Map a course to peep the leaves from these 10 perfect places to see fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley.
The anticipation of fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley is akin to a child’s anticipation of Christmas morning. Will there be a big gift this year, that is, the most vibrant colors imaginable? We can only wait and see, but while we wait, let’s make a plan so we’re ready to make the most of the gift!
The Virginia Department of Forestry forecasts peak color season for the Shenandoah Valley to occur between October 10 and October 20 but suggests you keep an eye out for other factors that may come into play. For instance, warmer than average temperatures can cause premature leaf loss. Keep your fingers crossed for cool temps and no violent storms which may spoil the show!
Natural Chimneys | Mt. Solon
Seven natural limestone chimneys rise from the Valley floor to tower as high as 120 feet. Lovely to observe on their own, they’re only more stunning when surrounded by traditional autumn hues of red and yellow. The park is open dawn to dusk daily and camping is available through the end of October.
Massanutten Resort | McGaheysville
One of the best ways to really soak amidst the foliage is to sit back and glide through them. Hop aboard a scenic chairlift ride at Massanutten Resort any Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through the end of October. Note that the chairlift is reserved for Massanutten Fall Festival attendees October 9, but an additional date of October 11 is made available for your convenience. Monitor the color change through the Massanutten webcams.
>> Adrenaline Bonus: Canopy Tour
Falling Springs Waterfall | Covington
A roadside attraction, if you will, it’s really hard to miss the 80-foot Falling Springs waterfall on Route 220 between Covington and Hot Springs. It’s an incredible drive through that area if you want to make a scenic drive of it. Consider Route 220 to Hot Springs and Warm Springs, then Route 39 through Goshen Pass back to Lexington.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park | Harpers Ferry
Tucked alongside the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harpers Ferry is an historic destination and an outdoor lovers’ paradise claimed by three states: Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Experience the area in the way that suits you best:
- By air or water with Harpers Ferry Adventure Center
- On two wheels with a rented e-bike from Harpers Ferry Bikes
- A private guided walking tour with Harpers Ferry Park Association
- A hike along the Appalachian Trail overlooking the rivers
Peaks of Otter | Bedford
Reflections across Lake Abbott will steal your breath in every season, but fall is the most colorful and kaleidoscopic. Appreciate this special spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway with a stop at Peaks of Otter Lake View Restaurant for a meal or hop aboard the Sharp Top Shuttle for a trip up the mountain to soak in the views. Five trails range from easy (the Abbott Lake Trail) to strenuous (Sharp Top or Flat Top Trails) for those who wish to cuddle up close to nature.
Skyland | Luray
Perched within Shenandoah National Park and at the highest point of Skyline Drive, Skyland sits at 3,680 feet and delivers sweeping Shenandoah Valley views from your front door and while you eat at the Pollock Dining Room. If you’re up for a hike with a waterfall (who isn’t?!), the trailhead for Rose River Falls is 15 minutes south at mile 49.4. It’s a moderate hike of 2.6 miles out-and-back and the falls cascade beautifully after a nice rain.
Sherando Lake | Lyndhurst
Two lakes, camping, hiking … it’s all on 24 acres at the base of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesboro. Paddle or fish the lakes at Sherando, or camp to really get into that fall feeling of crisp mornings and cool evenings. Sherando Lake Recreation Area is open through the end of October.
Called “Virginia’s Little Switzerland,” Highland County will be one of the first places to see the foliage turn into the gorgeous show we hope it will be. Visit Monterey for great food at High’s Restaurant, excellent hard cider at Big Fish Cider Co., or an overnight at The Highland Inn. The Hands & Harvest Festival will be held October 8-10, right in the midst of color change, and a stop at Sugar Tree Country Store in McDowell may have a jar of famous Highland County Maple Syrup for you to take home.
Roaring Run Recreational Area | Eagle Rock
A 19th century iron ore furnace is the centerpiece of the Roaring Run Recreational Area in Botetourt County, but the easy trails and cascading falls are a big draw for families. Explore along the 1.5-mile loop that zig-zags across Roaring Run Creek before leading to the furnace. It’s a beautiful little trek beneath a canopy of orange.
Fort Valley Ranch | Fort Valley
If you’ve ever wanted to trail ride in fall, saddle up with Fort Valley for a horseback ride through the woods. Choose a full day ride or pay by the hour to explore their trails as well as the National Forest trails accessed from Fort Valley. Stay a while longer in one of their cabins or campground.
Header image courtesy of Shenandoah National Park.