Discover When Leaves Change Color in Ohio (Plus 5 Towns with Beautiful Foliage)

Written by Em Casalena
Updated: October 19, 2023
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In Ohio, when autumn’s embrace sweeps in, the landscape transforms into a canvas of vibrant hues. The leaves change color in Ohio with an enchanting rhythm, igniting a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s a spectacular show put on by Mother Nature herself, and Ohioans eagerly anticipate this yearly spectacle. But when does it all start? Let’s find out!

When Do the Leaves Change in Ohio?

Autumn in Ohio is a splendid season marked by the transformation of leaves from their lush green hues to a mesmerizing array of reds, oranges, and yellows. However, the timing of this transformation varies across the diverse regions of the state, making it a picturesque spectacle for both residents and visitors alike.

Northern Ohio

In the northern region of Ohio, the leaves typically begin their transition in early to mid-September. As the temperatures start to drop, signaling the arrival of autumn, the deciduous trees that dominate this part of the state, such as maples and oaks, respond by preparing to shed their leaves. Cool nights and mild daytime temperatures contribute to the gradual shift in color. The vibrant reds and oranges start to appear first, with the leaves slowly changing from the edges inward.

Central Ohio

Moving to the central part of the state, including cities like Columbus and Dayton, the color transformation typically occurs a bit later, usually in late September to early October. Here, the climate transition from summer to fall is more gradual, which results in a slightly delayed leaf-changing process. The trees in this region, including sugar maples and sweetgums, undergo a breathtaking metamorphosis, revealing a symphony of red, yellow, and orange shades.

Southern Ohio

Southern Ohio, encompassing areas like Cincinnati and Portsmouth, tends to experience the latest leaf-changing period, typically in mid to late October. The warmer temperatures persist for a bit longer in this region, causing the leaves to retain their greenery well into the autumn season. However, when the transition does occur, it is nothing short of spectacular. The hills and valleys become a canvas of deep reds and fiery oranges, creating a postcard-worthy scene.

Factors Influencing the Timing

Several factors influence the timing of leaf color changes in Ohio. One of the most critical factors is temperature. Cooler temperatures trigger the breakdown of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for the green color in leaves. As chlorophyll breaks down, the other pigments, such as carotenoids and anthocyanins, become more visible, leading to vibrant autumnal colors.

Daylight hours also play a crucial role. As the days become shorter, trees receive less sunlight, which signals them to prepare for the winter months. This reduction in daylight hours triggers the onset of the leaf-changing process.

Also, tree species and their genetic makeup affect the colors and timing of the transformation. For instance, maples are known for their brilliant reds, while oaks tend to display shades of russet and brown.

Enjoying the Spectacle

Experiencing the change of leaves in Ohio is a cherished tradition for many. Residents and tourists alike often embark on road trips, hikes, and visits to parks and nature reserves to witness this natural spectacle. The state’s numerous scenic byways, like the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway or the Amish Country Byway, offer breathtaking views of the colorful foliage against the backdrop of Ohio’s diverse landscapes.

A Natural Spring With Stone Stairway And Path Through A Forest Ablaze With The Colors Of Autumn, Glen Helen Nature Preserve; Yellow Springs Ohio, USA

The timing in which leaves of trees turn colors in Ohio depends on location, the types of trees in any given area, and how long daylight hours tend to be. Just as well, unfortunately, climate change may impact when the leaves start turning colors in the coming years.

©Doug Lemke/

Common Trees in Ohio That Change Color in Fall

Ohio’s diverse landscape is home to several tree species that undergo remarkable leaf color changes during this season. From the northern forests to the southern hills, these trees offer a breathtaking spectacle that attracts visitors and captures the hearts of residents.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Where to Find: Throughout Ohio

One of the most iconic trees of Ohio’s autumn is the Sugar Maple. These majestic trees can be found throughout the state, from the northern regions near Lake Erie to the southern Appalachian foothills. Sugar Maples are renowned for their fiery red and orange leaves. Their palmate leaves have five distinct lobes and turn vibrant shades of red and orange during autumn. In Ohio, they often create dense canopies of color, transforming the landscape into a breathtaking mosaic.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Where to Find: Throughout Ohio

Red Maples are another prominent species found throughout Ohio. They are adaptable and thrive in various habitats, from wetlands to urban landscapes. Their leaves are typically green throughout the summer, but as autumn approaches, they transform into brilliant shades of red, hence the name. The Red Maple’s bright scarlet foliage is a striking contrast against the backdrop of Ohio’s woodlands.

