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Fall in Virginia: 15 Best Spots for Fall Foilage in Virginia

Experiencing Fall in Virginia is an absolute must for anyone seeking the quintessential East Coast autumnal experience.

From sipping freshly pressed apple cider at sprawling orchards to getting lost in cornfield labyrinths, there are all kinds of seasonal activities and attractions to enjoy. However, the most popular fall activity that brings folks to Virginia year after year is taking in the beauty of the changing leaves.

Imagine strolling through the Shenandoah Valley, where the rolling hills and mountainsides are blanketed in shades of red, orange, and gold. Now imagine peering out of a 100-foot-tall fire tower to enjoy 360-degree views of fiery fall colors.

You can enjoy the changing colors from almost anywhere in the state, however here are the absolute best places for seeing the fall foliage in Virginia.

Best Spots for Fall Foilage in Virginia

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is renowned for its spectacular autumn foliage, and there are numerous places within the park to enjoy its vibrant colors.

There are so many great hikes within Shenandoah Park, however, there are a few that stand out when it comes to fall foliage. These include Hawksbill Summit, Stony Man Mountain, and Old Rag. Dark Hollow Falls and Bearfence Mountain are shorter trails also known for their fall scenery.

With endless hikes to enjoy the changing colors, Shenandoah fall foliage is not to be missed.

Skyline Drive

If you want to see fall colors in Virginia, hop onto Skyline Drive, a scenic Byway that runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and through the heart of Shenandoah National Park. There are 76 overlooks providing stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Some of the more popular overlooks for fall colors include Mary’s Rock Overlook (Mile 31.6), Hogback Overlook (Mile 21), and Pinnacles Overlook (Mile 35.1).

Fall colors on Skyline Drive

George Washington and Jefferson National Forest – Virginia Creeper Trail and Douthat State Park

Located in both Virginia and West Virginia, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is a stunning destination to experience the fall foliage season. The forested area covers over a million acres with mountains, valleys, rivers, and forests.

To experience Virginia’s fall colors, head to the Virginia Creeper Trail, a picturesque trail stretching 34 miles from Whitetop to Abingdon. Named for the native vine plant, the Virginia Creeper trail is lined with leaves that turn bright shades of purple and red before falling off the vines.

Douthat State Park is one of the original size Virginia State Parks and it is located within George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. The tree-lined 50-acre lake is a spectacular location to view fall’s changing colors.

Alexandria

The charming town of Alexandria is a great place to experience fall in Virginia. From September to November, autumn scenery is everywhere you look. Cobblestone streets are lined with gas lamps and colorful trees. You will find mums in the doorways and decorative pumpkins adorning steps.

The fall is a great time to visit Old Town Alexandria. Beyond the beautiful fall colors, you can enjoy a number of other festive activities including Halloween ghost tours, fall festivals, and of course Old Town’s famous Trick-or-Treating.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not only one of the best scenic drives in Virginia, but it is also considered one of the best scenic drives in the country. Travel Channel included the Blue Ridge Parkway on its list of “don’t miss scenic drives”.

While exploring the parkway, don’t miss Mabry Mill (Milepost 176.1). This Virginia landmark is one of the most photographed spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway. During the fall, the mill’s iconic waterwheel is framed by colorful foliage.

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Mabry Mill in Fall

Charlottesville

Home to Monticello, the University of Virginia, and award-winning wineries, Charlottesville is a popular destination. In the fall, you will not want to miss Carter Mountain Orchard for apple picking, fresh apple cider, warm apple cider donuts, and the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Other stand-out locations for fall colors include Ash Lawn-Highland (former home of President James Monroe), Walnut Creek Park, and the Rivanna River Trail.

Fairy Stone State Park

Fairy Stone State Park, located in Stuart, Virginia, is known for its fascinating geological features and the legend of the fairy stones. This park becomes especially enchanting during the autumn season when the park’s hardwood forests burst into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

The calm waters of Fairy Stone Lake perfectly reflect the autumn colors, making it a popular place for outdoor photography.

