Autumn is here, and it’s time to experience one of the most picturesque seasons of the year when the state is a riot of Virginia fall colors. From the crisp, cool air to the vibrant leaves, fall in Virginia presents an amazing opportunity to experience the beauty of nature.
Virginia, in particular, offers a breathtaking display of color, making it the perfect destination for leaf peepers and tourists alike. Here are some of the top locations in Virginia to enjoy the stunning fall foliage, providing you with the perfect guide to plan your next autumn adventure.
Explore more of the state! Here are our favorite things to do in Virginia with kids.
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Virginia Fall Colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Arguably the most popular spot for fall foliage in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an iconic, 469-mile stretch of road slices through Virginia and North Carolina, offering breathtaking views at every turn.
Virginia’s section of the Blue Ridge Parkway leaves no shortage of vibrant fall foliage. With numerous overlooks and hiking trails, it’s easy to spend a full day (or more) soaking in the beautiful autumn scenery.
Mabry Mill (Milepost 176)
Easily one of the most iconic landmarks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is not to miss. This historic mill, surrounded by fiery reds, oranges, and yellows, makes for the perfect postcard-worthy photo. What’s more, the on-site restaurant serves up delicious southern fare for a true taste of Virginia.
Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86)
Experience the splendor of three mountain peaks – Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill – as the backdrop for spectacular fall colors at the Peaks of Otter. Hikers can ascend one or more peaks for panoramic views and that rewarding sense of accomplishment.
Refresh with a meal at the Peaks of Otter Lodge Restaurant after your hike while taking in breathtaking views of Abbott Lake.
Fallingwater Cascades (Milepost 83.1)
A moderate 1.7-mile loop trail, Fallingwater Cascades Trail brings you close to the cascading water as it meanders through the forest. The waterfalls create a serene atmosphere, perfect for embracing the essence of fall. As you walk along the trail, be prepared for an explosion of color from the surrounding foliage.
James River and Otter Creek (Milepost 60.8)
Explore the James River and Otter Creek as they merge in a stunning display of autumn brilliance. This spot is ideal for picnicking, with several tables available to set up your feast. Or if you prefer, take a short walk across the James River Footbridge, one of the parkway’s architectural marvels, to capture panoramic views of the surrounding foliage.
Ravens Roost (Milepost 10.7)
Boasting an elevation of 3,200 feet, Ravens Roost Overlook showcases vistas of Torry Mountain and the Shenandoah Valley.
Grab your camera, as this overlook is the perfect place to capture the parkway’s picturesque sunsets. Additionally, the area offers an accessible trail and picnic spot for a leisurely break with your loved ones.
Humpback Rocks (Milepost 5.8)
Located at the northern end of the Parkway, Humpback Rocks gives you a chance to feel the deep roots of our past and the allure of nature.
This section of the parkway offers an outdoor farm museum, showcasing the region’s history, and a trail leading to Humpback Rocks summit with its awe-inspiring scenery. It provides an enriching experience that combines history, culture, and Mother Nature at its finest.
Virginia Fall Foliage at George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
Together, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests span over 1.8 million acres across Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virgina. They offer an expansive array of options for those seeking a serene fall escape. In Virginia they span from the Appalachian Mountains in the southwest to the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making up 91% of all national forest land found within the state.
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
Nestled within the heart of Jefferson National Forest, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area offers a stunning variety of landscapes and activities for nature lovers. From hiking trails to scenic byways, this area truly has something for everyone.
One of the major highlights within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile multi-purpose rail trail that winds through the region. Bicycling is the most popular activity on this trail and the area boasts several bike rental and shuttle services.
For those seeking more of a scenic drive, the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway travels over 50 miles through the National Recreation Area and rural countryside, giving you sweeping views of the fall foliage. Along this route, you’ll witness the dramatic transition from open farmland to the rugged beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, all while basking in the glow of the warm autumn hues.
The summit of Whitetop Mountain is accessible via the highest elevated road in the state of Virginia. This incredible vantage point offers panoramic views of the area, the perfect spot for a memorable fall foliage photo.
Wolf Gap Recreation Area
Tucked away within George Washington National Forest on the border of Virginia and West Virgina, Wolf Gap Recreation Area offers a more secluded option for fall foliage enthusiasts. The drive from Interstate 81 to the recreation area is beautiful in the fall.
The highlight if you enjoy hiking is Big Schloss, a peak in the Great North Mountain range of the Ridge and Valley Appalachians, with an elevation of 2,964 feet. From the parking area, the hike is 4.3 miles roundtrip. You’ll feel on top of the world as you take in the panoramic scenes of a spectacular autumn palette below.
Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area
Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area offering visitors a fascinating journey back to the 18th century when America was taking root. As its name suggests, this area was once home to an important furnacе that produced pig iron from 1836 to 1884. In its prime, the furnace was a bustling enterprise, with workers and their families living right on-site!