The red maple tree was spread branch gracefully in autumn.

Red maple trees (pictured) are known for their particularly vivid red leaf hue during autumn throughout Ohio. They can be found in the woods as well as in many public parks, residential areas, and commercial areas in the state.


White Oak (Quercus alba)

Where to Find: Throughout Ohio

White Oaks, with their rugged and sturdy appearance, are a common sight in Ohio’s forests. These mighty trees can be found throughout the state. Their leaves are distinctive, with rounded lobes and a pale green color during the growing season. When autumn arrives, the leaves of the White Oak often turn a rich, deep red or russet-brown. Their robust presence adds a sense of strength to Ohio’s fall landscape.

Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Where to Find: Southern Ohio

In the southern regions of Ohio, particularly in the Appalachian foothills, you’ll find the Black Tupelo tree, also known as the Black Gum or Sour Gum. Their leaves are simple and elliptical with smooth edges. During the fall, Black Tupelo trees showcase a striking display of deep scarlet to purple foliage. Their vibrant leaves stand out against the rugged terrain, making them a highlight of the southern Ohio landscape.

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Where to Find: Throughout Ohio

Sweetgum trees are widely distributed across Ohio, and their star-shaped leaves make them easily recognizable. During the summer, their leaves are glossy green, but come autumn, they transform. Sweetgum leaves turn brilliant shades of red, purple, and orange, making them a prominent feature of Ohio’s fall foliage. You’ll often find these trees in parks, along roadways, and in urban areas.

Hickory (Carya spp.)

Where to Find: Throughout Ohio

Ohio is home to several species of hickory trees, including the Shagbark Hickory and the Pignut Hickory. Hickory leaves are compound, typically consisting of several leaflets. During autumn, their leaves change to various shades of yellow and golden brown. These trees provide a warm and rustic touch to Ohio’s fall scenery.

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Where to Find: Throughout Ohio

The Dogwood tree, specifically the Flowering Dogwood, is a smaller tree that adds a delicate charm to Ohio’s autumn landscape. Their leaves are simple, opposite, and oval-shaped. In the fall, the Dogwood’s foliage turns a vibrant crimson to burgundy color, creating a delightful contrast against its gray bark. These trees can be found in woodlands, gardens, and along forest edges across Ohio.

5 Places in Ohio With Gorgeous Trees in Fall

Holmes County

Holmes County, nestled in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, is a splendid destination for witnessing the vibrant autumn foliage. The county’s unique combination of natural beauty, cultural charm, and historical significance makes it an exceptional place to experience the changing colors of fall.

During autumn, Holmes County’s landscape transforms into a captivating canvas of reds, oranges, and yellows as the leaves of numerous tree species, including Sugar Maples and Black Tupelos, undergo a breathtaking metamorphosis. The rolling hills and serene countryside provide scenic vistas, perfect for leaf peeping and photography.

Tourists can embark on leisurely drives along the Amish Country Byway, meandering through the county’s colorful terrain while stopping at charming shops and artisanal stores to savor local delicacies and handcrafted goods. Exploring the Amish culture is a unique aspect of a visit to Holmes County. Tourists can engage with the local community, taking horse-drawn buggy rides and visiting bakeries, quilt shops, and furniture stores.

Holmes County is also rich in history, with towns and villages dating back to the 1800s. Visitors can explore historical sites like the Victorian House Museum and Millersburg Glass Museum, gaining insight into the area’s past.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, situated in northeastern Ohio, is a picturesque haven for leaf peepers during the autumn season. This national park is a treasure trove of natural beauty and diverse landscapes that come alive with stunning colors as the leaves change.

The park covers over 33,000 acres, offering a wide range of vantage points to observe the vibrant transformation of the foliage. Sugar Maples, Red Maples, and a variety of hardwood trees adorn the park, creating a dazzling palette of reds, oranges, and yellows. The rolling hills and deep valleys provide panoramic views of this breathtaking spectacle.

Visitors can explore the park through its extensive network of trails and scenic overlooks, including the popular Brandywine Falls, where you can witness the waterfall surrounded by autumn’s fiery colors. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers a unique perspective, allowing passengers to enjoy the fall foliage from the comfort of vintage train cars.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, and birdwatchers can spot migratory birds as they pass through the region during the fall.

