We have the Best Fall Foliage in Northern VA, and are lucky to enjoy a longer season than most. October is the best month to catch the leaves at their peak, colors. Depending on the weather we’ve had, our season often runs into the first half of November as well.
Listed here are my favorite places to enjoy the Fall scenery. These are the places which I highly recommend to my friends, family and neighbors like YOU! If you enjoy visiting them, I’d love to hear your feedback and/or see your Fall pictures! Just drop either in the comment section below.
Skyline Drive – This is perhaps the most scenic drive in Shenandoah National Park during October! It is certainly everyone’s first choice when it comes to seeing the changing leaves. The road winds through the northern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers many places to pull over, take pictures and relax in the breathtaking landscape. You will feel as though you are on top of the world here! Make sure you have adequate gas before you arrive as gas stations here are few and far between. Many wild animals are active here during the Fall. Be on the lookout for deer, black bear, wild turkey and other wildlife. You’ll likely see a few moving deeper within the woods.
Stony Man Mountain Trail in Luray – This is a great place to go if you want to go hiking through Shenandoah National Park. While it is a 1.3 mile steady uphill climb, it isn’t very difficult. The path is clearly marked and is an outstanding place to take in mother nature at her finest! Nearby are waterfalls you can walk to as well. Besides this great outdoor adventure, I enjoy Luray for its caverns and Cooter’s Place, a museum for all those who enjoyed the Dukes of Hazzard and its iconic vehicles like the General Lee.
Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane – This 1,862 acre park in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers amazing mountain views, peaceful interconnected hiking trails through the woods, camping and picnic areas and a working farm. The 22 miles of trails include portions of the Appalachian Trail and feature 300 year old oak, hickory and chestnut trees and a variety of other plants that have evolved with nature. While you’re here, tour the historic Mount Bleak House, log cabin, and wash house that tell a story of yesteryear. I love this park for photo ops during the Fall! Be sure to bring a drink along if you’re hiking the trails. There are also some great wineries nearby that you can stop by on your way in or out.
Morven Park in Leesburg – Located on a 1,000-acre historic estate and horse park, this is a fabulous location for portrait or landscaping photography as the sunlight perfectly lights up the magnificent colors in the changing leaves. Many opt to get married on these grounds for the romantic backdrop it boasts. Also featured in the park is an 18th Century Mansion, the Winmill Carriage Museum, Boxwood gardens, and miles of hiking and horseriding trails.
Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls – The beautifully wooded and landscaped grounds surrounded by an early 19th century wooden water wheel and operating gristmill makes for a truly unique location for the entire family. In addition to the charming Fall scenery, there are picnic areas, a general store where you can purchase fresh milled grains, candy, snacks, drinks etc. Guided tours are offered and you will frequently see live demos and musical acts performed.
Photo Credit: Greg Reed
Great Falls Park – There are very few who are unaware of the natural beauty this park has to offer. However, the Fall foliage nestled behind the rocks, rapids and waterfalls is truly a spectacle to behold. If you haven’t been here during the Fall, I urge you to go check it out. It is one of the best places to see Fall foliage in Northern Virginia! Be sure to stop inside the Visitor’s Center while you’re there as it is full of information about the park’s history. You can also take a guided tour if you desire to learn more about the underground canals located here.
Photo Credit: Kohei Ueda
Difficult Run Trail in McLean – A scenic and serene 9.8 mile trail featuring views of Great Falls, and a local favorite in Northern Va during the Fall. Many enjoy it because it follows the Potomac River and features a couple of smaller waterfalls you can travel over. Don’t be fooled by its name however, this trail isn’t difficult to traverse beyond a few rocky areas. There is a picnic table along the way, but don’t count on it being empty. This is a popular spot for seeing the Fall foliage!
Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria- A less common option in Fairfax County, this park has a half-mile accessible boardwalk, woodland trails, and a unique hemi-marsh wildlife habitat surrounded by majestic trees. The visitors center has interactive exhibits and offers some history about the park as well as trail info. My favorite is the Deer Trail for taking in the Fall foliage surrounded by wetlands, but no matter which trail you choose you can’t go wrong. If you’re lucky you may even see a beaver scurry past.
Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station – Enjoy a pleasant hike with the family as this is an easy 5 mile path surrounding a 218 acre lake offering nice foliage views. There are also open fields and a little train here which offer unique opportunities for Fall photos with the kiddos.
Photo Credit: Jack Siah
Mason Neck State Park in Lorton – Normally a hot spot for Bald Eagle, Osprey and Blue Heron sightings, this peaceful park is amazing in the Fall. The park features marshes and woodlands with six miles of unpaved hiking trails and three miles of paved multi-use trails. Kanes Creek Trail is popular for spectacular Fall views. American beech trees, poplars, hickories, maples, are prevalent on the trail along with some holly bushes. The trail forks and becomes Eagle Spur Trail about a third of the way in. There is an observation area where you can stop and take a break if you wish. Fresh and brackish water fishing is also offered in the park.
Gunston Hall in Lorton – Home of George Mason, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers who drafted our Bill of Rights. An interesting museum and gardens are located on the peaceful grounds, but the Potomac River backdrop offers stunning Fall foliage photo ops. On October 24, 2020 there will be a Virtual Harvest Wine Festival from 12-4 PM for those who are interested.
Photo Credit: Frank N. Barker
Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge – A 556 acre historical park, this was once home to Native Americans and boasts a lot of interesting hisory and artifacts. The backdrop of Fall colors around the Potomac River are simply amazing at both sunrise (bring along a cup of coffee) and at sunset. There are 4 hiking trails in the park, my favorite being The Potomac Trail for taking in the Fall foliage. It is an easy 4.1 miles and you will also be able to see the railroad bridge and wetlands along the way. Leesylvania also has a fishing pier, kayak rentals, playground and a boat ramp here.
Photo Credit: Albert Herring
Prince William Forest Park in Triangle – Here you will discover over 15,000 acres of woodlands, streams and scenic nature trails to hike. There is also an abandoned mine, picnic areas, some historical sites and campgrounds. There is something for every nature lover to enjoy and explore here, including an RV park. This is the largest nature area in the Washington Capital region.
Photo Credit: Stephen Tabone
Virginia Civil War Battlefields – These historic battlefields are a great place to explore history and trails while taking in the beautiful changing colors of the foliage. My favorites include Manassas National Battlefield Park, New Market Battlefield and Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park. Split rail fences border all of the Civil War Battlefields so they are easily recognized. Some offer amenities like on-site tours and picnic areas for you to enjoy some lunch.