Enjoy a serene walk in the woods along the Pig Iron and Charcoal Trails, where you’ll find historic remnants from the area’s past amid a backdrop of beaming autumn hues. The Buzzard Rock North Trail is another great choice, offering expansive views of the surrounding foliage from atop a rocky ridge.
Enjoy Fall in Virginia at Shenandoah National Park
While fall foliage is beautiful everywhere, the unique landscape and panoramic views of Shenandoah National Park make it a must-visit destination during autumn. In addition, the park has a 105-mile paved scenic road, Skyline Drive with 75 overlooks that allow you to easily appreciate the changing leaves across the park and down into the valley below.
The best way to experience all it has to offer is to stay at one of the beautiful lodges or choose among the four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park. Immerse yourself in nature by pitching a tent, renting a cabin, or enjoying the two lodge’s hotel-style rooms where you can enjoy views right from your door.
With over 200,000 acres of protected land and countless hiking trails to suit every skill level, there are endless opportunities to enjoy the brilliant display of colors.
Compton Gap (Northern District)
A relatively easy trail at 2.4 miles round trip, Compton Peak offers a moderate hike with spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley’s picturesque countryside. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning display of crimson, orange, and yellow leaves contrasted against the large basalt and granite rock formations.
Dark Hollow Falls
The moderate 1.4-mile trail to Dark Hollow Falls takes you to one of the park’s prettiest cascades. Surrounded by lush fall foliage, the beautiful 70-foot waterfall is undoubtedly one of the most photogenic spots in the park.
Rapidan Camp (Central District)
If you’re up for a moderate hike, combine Dark Hollow Falls with the adjacent Rose River Loop. The 4-mile Rose River Trail provides a moderate hike, suited for those in search of both serenity and awe-inspiring fall foliage.
Walk along the tumbling streams and catch glimpses of beautiful cascades as you are surrounded by a kaleidoscope of stunning autumn colors.
Bearfence (Central District)
Challenge yourself with the one-mile Bearfence Trail, offering a unique rock scramble experience that leads you to unbeatable 360-degree views of the vibrant fall colors. This hike requires some climbing and agility but is well worth the effort for the breathtaking vistas at the summit.
Blackrock Summit (Southern District)
Last but not least, the one-mile Blackrock Summit trail is ideal for families and novice hikers searching for an accessible, but memorable adventure.
Stroll along the wooded path leading to the most impressive rock formation at the peak, where you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of sprawling forests blanketed in a sea of brilliant autumn hues.
Autumn Foliage in Great Falls Park
Located in Northern Virginia just 15 miles from Washington, D.C. and Great Falls Park offers a more accessible spot for those wishing to witness the fall colors without straying far from the nation’s capital. With 800 acres of woodland bordering the Potomac River, this park features a mix of oak, maple, and beech trees, creating a spectacular blend of colors.
The park features three primary overlooks, each providing a unique perspective on the rushing waterfalls framed by vibrant autumn leaves. The contrast of the roaring falls with the calm serenity of the foliage creates a scene you won’t find anywhere else. Continuing onto the River Trail, you’ll be treated to stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from 80’ tall cliffs.
Fall Colors in Virginia’s Historic Triangle
For a unique twist on your fall foliage experience, consider visiting Virginia’s Historic Triangle. Considered the heart of American History, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown were pivotal to our nation’s beginnings.
As the first permanent English settlement in North America, Jamestown showcases 17th century colonial life at its most authentic. Colonial Williamsburg showcases 18th century life in Virginia and Yorktown was the site of the last major battle of the American Revolution.
Conviently located in this historic area is York River State Park, a true gem for anyone looking to enjoy fall foliage in a more natural setting. With over 2,500 acres of untouched landscape, this park offers various opportunities for hiking, biking, and fishing. The Taskinas Creek Overlooks and the Bluffs along the York River provide unforgettable vistas of the seasonal colors.
A stroll along the Taskinas Creek Trail will take you through wetlands and upland forests that burst with brilliant color each autumn. For a more panoramic view, the park’s Goose Neck Overlook provides an awe-inspiring perspective of the serene York River flanked by resplendent foliage.
Virginia serves as a captivating destination for those wishing to immerse themselves in the magic of fall foliage. From the iconic Shenandoah National Park to the bustling historic town of Williamsburg, there’s a spot for everyone to appreciate the natural beauty of the season. So don’t hesitate – pack your bags, grab your camera, and embark on a leaf-peeping tour that will take your breath away. You won’t be disappointed!
Julie Chickery is a travel writer with a passion for exploration. She caught the travel bug while serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. She’s spent years traveling the world, writing about her experiences and giving readers the information they need to plan their own adventures. Visit her website at www.chickerystravels.com.