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Poconos foliage reaching peak color, foresters say

Pa. state foresters say the Poconos, a prime driver of fall tourism travel, is at peak or approaching peak foliage and that a cool snap this weekend could make things even more colorful.

File: Lehigh Gorge State Park is marked by a deep, steep-walled gorge carved by the Lehigh River in White Haven, Luzerne County.
File: Lehigh Gorge State Park is marked by a deep, steep-walled gorge carved by the Lehigh River in White Haven, Luzerne County.Read morePa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Pennsylvania foresters are urging leaf-peeping tourists they might not want to delay a trip to the Poconos much longer: The canopy of red, russet, and orange is popping and might not last through next week, especially in northern parts of the region.

However, there is still a week or two of color left in more southern regions.

The foresters, who work in state parks, forests, and game lands, are reporting foliage is already at peak in some areas. A cool snap expected this weekend could not only make colors more vibrant, but hasten the foliage season, as trees drop their leaves to conserve energy for the winter.

Leaf-peeping in the Poconos, which encompasses 2,400 square miles of Wayne, Pike, Monroe, and Carbon Counties, is a prime tourism driver for the region of rolling mountains, waterfalls, state forests, and towns.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) gathers reports from foresters to make a weekly foliage assessment. The most recent report forecasts foliage through Oct. 20.

For example, foresters in Pinchot State Forest, which includes multiple counties inside and outside the Poconos, report that color of maples, aspens, and birches is past peak in some spots.

» READ MORE: Where to go leaf-peeping in the Philly area this week

The foresters at Delaware State Forest in Pike and Monroe Counties are reporting that oaks are beginning their change to russet. Red maples are at peak red and orange. Sugar maples are turning yellow, black gums are fading to a reddish-burgundy, while sassafras is beaming bright orange.

They say that much of the Poconos will reach peak color likely by the end of next week. Although the weather has been mild, temperatures are expected to drop to the low 40s Sunday into Monday.

Of course there are other areas of the state with plenty of trees and mountains. About 60% of the state, or 17 million acres, is blanketed by woods. After all, Pennsylvania literally means in Latin Penn’s Woods.

But the Poconos have always been a draw for those living in the Philadelphia region, in part, because of proximity. Jim Thorpe in Carbon County, for example, is only 80 miles from Center City, and is reachable in 90 minutes if traffic is clear.

Brian Bossuyt, executive vice president of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, said the region draws about 30 million visitors a year, pulling from both Philadelphia and New York. Though spring and summer are the biggest draws, he said fall and winter are close behind.

Stroudsburg, East Stroudsburg, Bartonsville, and areas around the Delaware Water Gap are some of the main draws, with festivals throughout the fall.

Last year, pandemic shutdowns hurt tourism as inns, restaurants, and taverns were forced to operate at partial capacity. But Bossuyt said the overall season turned out better than expected as parents, working remotely, could stay for extended periods with their children, who were learning remotely.

This year, he said, children are back in school, and that has cut down weekday visitors. In addition, restaurants, though no longer under capacity restrictions, are still facing pandemic-induced labor shortages.

Overall, he expects tourism will be just a tad lower than last year.

“We’ve got really nice, warm weather and fall foliage,” he said. “It’s been great.”

Bossuyt said that though the northern parts of the Poconos are peaking, especially at higher altitudes, the central and lower areas still have another week or two. Predictions, he said, are for fall season to last a little bit longer because of all the rain over the summer.

“That bodes well for everyone,” he said.