Where to See Fall Foliage in Virginia

Mabry Mill, on Viriginia's Blue Ridge Parkway, is especially picturesque in autumn
Mabry Mill, on Viriginia's Blue Ridge Parkway, is especially picturesque in autumn | © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mike Title
2 October 2020

Virginia, home to lush woodlands and the Blue Ridge Mountains, becomes a wonderland of color when fall arrives. The peak time to witness the autumn foliage is early October, while the best places to admire it range from state parks like Shenandoah to idyllic sites like Mabry Mill. To make sure you don’t miss the spectacle, check out these prime viewing spots.

Natural Tunnel State Park

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Map View

A five-hour drive west out of Richmond, the Natural Tunnel State Park displays electric colors at this time of year. Better still, you can take a chair lift up above the trees to experience the fall colors in a fun way and at a gentle pace. For those who like to stay on foot, there are trails that take you to the lip of the Natural Tunnel, where you’ll get tremendous views. The cabins on site are a really cosy way to extend your time in this magical park.

Abingdon

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Abingdon is around 4.5 hours west of Richmond and is part of a famous region of vineyards that produce some impressive old-world style wines. Perhaps the best of the bunch is Abingdon Vineyards, set right next to some of the most popular trails in the region. You can spend the day kayaking on the lake, or walking on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a corridor of such striking beauty that the changing colors and the crunch of leaves underfoot will leave you feeling truly inspired.

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

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USA, Virginia, Jefferson National Forest
© Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
Stretching out across the stunning Appalachian Mountains, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests consist of an unbelievable 1.66 million acres (647,500ha) with over 2,000mi (3,220km) of trails to hike. Over 40 species of tree transform with spectacular fall colors, providing a backdrop for an array of outdoor activities. If you wish to go off grid with no cell phone to enjoy kayaking, boating, fishing or hunting, this is the region to do it in.

Kiptopeke State Park

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At Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia’s Atlantic coast, the forest meets the crashing waves, offers rare beauty that is hard to find in other state parks. Mix the sounds of the ocean with the influx of songbirds at this time of year, and your ears are in for just as much of a treat as your eyes. The park’s camping spots, especially the yurts, are a great choice for anyone wishing to stay a few days in rugged comfort.

Shenandoah National State Park

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View over the Shenandoah National Park with beautiful foliage in the Indian summer, Virginia, United States of America
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
About two hours north of Richmond by car, Shenandoah National Park begins to develop the deep colors of the fall season from September onwards. Skyline Drive is a particularly impressive road that runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are many places to stop and look down into the valley, as well as treks you can take on foot or even on horseback. Expect to see some serious wildlife and your fair share of waterfalls. The restaurants in the park are well worth checking out too.

Mabry Mill

Natural Feature
Map View

If you drive west out of Richmond for about four hours, you eventually get to Mabry Mill, a simple, idyllic gristmill that represents rural Virginian life from back in the 1900s. Mabry Mill stands in a leafy location, so colors surround it as fall arrives, and the reflection of the sky and the mill on the pond evokes an Impressionist landscape. There are also exhibits where you can learn about what life was like 100 years ago, as well as a restaurant where you can try anything from pancakes to pot roast in a traditional environment.

These recommendations were updated on October 2, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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