Welcome to the fall foliage report for 2022. Fall officially begins on Thursday, September 22, at 9:04 p.m. The outlook for this year is positive. It’s hard to predict what kind of season Maryland will have, but a few factors affect fall foliage, helping us develop a science-based forecast.

In western Maryland, we’re already seeing the falling black gum leaves decorating the dark forest floor with pops of pink. There are similar reports from Southern Maryland, where the yellow poplars join in as summer waves its last goodbye.

Black Gum leaves Credit: Melissa Carson / Maryland Park Service

The colors of the foliage, the length of time it lasts, and how soon the show will begin all depend on the weather, primarily rainfall and temperature. For the most part, Maryland avoided the drought conditions that plagued areas across the country this year. A normal or slightly above-average rainfall situation bodes well for good fall foliage.

Photos from Southern Maryland Credit: Cristina V. Perez / Maryland Forest Service

Join us as we follow the transition weekly with reports from our experts at our state forests and parks. Back by popular demand, we welcome all of Maryland’s outdoor enthusiasts to send photos capturing the beauty of the fall season. Please use the online submission form to submit your entries directly to us. Your photo might be selected to appear in a future edition of the Fall Foliage Report! 

The colors of the foliage, the length of time it lasts, and how soon the show will begin all depend on the weather, primarily rainfall and temperature. For the most part, Maryland avoided the drought conditions that plagued areas across the country this year. Having a normal or slightly above-average rainfall situation bodes well for good fall foliage.

National Drought Mitigation Center Credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

The other factor is temperature. The most brilliant leaf displays follow a period of warm, sunny days and cool nights. Leaves produce an abundance of sugars on sunny days. The cooler nights and gradual narrowing of leaf veins in the fall mean that most of the sugars produced are trapped in the leaf. A wealth of sugar and light in the leaf produces vivid anthocyanin pigments, which produce red, purple, and crimson colors. Yellow and gold leaf colors are produced by carotenoid pigments, which are ever-present in the leaves and are, therefore, less dependent on the conditions. This year, temperatures from August through November are expected to be above normal, but nothing drastic.

Three Month Temperature Map Credit: NOAA

Weather-wise, 2022 has been like 2021, so here is a recap of what happened last year in each region of Maryland. There are no guarantees that this season will be the same, but since our weather situation was similar, this may serve as a good guide.

Western Region

The state’s western portion is the first to show signs of color. Last year we saw changes in Garrett and Allegany counties in mid-September. Washington and Frederick’s counties soon followed late in September. In early October, we began to reach peak season in the far west. By late October, the western portion of Maryland was at or near its peak. By early November, the show was over. 

Sunrise over Monroe Run

Northern-Central Region

Leaves began to change in late September. By mid-October, colors were near peak in Carroll County, but most of the area was still just changing. By the end of October, we saw near-peak conditions across the north. By the first week of November, we were at the peak in Carroll and Baltimore counties, but Cecil and Harford Counties had gone past peak quickly. 

Fair Hill NRMA

Southern Region

Like the northern region, we didn’t see any change until late September. Leaves didn’t change much until late October, with Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties getting to mid-point around October 21. All of southern Maryland was at mid-point by the end of the month. We went quickly to peak and then past peak by mid-November.

St. Mary’s River State Park Credit: Karl B.

Eastern Region

The Eastern Shore is where fall wraps up. Leaves probably won’t begin to change until mid-October. The trend goes from north to south, with Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, and Talbot counties starting the fall color off. Dorchester will join in by late October, but Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester tend to stay green. By Halloween, leaf color really starts to change across the shore. You can see a full range by early November, which makes for a great day trip. By the end of November, we saw peak conditions for the most part, and the show wrapped up by Thanksgiving. 

View from the Bill Burton fishing pier

Please remember, these are just forecasts. To make forecasting even more complex, a single late-season storm can really throw everything off. 

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