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Peaks of Otter

Located within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Peaks of Otter is a popular destination for viewing fall colors in Virginia. Book a night at the iconic Peaks of Otter Lodge and enjoy the picturesque landscape of reds, oranges, and yellows reflecting off the serene Abbott Lake without ever having to leave the comfort of your private balcony.

Those seeking adventure will want to explore Sharp Top Trail, one of the best hikes in Virginia providing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Johnson’s Orchards and Peaks of Otter Winery also offer a picturesque venue for appreciating fall foilage in Virginia.

Fall in Virginia - Peaks of Otter

Smith Mountain Lake

While summer is undoubtedly the more popular time of year to visit Smith Mountain Lake, visiting during the cooler fall season is also worthwhile. Smith Mountain Lake weather in September reaches an average high of 78 degrees in September, 68 in October, and 59 in November.

The drive to Smith Mountain Lake is a scenic experience in itself. Rolling Hills and Farmlands take on vibrant fall colors. The area around Smith Mountain Lake also offers various hiking trails and nature walks for experiencing Virginia’s fall foliage up close.

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Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park is named for the 215-foot-tall limestone formation carved out by Cedar Creek. While the bridge is stunning year-round, autumn leaves add an extra layer of beauty to this iconic landmark. If you continue past the bridge, the wooded trail leads to the Monacan Indian Village and the cascading Lace Falls.

While visiting Natural Bridge, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Virginia Safari Park. A 180-acre Drive-through safari just a few miles from the state park. The park is open until November.

Maymont

Maymont is a beautiful estate and park located in Richmond, Virginia, known for its stunning gardens, historic mansion, and wildlife exhibits. Visiting Maymont in the fall offers a unique and picturesque experience.

The Japanese Garden at Maymont is a photographer’s dream. The colorful maples, serene ponds, and traditional Japanese architecture are made even more beautiful with the red and orange hues of autumn.

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park, located along the Potomac River, is a magnificent natural area known for its stunning waterfalls, rocky cliffs, and scenic overlooks. The Potomac River and cascading waterfalls provide a dramatic backdrop for the fall foliage.

Within Great Falls Park, the Billy Goat Trail is often considered a favorite hike in Northern Virginia with its river views and rock scrambles. If you prefer to skip the hiking, this park also offers several scenic overlooks just steps away from the parking area.

Grayson Highlands

Grayson Highlands is a breathtaking destination at any time of year due to its stunning landscapes, high mountain peaks, and open balds. What makes this Virginia destination truly unique is its wild ponies. Grayson Highlands is one of the two locations in the state where you can find wild ponies, the other being Chincoteague Island.

If you want to extend your stay, Grayson Highlands State Park offers camping facilities including tents and spacious yurts that are perfect for glamping.

Wild Ponies at Grayson Highlands in the fall

Big Walker Lookout

Big Walker Lookout in Wythe County, VA, is a popular destination for hikers and adventure seekers. To get to the lookout, you’ll have to drive along winding mountain roads as you slowly ascend the mountain.

The highlight of Big Walker Lookout is the 100-foot-tall fire tower. Those daring enough can climb to the top of the tower for unobstructed views of the Appalachian Mountains and the New River Valley. Fall is hands down the best time of year to visit Big Walker Lookout due to the colorful foliage.

The lookout is open seasonally, so make sure to check its operating hours before planning your visit.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best time to see fall foliage in Virginia?

The best time to see fall foliage in Virginia typically occurs during the months of October and early November. However, the exact timing of peak foliage can vary from year to year and can be influenced by factors such as weather conditions and the region of the state you plan to visit.

It’s always best to keep an eye on foliage reports and websites dedicated to tracking fall colors. The Smoky Mountains website provides a great Fall Foliage Map that provides an interactive visual guide to tracking the predicted progression of changing leaves.

Conclusion: Fall in Virginia

There are many reasons to experience fall in Virginia: the apple-picking orchards, seasonal festivals, apple cider donuts, and of course the fall colors.

While Shenandoah National Park is an easy choice for leaf peeping in Virginia, there are plenty of other destinations around the state for catching the fall colors. Which one is your favorite?

Cecilia

Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

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