohio Department of Natural Resources fall color forester. “This year has been much better for trees.”

The northern third of the state is at peak color now with Central Ohio on track to peak during the third week of October. Southern Ohio should be alive with color by the last week of October.

“Generally, most fall color is gone by the beginning of November, so now is a great time to get out and enjoy it,” Burdick said.

Whether you prefer to pedal, paddle, walk or run, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a canopy of color over the next few weeks.

A matter of weather

“Moderate rain in the spring and summer is the difference,” Burdick said. “The hot, dry summers the past two years delayed the color change.”

Trees have a tendency to hold onto their leaves longer after dry summers.

September weather also plays an integral role in the vibrancy of fall foliage.

“Having nice sunny days and cooler nights enhances the vibrancy,” Burdick said.

When the skies are cloudy, leaves produce less sugar, which is critical in the autumn color transformation. Warm nights can also subdue the color as they cause the sugar to leach out. Sunny days and cool nights mean more sugar in the leaves and more vivid color.

All in due time

Some trees are early bloomers as far as color change.

According to Burdick, maples and ash trees are among the first to switch shades. Yellow poplar, hickory and beech trees generally follow suit with oaks and sweetgum wrapping up the colorful show.

Trees aren’t the only things decorating the colorful fall landscape as both Virginia Creeper and poison ivy turn bright red this time of year.

Soak in the color

There are plenty of opportunities to get out, get active and get your fall color fix.

The Five Rivers MetroParks Bike for the Health of It program runs through October and there are free Garden Walks at Wegerzyn Gardens (Oct. 12) and Cox Arboretum (Oct. 19). The whole family might want to get in on the fun at the Family Spider Search or the Pumpkins are Amazing programs at Carriage Hill and Possum Creek, respectively.

Beyond the Dayton area, the Ohio State Parks host a variety of fall family fun activities with Halloween campouts and festivals every weekend through October 26.

Learn more

Weekly color updates are available at the ODNR’s fall color website (http://fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov.) Videos will also highlight fall hotspots from around the state. If you snap a colorful fall photo, you can upload it using the ODNR hashtag #ohiofallcolor2013 and check out the photos by following the ODNR on Twitter and Facebook.

Weekend getaway ideas are plentiful at Discover Ohio

(http://consumer.discoverohio.com) and the Ohio State Parks website (http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/.)

Closer to home, the MetroParks offer a full slate of outdoor activities to help residents get out and play amid the splendor of the season (www.metroparks.org/.)

Enjoy Fall Color at Five Rivers MetroParks

Germantown MetroPark: Drive the scenic loop through the park off Conservancy Road. Stop by the restroom and hit the boardwalk to the picturesque Valley Overlook, about 200 yards. For a longer jaunt, park at the end of Old Mill Road and follow the Twin Valley Trail all the way to State Route 725 and back. You’ll see beautiful overlooks, mature forest, colorful prairies, the Twin Creek and a hilly landscape over about 4 miles.

Englewood MetroPark: Enter the park at the east end of Englewood Dam off U.S. Route 40. Park at the trailhead parking area near Patty’s Shelter and hike the 0.8 mile yellow trail to the new boardwalk through the swamp forest. You’ll get an eyeful of some of the biggest trees in the MetroParks – and maybe, even, an owl or two.

Dull Woods Conservation Area: Welcome to one of the “secrets” of MetroParks. This 9-acre conservation area is a spectacular swamp forest. Park at the small lot for the Wolf Creek Bikeway off U.S. 40 northwest of Brookville and walk or bike south along the paved trail for a quarter mile. The entrance to Dull Woods will be on the left.

Hills & Dales MetroPark: Park at the Paw Paw Shelter off of Deep Hollow Road and follow the Adirondack Trail through the Wetlands Boardwalk to Dogwood Pond, about half a mile, where you’ll find spectacular photo opportunities.

Taylorsville MetroPark: If you haven’t checked out the new trails at Taylorsville MetroPark, take advantage of the beautiful fall colors while you “test hike” the trails. This is the first park to receive sustainable trail upgrades.

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