When and where you can see the leaves changing colors in Pittsburgh

Get ready: Peak leaf peeping is coming.

Maranie Staab / Riverlife
MJ Slaby

Even though fall doesn’t officially start till Friday, the decorations and pumpkin spice everything have been out for weeks. So what do we have to look forward to now?

“The state is in for a really nice show,” said Ryan Reed, an environmental education specialist at the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which publishes weekly fall foliage reports on peak times for leaf peeping.

Spoiler alert: Though the first report of the season doesn’t come out till Thursday, Reed told us this year’s peak viewing time for Southwestern Pa. — mid to late October.

A good year

Remember this summer when it seemed to rain every. single. day? Turns out that rain was just helping improve the fall colors.

“It all boils down to the growing season,” Reed said, adding that trees are like any other plant, so if other greenery is doing well, so are the trees. This year was “a good healthy year of rainfall,” he said, but cautioned that the only issue is that in some parts of the state, it was too much of a good thing, and the repeated rain caused fungi problems in isolated spots.

Overall though, it was good preparation for fall foliage, he said. And Pennsylvania itself is a “perfect storm” for creating the popular bevy of colors, Reed said.

Trees in the state are able to adapt to the climate, and there’s a range of diversity in tree types. Some trees are at the northern edge of where they can grow, others are at the southern edge of that range, and others still are perfectly suited for the state, per Reed. Mix in the range of topography, and it all means more fall colors.

Where to go

It’s going to be an “excellent year,” so Reed said all your favorite spots will be just as great — if not better — this year as they’ve been in the past.

And if you don’t have a favorite, there are plenty of lists to help you find one if you’re willing to drive and/or make a day trip:

For fall colors closest to home, The Incline asked Stephan Bontrager, director of communications for Riverlife for his picks. Here are his top three:

  1. By water. Get on the Gateway Clipper to see the fall color “the Pittsburgh way.” Or if you’d rather have more autonomy, rent a pontoon from Boat Pittsburgh in Sharpsburg to see the colors at your own pace.
  2. Walk (or bike) on the Hot Metal Bridge on the South Side. Stop on the bridge and look toward the city to see the fall leaves and city skyline, the Birmingham Bridge, several riverfront parks and the South Side Marina.
  3. Point State Park. You “can’t get more classic than that.” Explore the trails and parks with the landscape that showcases trees from Western Pa.