Best time to travel to West Virginia

West Virginia Fall Foliage

See "Almost Heaven" explode with colors

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Last updated: by Olha Savych
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West Virginia is blessed with vast national parks and forests that are home to countless deciduous trees. When fall comes, the state turns into a fairyland of yellows, oranges, and reds. These rich landscapes make for the loveliest vistas. The peak season usually occurs between late September and late October, arriving first to the higher elevations up in mountains and then gradually descending to lower elevations. Check West Virginia's latest fall foliage report before planning your getaway, and make sure to see the state's prettiest locations listed below.

Coopers Rock (peak foliage: late September–early October)

Coopers Rock State Forest claims to be the best place to see fall colors in northern West Virginia. The nature preserve, located about 13 mi (21 km) northeast of Morgantown, is a wonderful place for hiking, climbing, biking, and camping, especially in fall. While roaming the park's 50 mi (80 km) of trails, you'll discover sandstone cliffs above the Cheat River Gorge, historical sites, canyon overlooks, and picnic shelters—all blanketed with vivid foliage.

Davis (peak foliage: late September–early October)

Sunrise from the Bear Rocks area of the Dolly Sods Wilderness 2020
Sunrise from the Bear Rocks area of the Dolly Sods Wilderness

The small mountain town of Davis is located along the Blackwater River in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County. Davis is literally wrapped by scenic areas, equally worth visiting for the fall colors. Blackwater Falls State Park is the nearest location, only about 3 mi (5 km) southwest of the town. Plan your itinerary so that it includes such iconic features as Blackwater Falls, Elakala Falls, Lindy Point, and Pendleton Point Overlook.

Visit the picturesque Canaan Valley, situated 4 mi (6 km) northeast of the town. The area is mesmerizing, with kaleidoscopic canvas stretching all over the mountainsides, river valleys, and country roads.

Another scenic spot is Dolly Sods Wilderness, the gem of the Monongahela National Forest. The place is set some 20 mi (33 km) southeast of Davis. Leaf peepers love the area for its brilliant hardwood foliage and vibrant blueberry bushes.

Snowshoe (peak foliage: late September–early October)

Snowshoe is primarily known as a ski resort. However, the area is also stunning in fall. One of the best attractions nearby is Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, which is 10 mi (16 km) southeast of Snowshoe. Hop aboard the historic Shay Steam Engine for the most atmospheric experience of the season. Fall foliage train rides to Bald Knob run regularly from mid-September through late October. A round-trip takes 4.5 hours. Adult tickets start at $61, and kid tickets (4 to 11)—at $51.

If you're visiting Cass Scenic Railroad, consider also dropping by Seneca State Forest near Dunmore, 17 mi (27 km) south of Cass. Seneca is the oldest and largest state forest in West Virginia. Take in its lush colored woodlands and enjoy the tranquility at Seneca Lake and the Greenbrier River. After hiking, you can relax in a rustic cabin or a campsite. The most exquisite place to stay overnight is Thorny Mountain Fire Lookout Tower. Make a reservation if you want to sleep in the clouds and be awed by sweeping panoramas.

New River Gorge (peak foliage: mid-October)

The last stop is the New River Gorge area. Unlike highland forests with peak foliage season starting in late September, the state parks along the New River color a bit later. The prime time here is usually the second week of October. Start exploring the area from Babcock State Park near Clifftop, and take a shot of the Glade Creek Grist Mill, an iconic site of West Virginia and the state's most photographed place.

Having enjoyed Babcock to your heart's content, move north for more classic fall foliage lookouts at Hawks Nest State Park near Ansted. The short drive will take around 30 minutes. You'll definitely want to make a stop and walk along the New River Gorge Bridge, which is roughly half-way to Hawks Nest. The bridge at Fayetteville is a recognizable landmark itself and boasts breathtaking panoramic vistas with some of the best West Virginia fall colors. Upon arrival to Hawks Nest, check out the views opening from the park lodge and restaurant, or take a ride by the aerial tramway to reveal the rugged section of the New River Gorge.

Where to stay

Every state park and national forest offers camping sites. Yet if you're into a comfortable night after an exhausting day of hiking or climbing, you're welcome to explore West Virginia fall foliage map below with accommodation options aplenty. Find the place you plan on visiting, and then choose a hotel nearby.