Best fall foliage spots near Washington D.C.

fall foliage


Until I moved to Virginia, I dreamed of planning a fall trip to New England to see the fall foliage.  Not anymore.  Beautiful fall foliage can be found just about anywhere in Virginia.

When is the best time to see fall leaves in Virginia?  Now!  Mid-October to early November is usually peak season for fall foliage in Virginia.

Anyone who has done research on fall foliage in Virginia knows that Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park  and the Blue Ridge Parkway are probably two of the most popular locations for seeing beautiful fall leaves.  However, if you are visiting Washington D.C. and need something a little closer or less crowded, check out these five great locations to see fall leaves in Northern Virginia.  Skyline Drive is not hard to access from Washington D.C. and is only about 1.5 hours away, but because it is so popular it is often crowded.

1.  Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is Washington D.C.’s largest park, spanning nearly 30 miles from Montgomery County, Maryland, to downtown Washington D.C.  It is a popular destination for biking, jogging, picnicking, and certainly for seeing beautiful fall leaves.

2.  C&O Canal National Historic Park

Take a peaceful canal ride on the river at C&O Canal National Historic Park.  Follow the towpath along the canal for great biking or jogging trails surrounded by fall foliage.  Access the canal from Great Falls in Potomac, Maryland, or Georgetown. fall foliage in Virginia

3.  Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, is just a little over an hour outside of Washington D.C.  This whole area makes for a beautiful drive, but the route that passes through Leesburg, Virginia, will take you past several beautiful vineyards and delightful fall foliage on your drive.  In Harpers Ferry, shop at farmers markets, visit the Harpers Ferry Historical Park, or for the more adventurous, get up close and personal with the fall foliage through a zip line tour.

4.  Great Falls National Park

Great Falls Park in Great Falls, Virginia, is known for its spectacular waterfall, but the leaves in Great Falls Park are stunning in October.  Visit for excellent views and great hiking trails along the Potomac River.  While there are more challenging hikes available, I often come here with my toddlers and there are plenty of beautiful places for them to hike. Great Falls Park has a visitor’s center, plenty of picnic tables and barbecue grills, and a nice grassy area to throw a frisbee or play ball.

fall foliage in Virginia

The leaves are just starting to turn, but they are going to be beautiful.

5.  Sky Meadows State Park

For a beautiful, less-crowded place to hike, consider Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia  It is worth a few extra minutes on your drive to take the scenic route through Middleburg.  Stop at a quaint inn for lunch or a drink, shop for antiques, and experience colonial Virginia before heading back to the city.

Fall has the added benefit of being one of the least busy times to sight see in Washington D.C. since school groups often come in the spring, so plan a fall outing to Washington D.C. and see the beautiful fall foliage in Virginia at the same time.

Looking for more ideas for your trip to Washington D.C.?  Check out tips from a local on our Washington D.C. page.


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