Venture: Fall foliage

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Entire fields of soy are already tinged with mustard. Creeping vines are changing, too, putting on their seasonal cloak of deep red and purple. Ohio's glorious forests aren't far behind.

Get your cameras and hiking shoes ready: This fall should be a season to remember.

"The weather in September has started to moderate," said Casey Munchel, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "Bright sunny days and cool nights are what bring out the vibrancy in color."

A slight drought in Northern Ohio could push back its colors, she explained. Elsewhere, the transformation should progress on schedule with consistent rainfall this month and no frost.

Here are my five favorite spots for fall color, with Munchel's prediction when the region's color will peak.

Beaver Creek State Park

Location: East Liverpool

Distance from Columbus: 173 miles

Expected peak: Second and third week of October


This quiet state park is a bit of a drive, but it's worth an entire weekend during October. Wrapped around Little Beaver Creek, the park holds hiking trails, scenic points of interest and remnants of a thriving canal history. Be sure to hit the Pioneer Village, the Echo Dell Road Bridge and all of the mile-long Vondergreen Trail. Electric and non-electric camping is available.

Dawes Arboretum

Location: Newark

Distance from Columbus: 40 miles

Expected peak: Third week of October


An arboretum is a no-brainer in autumn. This one has more than 4,500 unique plants, including extensive collections of Ohio's hardiest hardwoods. From the Visitor's Center, take the Oak Trail through collections of oaks, magnolias, beeches and buckeyes. On your way back, be sure to climb the giant Outlook Tower for an eagle's eye view of the surroundings.

Highbanks Metro Park

Location: Lewis Center

Distance from Columbus: 17 miles

Expected peak: Third week of October


American Indians found water by spotting swaths of white-trunked sycamore trees, which fancy wet soil. This month, the giants at this popular park will adorn the banks of the Olentangy River with brilliant swaths of yellow. From the Nature Center, take the southern portion of the Dripping Rock Trail to the Overlook Trail, which wanders through dense forest to an observation deck high above the water.

Shallenberger State Nature Preserve

Location: Lancaster

Distance from Columbus: 30 miles

Expected peak: Third and fourth week of October


While friends struggle through crowds at Hocking Hills State Park, head to this small, no-frills preserve. The best view is atop Allen Knob, a sandstone promontory honed over millennia by wind and water. Standing 240 feet tall, you'll see hues stretch far and wide. From the parking lot, take the main trail's right fork. About a quarter-mile in, take your first left to the main overlook.

Clear Creek Metro Park

Location: Rockbridge

Distance from Columbus: 43 miles

Expected peak: Third and fourth week of October


Far from Downtown, this Metro Park often gets overlooked. But the only problem with a trip to this virgin landscape is choosing which of the fantastic trails to hit. You can stroll along the water on the Creekside Meadows Trail, head into deep woods on the Cemetery Ridge Trail or take your dog for a walk on a one-mile path at the park's north end.

Color Central


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has made it easy to enjoy the explosions set to hit the state this month. Its Fall Foliage homepage has color reports from numerous hot spots, a guide to tree identification, suggestions for scenic drives and an explanation of why leaves change. There's even a weekly color podcast. That's dedication.

For more on Ohio's awesome autumn, click to the Venture blog