Northwest fall foliage could peak early this year

SPOKANE, Wash. — Fall is officially here, which means it won’t be long until we are graced with brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds of autumn leaves. It may be sooner than usual too. The changing of the leaves is likely to start early, not last as long, and be less brilliant than other years thanks to the weather so far in 2021. Instead of the second half of October, a large part of the Inland Northwest could see fall foliage peak around or before October 15th.

Fall leaves normally begin to peak in early October as the larches start to turn yellow along the high mountain treelines. Down in the valleys though, it usually takes until mid-October in North Idaho and more like late October in Eastern Washington before the leaves are at their full brilliance.

Fall Peak Fcst

Peak fall foliage forecast: copyright 4 News Now

Unlike most years though, the Inland Northwest is in a severe drought that has put many of our trees into survival mode. When this happens, trees will change color early and drop their leaves early too according to the U.S. Forest Service. Leaf conditions look better in the Cascades this fall, where the drought is less severe. Oddly enough, moderate drought often leads to more intense fall colors depending on the species of tree. Ideal weather for great fall foliage includes a wet spring, moderate summer, cool but not freezing fall nights, and sunny fall afternoons.

Fall Drought

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Here are some of the best places to enjoy some fall foliage over the next few weeks.

Pend Oreille National Scenic Byway

Enjoy some of the best views in North Idaho along the Pend Oreille National Scenic Byway. The route begins along US 95 north of Sandpoint. Follow Highway 200 along the most northern tip of Lake Pend Oreille, down through Trestle Creek and into Clark Fork. If you want to keep going, more fall foliage awaits across the Idaho-Montana state line. Learn more.

Finch Arboretum

You can find some of the most vibrant fall colors just a short way west of downtown Spokane. The John A. Finch Arboretum is made up of 65 acres of wooded hills. In September, the winged euonymus will start to change colors. The azalea, crabapple and maple trees are at the peak of turning in October. Learn more about the arboretum here.

Manito Park and Manito Boulevard

All Spokane natives know Manito Boulevard and Manito Park boasts some of the best fall views. Start your trip along Manito Boulevard and 33rd Ave. Walk along the tree-lined road, which flaunts hundred-year-old maple trees. Continue straight into the park. There are several paths to choose from, but all will take you toward the full fall foliage.

St. Joe Scenic Byway

Starting in St. Maries and stretching 89 miles to the Montana state line, this rural route is a paved two-lane road all the way to Avery with numerous pullouts to admire the scenery along the St. Joe River. From the Coeur d’Alene area take US 195 to Plummer, then turn left onto State Highway 5 to reach St. Maries. Learn more.

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