Eager to go leaf-peeking and watch the seasons change? Here are some of the best spots for taking in Virginia's peak leaf color changes.
Fall is upon us. The days are growing a little shorter, the morning and evening is a little crisper, and soon, Virginia's trees will be a mosaic of red, orange, and yellow. However, Virginia's leaf colors won't start changing until mid-October, and even then, some areas in the state will turn earlier than others.
The Virginia Department of Forestry has released a helpful map showing when different areas of Virginia can expect to see the leaves start turning. As you can see from the map above, the Appalachian region's leaves will turn first. Because of the elevation and, consequently, colder temperatures, you can expect the foliage in areas west of Harrisonburg and Roanoke to start changing between October 10 and October 20.
The Shenandoah Valley is probably a bit of a hike for most Virginians, but they will have some of the most breathtaking views this month as the mountain foliage transforms into waves of red and yellow. One of the best spots to take in all of the majesty of the turning leaves in Western Virginia is on Potts Mountain. The drive into the mountains is absolutely breathtaking, and if you can make it to Hanging Rock, you'll be able to see a sea of crimson and gold as far as the eye can see ...
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Potts Mountain, VA; Source: Idawriter[/caption]
A little farther east and you can see some of the nicest vistas in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Piedmont region of Virginia. Some of the best "peak leaf-peeking" can be found here by taking a driving tour. Instead of heading to one point to take in a view, these driving routes present one of the best ways to absorb different species of trees changing colors.
From Edinburg, Virginia (a two-hour drive from D.C.), the Department of Forestry has published an excellent foliage driving tour that takes you through some of the nicest vistas in Shenandoah County. The route takes you through Shenandoah River State Park, and the views will not disappoint. Plan for at least an hour of driving time, and make sure that you have plenty of fuel, food, and water before leaving the city. For full turn-by-turn instructions for this driving tour, visit the Department of Forestry's site here.
Not willing to drive far from the D.C. metro area? Not a problem. There are a number of forests in Northern Virginia. Prince William Forest Park
is a national park stretching 15,000 acres that's just minutes off of I-95 and just south of Woodbridge, Virginia. While nothing will ever compare to the sights of leaves changing in the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains, Prince William Forest Park is a great destination for those who want to stay close to the city. On September 30, entrance into the forest will be free as a part of National Public Lands Day. However, that will likely be way too early to engage in peak leaf-peeking. Otherwise, entrance into the forest costs $7 per car. While there currently aren't any published events coinciding with the leaves turning, the drive through the park is incredibly relaxing, and as long as you go towards the latter half of October, you'll be blown away by the foliage.
Virginia's Department of Forestry doesn't mess around when it comes to autumn. For a full Fall Foliage Report, you can call 1-800-424-LOVE to have the Virginia's peak leaf color statuses read to you over the phone. If you're looking for even more information, the U.S. Forest Service has also set up a hotline to help people find the best spots to see the leaves turn. Call 1-800-324-4595 and then press "8" for the Forest Service's southern states report.
However or wherever you choose to take in the sights, Virginia offers some of the best spots to take in the changing leaves and witness the season change first-hand.
What spots did we miss? Leave us a comment below and tell us your favorite spot to watch the leaves change in Virginia!