Fall foliage peaks occur on a rolling basis in the Poconos because the region spans 2,400 square miles, and covers four counties stretching to the New York border.
But in the southern regions closer to Philadelphia, this weekend and into next week should be the peak of what observers say has been a spectacular year so far. Maples, birches, hickories, and other trees are giving off hues of reds and yellows, with pops of scarlet, russet, copper, and more.
Leaf peeping drives a lot of tourism in Pennsylvania, but 2020 has been marked by coronavirus social distancing and restrictions on restaurants and lodgings, all of which have dented the normal number of visits. So a good foliage season could help many businesses in the region comprised of Wayne, Pike, Monroe, and Carbon Counties.
Brian Bossuyt, executive vice president of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, said the areas around the Delaware Water Gap should be at top color within days.
“For the most part, the weather has been fantastic,” Bossuyt said of the entire fall season. He said recent rains over the past week including remnants of Hurricane Delta, weren’t really much of a factor, though rain undoubtedly strips some leaves.
Bossuyt said visits in the region have been off by about 20% year-over-year because of the pandemic, with some lodges and restaurants limited to 50% to 70% capacity. But, he said, camping and visits to state parks and forests have been real bright spots.
Overall, he said, “we’re seeing pretty steady traffic.”
Jim Thorpe, a key Poconos tourism town 90 minutes from Philadelphia, normally holds a series of fall foliage festivals in October, but had to cancel this year because of COVID-19. Still, the Carbon County town encourages visitors, saying local merchants and restaurants are offering fall specials.
Other popular destinations, including Stroudsburg in Monroe County, Milford in Pike County, and Honesdale and Hawley in Wayne County, saw pretty strong visits over the summer and into fall because of warm temperatures, according to Bossuyt.
He said bed and breakfasts and rental homes have also done well.
The most recent foliage forecast from the visitors bureau through Wednesday says the northern region of the Poconos will pass peak foliage in upcoming days. However, foliage should be at top color in the Central region from Lake Wallenpaupack to East Stroudsburg. The Southern region, from Lake Harmony to Jim Thorpe, will peak by Oct. 24.
And the most recent forecast from Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Forestry, spanning Oct. 15-21, generally agrees.
“Spectacular autumn color persists throughout the commonwealth this week! From the northwest to the central Appalachians and Laurel Highlands to the Poconos, incredible fall scenery awaits,” foresters wrote in their forecast. "With below average temperatures expected next week, the outlook for fall color remains outstanding for the commonwealth.”
Foresters said “recent breezy weather” and rain blew birch and red maple leaves off trees in Pike and Monroe Counties, but that most trees are peaking. That was written before Friday’s rain.
Overall, though, dry conditions through early fall helped colors reach their most vivid in years. The foresters recommend viewing foliage at the Brownell Reservoir, Moosic and Montage Mountains, and Seven Tubs, all state land.
However, good color can also be found closer to Philly at French Creek State Park in Berks and Montgomery Counties.
“A strong push of color is expected with cold nights in the forecast over the weekend,” foresters wrote.