Best time to travel to Virginia

Virginia Fall Foliage 2024

Discover the brilliance of Virginia's Blue Ridge during the peak foliage display

Best time: early October–early November

Virginia Fall Foliage
Virginia Fall Foliage
Virginia Fall Foliage
Virginia Fall Foliage
Virginia Fall Foliage
Virginia Fall Foliage
Sherando Lake

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.

Blue Ridge Parkway (peak foliage: mid-late October)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the popular and frequently visited places to observe the changing colors of nature in fall. Leaves begin to change first at the highest elevations and finish at lower elevations in mid to late October. A portion of the Parkway lies on east and west-facing slopes, varying in elevation from just under 650 feet at James River in Virginia to more than 6,000 feet at Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina.

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. The park operates from 6 am, and the gates close at 8 pm.

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. The park operates from 7 am to 7 pm.

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. The park is open from 6 am and closes at 10 pm.

Grayson Highlands State Park (peak foliage: early October)

Grayson Highlands State Park is located near the two highest mountains in Virginia, Rogers and Whitetop. In the fall, the picturesque scenery of the alpine peaks, rising over 5,000 feet (1,524 km) in height, is covered in a variety of colors. Mount Rogers, along with the Appalachian Trail and the Grayson Mountains, is especially spectacular during this time of year. You can access these beautiful landscapes by walking along hiking and horse trails. The park also has campsites where you can stay to fully enjoy nature. The park is open from 8 am to 10 pm daily.

Natural Tunnel State Park (peak foliage: early October)

Natural Tunnel, located in the Natural Tunnel State Park, is over 850 feet (km) long and was formed over thousands of years in a limestone ridge. The tunnel is surrounded by several peaks, which have a wonderful appearance in the fall and are enchanted with their scenery. The main overlook, however, is behind the Visitor Center. Natural Tunnel State Park also offers a campground, picnic areas, and an amphitheater. Visitors can also take caving tours and canoeing on the Clinch River.

New River Trail (peak foliage: early October)

The New River Trail is one of the most popular rail trails in the United States and is officially recognized as a National Recreation Trail. It also functions as a linear state park that runs along the New River through Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, and Pulaski counties. This is one of the great options to comfortably enjoy the fall colors. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk, and fall trail tours take place from September 7 to October 27 on Saturday and Sunday.

Lake Anna State Park (peak foliage: mid October)

Lake Anna attracts tourists with the opportunity to fish as well as visit a bathhouse-concessions complex and a boat launch. In autumn, the scenery along the river can be explored with the help of more than 15 miles of trails. The park also offers many hiking, biking, and horseback riding options. The park is open from dawn till dusk daily.

Natural Bridge (peak foliage: mid October)

Natural Bridge State Park is the 37th state park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark. The park is especially popular with tourists because of the 200-foot-tall Natural Bridge, located in a limestone gorge carved by Cedar Creek. In the fall, lush forests and open meadows, along with views of the mountains and the James River valley, are a must-see. The park's 10 miles of hiking trails will help you explore all of the most scenic spots. The park is open daily from 8 am until dusk.

Powhatan State Park (peak foliage: mid October)

Powhatan State Park is located on the historic James River, whose banks are especially charming in the fall. You can enjoy the autumn nature by canoeing down the river or walking through the fields and high-altitude deciduous forests. The park offers camping, canoeing, and hiking camp. Guests can also explore the park on designated trails and visit wildlife viewing areas, picnic areas, and a playground. The park is open daily from dawn until dusk.

Mason Neck State Park (peak foliage: late October)

Mason Neck State Park offers many hiking trails and 3 miles of paved multi-use paths, along which you can find beautiful fall scenery. Afterwards, visitors can plan a picnic or take a guided canoe trip to Cane Creek and Belmont Bay. You can also observe birds, such as American bald eagles. The park is open from 7 am to dusk from October 1 to April 30 and from 6 am to dusk from May 1 to September 30.

Other Places to Enjoy Fall Foliage in Virginia

Virginia is a great destination if you want to revel in all the fall beauty. So you can also visit the York River, Westmoreland, Machicomoco, Sweet Run, Staunton River, Sky Meadows, Sailor’s Creek, Occoneechee, or Hungry Mother to have a full fall foliage experience.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Virginia for fall foliage?

The fall foliage in Virginia peaks from early October to early November. The peak depends on the elevation-level and location of the state, with higher elevations experiencing peak foliage earlier. It is advisable to stay updated with the latest fall foliage report and weather conditions while planning the trip. This time is perfect for witnessing the colorful nature of Virginia in all its glory with cool temperatures and local festivals. Show more

Where are the best places to witness the fall colors in Virginia?

If you're looking for the best spots to witness the fall foliage in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park are the perfect attractions. Exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains while driving through the Blue Ridge Parkway or hiking the Appalachian Trail to landmarks like Dragon's Tooth, Sharp Top Mountain, McAfee Knob, and Humpback Rocks offers a memorable experience. Shenandoah National Park and Leesylvania State Park offer breathtaking views from the highest elevations and Potomac River tidal shores. Show more

What activities can I do during the fall foliage season in Blue Ridge Mountains?

The Blue Ridge Mountains are an outdoor lover's paradise during the fall foliage season. You can embark on a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, camping, and picnicking while taking in the vibrant colors. The Blue Ridge Parkway's drives feature almost 400 overlooks, with scenic waterways, horseback riding, and wildlife watching activities available. The wineries in the area offer the chance to unwind and taste the local wines while soaking up the stunning views. Show more

Where can I find a combination of natural beauty and historical significance in Virginia?

Leesylvania State Park provides a combination of natural beauty and historical significance, located on the banks of the tidal Potomac River. Visitors can experience the beauty of history through activities like hiking, kayaking, fishing while experiencing breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. The location once served as a spot where the Lee and Fairfax families, and Captain John Smith lived. The Freestone Point area of the park features an exhibit of the Lee family life, adding to the historical significance. Show more

What are some lesser-known state parks to witness the fall colors in Virginia?

To experience fall foliage without the cost of the more popular state parks, Chris Greene Lake Park and Claytor Lake State Park provide an affordable alternative. Chris Greene Lake Park provides various recreational activities, including hiking trails, open grills, picnic tables, electricity, and a dog park. Claytor Lake State Park includes scenic boat rides and hikes and other activities, such as bird watching, geocaching, and many others. Show more

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