Virginia is an oasis of state parks and national forests, each overshadowing one another to the point that it might be hard to choose the best places to see fall colors. One thing is certain—the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park stand out with the most vivid foliage. You'll find plenty of opportunities along the northwestern side of the state.
Blue Ridge Mountains (peak foliage: mid-October–early November)
Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains boast some of the world's most remarkable fall foliage. Explore the scenic beauty along local favorite Blue Ridge Parkway that connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park. The drive winds for 469 mi (754 km) through the spine of the mountains and features almost 400 striking overlooks.
Additionally, the Blue Ridge is home to a portion of the well-known Appalachian Trail, and other popular routes such as Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, Sharp Top Mountain, and also Humpback Rocks at the northern end of the Parkway corridor.
Shenandoah National Park (peak foliage: October)
At the highest elevations of Shenandoah National Park, the peak foliage season falls in the first week of October, while mid and low elevations see the prime colors during the last three weeks of the month. The main highlight of the park is the picturesque 105-mi (169-km) Skyline Drive with 70 overlooks offering mindblowing views. You can always take a break and enjoy some of the best fall hikes under the forest canopy. Check out a short section of the Appalachian Trail to Little Stony Man Overlook, or opt for a more challenging all-day hike on Old Rag Trail.
Leesylvania State Park (peak foliage: end of October–early to mid-November)
Nestled along the tidal shores of the Potomac River, the Leesylvania State Park in Prince William County is also a great place to visit when fall foliage transforms the area with a maelstrom of color. The park boasts enchanting sunrises and sunsets over the Potomac. In addition to natural beauty and recreational opportunities, Leesylvania bears significant historical importance to Virginia. You'll be strolling the area where the legendary Lee and Fairfax families once lived and where Capt. John Smith visited.
Chris Greene Lake Park (peak foliage: late October)
Aside from the mainstream locations, Virginia offers other less trafficked options to consider. The lovely Chris Greene Lake Park is located just north of Charlottesville and is vastly underrated. With a few miles of hiking trails, two picnic shelters (each with six picnic tables), open grills, electricity, and a dog park, this natural area is a nice place to plan your fall getaway. The admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children.
Claytor Lake State Park (peak foliage: mid-October)
Claytor Lake State Park is another lesser-known spot for leaf peepers in Dublin, Virginia. You can rent a bike or a boat to enjoy the kaleidoscopic color show around the waterline of Claytor Lake. Take in the fall foliage while driving State Park Road or hiking 7 mi (11 km) of scenic leafy trails.
Where to stay
When you plan on a getaway to Virginia, examine the fall foliage map first to choose the most convenient place to stay. Also, be sure to check the latest fall foliage report. The peak color season depends on the weather and differs from year to year.