Fall foliage

Daily Telegraph file photo

Fall foliage surrounds a rural farm near Bluefield, Va. In the background, East River Mountain begins to show its annual display of autumn colors.

BLUEFIELD — Although most activities, summer and fall alike have been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, nature did not get the memo. In Four Seasons Country, leaf peepers are in for a treat this October.

“It looks like we are going to have a really good year for color,” Jamie Null, Executive Director for the Mercer County CVB said. “We have had a lot of rain, we have not had a lot of really high temperatures in September that would effect the colors of the leaves. We are looking forward to a vibrant showcase of colors this year.”

The West Virginia Tourism Office Released its fall foliage report or annual autumn forecast in a press release on Sept. 30, predicting the most brilliant colors and providing a guide book.

The forecast, prepared with assistance from the West Virginia Division of Forestry, is the first in a series of fall foliage updates the Tourism Office will release over the next few weeks. Reports will include the percentage of color change across the state and suggested travel routes through peak areas.

“Fall color is starting to make its way across the Mountain State, and a leaf peeping road trip is a great socially-distanced activity for all this season,” Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby said in a press release. “Thanks to our partnership with the Division of Forestry, we’ll be sharing weekly fall color updates, as well as a featured road trip each week for those looking to get out and explore their own backyard in a safe and responsible way.”

In addition, the Division of Tourism is providing an option to view the fall colors from the comfort of their own home, via social media. The Tourism Office will be taking users on the weekly road trip on social media. To join the virtual fun, follow @WVtourism on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“We understand that travel looks different now, which is why we are bringing the fall color to you,” said Ruby. “We want all West Virginians and prospective visitors to join us virtually and marvel in all that Almost Heaven has to offer—even if its remotely.”

According to the press release, travelers visiting West Virginia to see fall color are encouraged to check the status of individual businesses before taking a trip. A statewide indoor face covering requirement remains in effect, and visitors are encouraged to maintain a safe social distance when traveling the state.

In Mercer County, the higher elevations are the first to change. Null suggested Mercer County leaf peepers head to the Camp Creek area, Pinnacle Rock State Park and East River Mountain.

Leaf peeping is also popular among ATV Tourists. Null said a lot of tourists book their trips a year in advance.

“Road-tripping and leaf peeping go hand in hand so, it kind of falls together naturally,” Null said. “For ATV Riding, October is most likely booked up already. We have had so many phone calls from people looking for last minute spots on the ATV trails. Folks really anticipate that fall season. They will book those fall dates a year out just to make sure they get a spot so it is really hard right now to find an open cabin during the leaf season.”

Null also expects road trips to continue to be popular this season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we will see a lot more road trips or Sunday drives, I think it is something that people are going to embrace this year because of the pandemic,” Null said.

According to The Division of Tourism’s predictions, Mercer County’s fall foliage will be its most brilliant in late October this year.

To access the foliage forecast and fall travel inspiration, visit WVtourism.com/fall. Travelers are encouraged to share their favorite fall photos using #AlmostHeaven to help populate the Tourism Office’s live leaf map.

“By adding user-generated content to the map, we’re helping travelers plan their socially-distanced trips in the areas with the best fall color, and giving those joining from home an opportunity to see those iconic West Virginia views online,” said Ruby.

— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com

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