Moreover, the park hosts various cultural and recreational activities, including concerts, art exhibits, and ranger-led programs, enhancing the visitor experience.

Fall foliage in Cuyahoga Valley

The Cuyahoga Valley is a stunning natural area that showcases the beauty of Ohio.

©Kenneth Keitfer/

The Townships of Geauga County

Geauga County, located in northeastern Ohio, is a captivating destination for watching the leaves turn colors during the autumn season. This county, known for its charming townships and natural beauty, offers a serene backdrop for witnessing the vibrant fall foliage.

The townships of Geauga County, including Chardon, Chesterland, and Burton, are nestled in a picturesque landscape adorned with a variety of deciduous trees. Maple, oak, and hickory trees are prevalent, creating a mesmerizing canvas of colors in the fall. The rolling hills and winding country roads provide idyllic settings for leaf watchers.

Visitors to Geauga County can explore the historic village of Burton, often referred to as the “Maple Syrup Capital of Ohio.” The town is famous for its annual Burton Maple Festival and offers delightful shops, making it an ideal stop during a leaf-peeping tour.

Nature enthusiasts can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the Geauga Park District, which boasts numerous trails and parks, including The West Woods, where hiking and picnicking can be enjoyed amidst the vibrant foliage.

Furthermore, Geauga County is home to the Middlefield Swiss Cheese Festival, celebrating the local cheese-making heritage, and adding a cultural dimension to an autumn visit.

Ashtabula County

Ashtabula County, nestled along the shores of Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio, offers a captivating setting for leaf peeping during the autumn season. This county is renowned for its stunning landscapes and diverse tree species, making it an ideal destination to witness the kaleidoscope of fall colors.

The county’s vast woodlands and rolling hills come alive with hues of red, orange, and yellow as numerous tree species, including Sugar Maples, Red Maples, and oaks, undergo their autumn transformation. The proximity to Lake Erie adds to the scenic charm, creating a unique blend of water and land beauty.

Visitors can explore Ashtabula County through its scenic byways and backroads, such as the Grand River Valley Wine Region, where vineyards and orchards dot the landscape. The covered bridges of the county, like the Smolen-Gulf Bridge, offer picturesque spots to admire the fall foliage.

Ashtabula County is also home to the longest stretch of coastline in Ohio, boasting pristine beaches and parks along Lake Erie. Conneaut Township Park and Geneva State Park provide opportunities for lakeside leaf-watching and outdoor activities.

For history buffs, the county’s Underground Railroad sites and historic districts offer a glimpse into its rich past.

Shawnee State Park

Shawnee State Park, situated in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio, stands as an exceptional location to witness the leaves change during the autumn season. This 1,095-acre park offers a unique blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and scenic vistas that make it a prime destination for leaf peeping.

The park’s diverse woodlands are home to a variety of tree species, including Sugar Maples, Red Maples, oaks, and hickories. As autumn arrives, these trees burst into a vibrant display of reds, oranges, and yellows. The rolling hills and valleys create a picturesque backdrop, making it an ideal spot for leaf watchers.

Visitors can explore Shawnee State Park through its extensive trail system, offering hikers and nature enthusiasts the chance to immerse themselves in the vibrant foliage. The 60-acre Turkey Creek Lake, nestled within the park, reflects the autumn colors, providing stunning photo opportunities.

For those seeking outdoor adventure, the park offers camping, fishing, boating, and picnicking facilities. Additionally, the Shawnee State Forest, adjacent to the park, provides additional opportunities for exploration.

One interesting fact about Shawnee State Park is its rich Native American history, with evidence of ancient civilizations and settlements dating back thousands of years. The park’s namesake, the Shawnee people, once roamed these lands.

Summary of 5 Places with Beautiful Foliage in Autumn in Ohio

#PlaceTrees Found There
1Holmes CountySugar Maple, Black Tupelos
2Cuyahoga Valley National ParkSugar Maple, Red Maple, Hardwoods
3The Townships of Geauga CountyMaple, Oak, Hickory
4Ashtabula CountySugar Maple, Red Maple, Oak
5Shawnee State ParkSugar Maple, Red Maple, Oak, Hickory

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Peter Turner Photography/

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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