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North Georgia Fall Color Travel Forecast

From Atlanta, head north in search of dramatic hues as leaf season hits the North Georgia mountains.

Kim Coder enjoys taking the guesswork out of predicting peak autumn color.

This fall, for instance, weather patterns suggest mountain hillsides might yield below average vistas, due in part to early leaf loss and warmer temperatures. (Learn more: Why leaves change color)

“This year we have some specific things going on,” said Coder, a tree biology and healthcare professor at the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

During the summer, intermittent wet and dry periods caused minor leaf damage from fungi and bacteria, resulting in premature leaf drop among trees that produce the most vivid yellow colors, he said.

“It’s not going to be the Academy Award winning year because those only come along every seven to 10 years,” he said. “But the wonderful thing about this region is that, especially in north Georgia, even the average years are great years for color.”

Nature is both generous and forgiving in its ability to please leaf-peeping tourists.

“Here in the South we have a great advantage, even in less than average years,” he said. “We can gain altitude by going up toward the mountains, so there is always great color to be found – even if you have to look for it in more specific areas.”

Wonderful colors, he said, are typically observed from the first week in October into the second week of November, but might occur on the later end this year, due to 30- and 90-day forecasts that predict warmer temperatures.

“Right now the peak times of the orange wave, which most people with normal vision enjoy the most, is Nov. 5-7 or the first week of November,” he said. “We could also have the strong reds and burgundies—especially on the oaks—into Thanksgiving, but that is only if we have no heavy frosts.”

Because even the best forecasts can be disrupted by unforeseen weather, tourists have many options to help choose the best dates to visit the mountains.

Georgia’s State Parks offer an online “Leaf Watch” travel planner. Beginning in October, regular updates will keep travelers posted on how fall color is progressing across Georgia’s Blue Ridge. The Web site also includes details on top trails and overlooks.

(This article appears courtesy of The Augusta Chronicle.)