The sure-fire cure for back to school blues? Plan an autumn road trip to see the changing leaves. Virginia and the mid-Atlantic states have many dramatic vistas where you can enjoy the fall foliage. Here are the best and tips for timing your trip to catch the fall colors in Virginia at their peak!
The mid-Atlantic states are fantastic places to witness the fall season come into its full glory. According to the fall foliage map, peak fall colors appear here during late September to early November. From Virginia to Pennsylvania and down to North Carolina, here are some ideal places to visit and experience the rich hues of autumn!
Best Places to See Fall Colors in Virginia
- Huntley Meadows Park
- George Washington Parkway
- Massanutten Resort
- Shenandoah National Park
- University of Virginia
- Blue Ridge Parkway
As a Virginia native, I have to say that this is one of the best states in the Mid-Atlantic region for a road trip to see the leaves change. The prime spots are found in the Piedmont Region which runs north to south, from the Potomac River all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Starting in northern Virginia, a trip to Alexandria (right outside of Washington DC) is an eye-popping way to start. This city is home to some of the biggest trees found in the U.S. Many of the parks located here, like Huntley Meadows Park, offer the brilliant leaf colors of bright yellow to deep burgundy. They are fascinating places to do a bit of leaf-peeping at this time of year to capture amazing photos. In addition, the historic George Washington Parkway is a visual treat during the fall season. For visitors and commuters alike, its tree-lined roadway is a relaxing and scenic drive to and from locations in DC.
Heading over to the western part of the state, Harrisonburg is a lovely place to reside (as I do) and to be surrounded by the glory of fall. Harrisonburg is located right in the Shenandoah Valley, and so all you have to do is look up and all around as you drive in town to see the leaves turning their rich colors on the mountains. The Massanutten Resort offers exceptional views, especially if you take a scenic drive or take advantage of the hiking trails that they offer.
The Shenandoah National Park is another wondrous place to view the fall foliage. The colors are at their most brilliant around mid-October and they often can be seen through November. One unique thing is that the leaves don’t all change at once. The cascade of autumn colors starts at the higher elevations and makes its way down the slopes of the mountain. Shenandoah National Park is an ideal place to getaway and go camping, hiking, bike riding or just enjoy a fall picnic!
Travel just an hour southeast of Harrisonburg, and central Virginia offers a gem in the city of Charlottesville. The drive itself, along I-64, wows the senses as the leaves change on Afton Mountain. Once in the city itself, the University of Virginia campus yields beautiful view everywhere that you look. Taking a stroll there is nourishing to the soul. Visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, to experience Virginia fall foliage at its best.
Head on down I-81 South to the southwest region of Virginia, and you can witness changing leaves along the way in the lovely city of Roanoke and on to Blacksburg as well. According to a friend, a trip down to Washington County is very much worth the effort. “You have the tree lined streets of Abingdon, and the Virginia Creeper Trail for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. South Holston Lake is surrounded by trees if you are boating. Just being in the mountains is gorgeous when the color comes!”
If you are up for a more adventurous drive through Virginia, consider hopping on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic roadway runs along the backbone of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the much larger Appalachian Mountains. Skyline Drive is a very popular section of the Parkway, and is the major road through Shenandoah National Park.
TravelingMom Tip: To avoid traffic on the heavily trafficked I-81 or Skyline Drive, the Virginia Department of Forestry has new driving tours they recommend. These will show you some less traveled roads where you can take your time to see the peak fall colors.
Additional Mid-Atlantic Places to View Fall Colors
The Blue Ridge Parkway has its southern end in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in North Carolina, another great vantage point from which to view the changing leaves.
Or head north to Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. You can enjoy scenic drives with less traffic.
Wherever you travel this fall, check the foliage report online for the state that you want to visit. That way, you can be sure to catch the leaves at their most brilliant hues.
Virginia and the mid-Atlantic states offer some premium vistas from which to see and enjoy the fall colors. And there are many recreational activities that help to make fall leaf peeping a memorable activity for all!
Want More Fall Road Trip Ideas?
- The Best Fall Festivals in the US for Families
- Fun Fall Things to Do with Kids
- Where to Find the Best Fall Leaves in the Northeast