🍁 It looks like it will be a good fall foliage season this year

🍂 Fall foliage begins in North Jersey on Oct. 10

🍁Get outside this fall and check out the beauty all around

Yellows, oranges, and reds -– fall foliage will soon be upon us in New Jersey.

The season usually unfolds in layers starting in the North and Northwestern corners of the state, then it will move southward and eastward, said Jason Grabosky, Rutgers University professor at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, the New Jersey Agricultural Research Station.

The colors and timing will change based on the weather, and the fact that there’s a lot of oak and pine down in the South, but up North there’s other species like maple and beech, Grabosky said.

Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)
Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)

When is peak fall foliage season in New Jersey?

Color will start to form on the hilltops and drier soils up North by Oct. 2 and 3.

“But probably October 10 is when we’re going to see some of the really gorgeous colors in the Delaware Water Gap, moving over to the Poconos,” Grabosky said.

Then it should be between Oct. 15 and 20 for Central New Jersey, and if the weather holds, Southern New Jersey could burst with colors by Oct. 25, he said.

What conditions make for a great fall foliage season?

The yellows come naturally because as the green goes away, yellow is already in the leaf, Grabosky said.

“But, getting the oranges and reds, we have to produce the pigments that give you those reds, and then mixing with the yellows you get the oranges, of course. So, we’re looking for clear, beautiful days with clear, cool nights,” Graboski said.

He explained the sun's energy is used to build the red pigments and the cool nighttime temperatures reinforce the subtraction of the green.

Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)
Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)

Will it be a good fall foliage season this year?

The simple answer is yes, Graboski said. What’s good for the leaves during the summer is going to be good for fall colors because healthy leaves are able to produce those colors that people want.

It got hot for a while but as long as the weather holds, it should be a great fall foliage season. However, Grabosky said if the state gets a long period of cloudy weather and rainy days, the color will still come out, but they’ll just be a bit muted.

What causes the leaves to change color in the fall?

Leaves naturally look green to people. That is chlorophyll, a complicated molecule that takes energy to build and keeps breaking. So, leaves are constantly making more chlorophyll. That’s what keeps the leaves green, Graboski said.

When the day length gets short enough, there is a seasonal trigger and a lot of species are clicked in by day length. The cells at the base of the leaf or the stalk, start preparing themselves to break off of the tree, which is natural. When that happens, chlorophyll stops getting built, and the green begins to fade, revealing natural yellow colors, he added.

Good weather makes the yellow more vibrant. But beautiful days with cool nights give us the reds and the oranges. Different tree species prefer making one or the other colors. Beech leaves are bright yellow but the oaks are brilliant reds.

Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)
Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)

Where are some great places to see fall foliage in New Jersey?

“The best colors are where you’re not because somebody always says they see something better than you,” Grabosky quipped.

It really comes down to a matter of preference.

“I tend to like the maples and some of the aspens, so I’m more of a Northwestern New Jersey Highlands kind of person as far as my fall foliage where I like seeing it,” he said.

Other people appreciate seeing the golds and the browns of the oaks up against the greens of the pines, so they would probably prefer South Jersey.

High Point State Park, which straddles the border of Wantage Township and Montague Township in Sussex County was voted as New Jersey’s top hidden gem to see fall foliage, according to Mixbook.

Voted in the 16th position nationally, High Point State Park is “nestled away from the city’s hustle and bustle, and its panoramic vistas from the High Point Monument reveal a breathtaking tapestry of reds, oranges, and golds, blanketing the rolling hills and serene lakes below,” the photo book brand wrote. The park’s lesser-explored trails make it ideal for nature enthusiasts to take in autumn.

Foliage at High Point State Park
Photo by Bill Doyle / Townsquare Media

The Delaware Water Gap ranked 22nd on the Mixbook list because of its stunning panorama of reds, oranges, and yellows during autumn.

Ranking 135th is Hacklebarney State Park in Morris County. According to Mixbook, the park has a mix of hardwood trees that burst into a captivating array of red, orange, and gold hues during the summer months. Mixbook also wrote that this creates a picturesque contrast against the rocky terrain and pristine waterfalls.

“It’s really finding the beauty where you are. The important thing is to get outside as often as you can. Just look around. There’s gorgeous stuff everywhere,” Graboski said.

Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)
Fall foliage in New Jersey (Jason Graboski, Rutgers)

What is the perfect fall foliage day?

Again, it’s based on preference. But for Graboski, he likes the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Gap. Then get off at exit 1 or 2 on Route 80 for Dunnfield Creek Natural Area. Climb up the hill and you’ll get a gorgeous view that maps out all sorts of colors. Getting in some elevation is great because you’ll get the view sheds.

Allamuchy is also a great place to see fall foliage. Have breakfast at a diner, then hit Allamuchy and look at the landscapes scripted out. In Sparta, there are a lot of mine zones that are now forests and fall foliage is lush there, as well.

The bottom line is that New Jersey residents need to go outside, find the nearest woods, and just drink in the gorgeous fall colors.

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