Top 7 Places to See Fall Foliage in the Shenandoah Valley
Each year, people travel from all over the world to experience the fall foliage of the Shenandoah Valley in all of its glory. There are glistening waterfalls surrounded by trees and drives down roads painted red and yellow from the falling leaves. Shenandoah Valley is located in the western portion of Virginia and is bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east. No area knows how to do fall foliage quite like the Shenandoah Valley.
Living in the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia metro area) for the last 20 years, I’ve been blessed to experience this beautiful area during the fall. If anyone can tell you the best places to see fall foliage, it’s local. I’ve rounded up my favorite spots, overlooks, and hiking trails in the Shenandoah Valley that offer the most incredible views of fall foliage.
I highly recommend bringing a camera when you visit, because you’re going to want to remember these views forever!
Best Time to See Fall Foliage in the Shenandoah Valley
During fall, the leaves begin to change from the highest elevations, slowly working their way down the mountains and throughout the region. By mid-to-late October, fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley is in full force. During this time, the weather is absolutely beautiful, with average temperatures in the low 60s. I would recommend bringing a light jacket or windbreaker, as it can get fairly windy and chilly depending on the elevation you travel to.
Best Places for Fall Foliage in the Shenandoah Valley
Here are the top 7 places to see fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley:
If you’re a lover of waterfalls, you’re going to love Dark Hollow Falls. The descent to this waterfall is one of the most popular hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park, and for good reason. The trail that takes you to the Falls is moderate but fairly short, at 1.4 miles round trip. During fall, the trees that surround Dark Hollow Falls change to bright shades of orange and yellow, creating a truly enchanting scene.
For the ultimate way to experience fall foliage without ever leaving your car, a drive through the scenic Skyline Drive is an absolute must. Stretching over 105 miles, Skyline Drive is the only road that runs through Shenandoah National Park. It features more than 70 overlooks to check out along the way. Skyline is easily one of the most beautiful drives in the country and is not to be missed during a trip to the Shenandoah Valley.
Stony Man Trail is a popular and beginner-friendly trail. Located just 0.8 miles from the trailhead by Skyland Resort, it offers spectacular panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley from above. If you’re looking for an easy hiking trail with stunning fall foliage, Stony Man Trail is a fantastic choice. Unlike many other Shenandoah hiking trails, this one provides breathtaking views with ease.
This stunning overlook is located at Milepost 36.4 of Skyline Drive and features an elevation of 3,320 feet. From Jewell Hollow Overlook, you can see panoramic views of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains as they descend into the Shenandoah Valley. The views from this overlook are jaw-dropping at any time of year, but the fall colors that take over the land make the views a million times more impressive.
Natural Bridge State Park is a beloved destination in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s most famous for the Natural Bridge, which is a 215-foot-tall limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek. This iconic park features lush forests, rolling meadows, hiking trails, and panoramic mountain views. The entire area transforms into a fall foliage wonderland each October, with vibrant colors everywhere you turn.
This one-mile hiking trail in Shenandoah National Park is a favorite for tourists and locals alike. The view from the summit provides 360° views of the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains. The vantage point makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. The rock scramble to get up to the top scares away many hiking newbies, but the view from the trail is worth the work.
Located at Milepost 85.6 of the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway, the Peaks of Otter area features a campground, a picnic area, hiking trails, a farm, and the beautiful Abbott Lake. If you’re planning a camping or fishing trip, or a picnic lunch, Peaks of Otter is the perfect destination. The rolling hills that surround the area turn into stunning examples of fall foliage and will make you feel like you’re standing in a postcard.
Those are just a few of my favorite spots for fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley, but believe me—there are way more. No matter where you are in the region, you are pretty much guaranteed to experience peak fall foliage if you travel in October. Let me know if you have any favorite spots not mentioned here, I’m always looking for new spots to check out!
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