West Virginia becoming chief U.S. leaf-change destination

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West Virginia becoming chief U.S. leaf-change destination
Sightseers travel the Appalachian Highway through the Canaan Valley in autumn. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Tourism)

CANAAN VALLEY, W.Va. — Step aside, New England! West Virginia is fast becoming a chief destination for autumn leaf-change vacations in the eastern U.S.

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Thanks to accessibility, affordability, the number of trees, and the remarkable length of the season, the Mountain State is enjoying a significant shift to national prominence as a chief leaf-change destination, tourism leaders say.

Autumn splendor surrounds the Glade Creek Gristmill at Babcock State Park. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Tourism)

David Sibray, the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine, says the factors that have led to the boom are many and include the boom in state tourism that accompanied the pandemic.

"We've witnessed a marked increase in autumn-related traffic as early as August," says Sibray, whose online guide to the state has been published online for 24 years."

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"Much of this began during the pandemic," he said. "Unable to gather in groups, residents of the larger metro areas that surround the state—including Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Charlotte—began to travel more, and many discovered that the marvelous land called West Virginia was awaiting them.

Hikers wander the crimson-hued flats at Dolly Sods. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Tourism)

Lauren Hough, public relations manager for the West Virginia Department of Tourism, says accessibility and affordability are chief reasons the state is now a popular destination.

"West Virginia is just a day's drive away from two-thirds of the U.S. population, making it very easy to see fall foliage at its peak," Hough said, "and once travelers find themselves in the Mountain State, they'll have a variety of affordable lodging and dining options to choose from."

Hough says the state's geography is also an essential factor that provides for a long and vibrant season, which extends from September into December.

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"West Virginia is unique in that it has varying elevations––a major factor in when folks can see the leaves change. The fall season in Almost Heaven is extended for this reason, and visitors can enjoy the changing leaves in multiple regions of the state."

In addition, Hough says, there are plenty of trees. Forests cover approximately four of every five acres in West Virginia.

"West Virginia is the third most forested state in the U.S.," she says. "There's no shortage of autumn splendor here."

For more information on autumn travel in West Virginia, visit .

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