As autumn leaves burst with spectacular colors, bringing vibrance and life to the Blue Ridge Parkway and coastal plains of Virginia, it is time to indulge in a fall getaway in the Old Dominion. With an abundance of picturesque destinations, breathtaking fall drives, and family-friendly outings to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Virginia in autumn. The state's mountains, parks, trails, and forests provide endless opportunities for adventure, while the cities and small towns offer their own fall-focused sights, tastes, and smells. No matter the destination, visitors are sure to appreciate Virginia's most colorful season.
Sherando Lake Recreation Area
Sherando Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Virginia, locally branded the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The shaded woody area sits on the shores of two lakes: the 25-acre spring-fed Sherando Lake, where swimming, canoeing, and fishing are popular activities, and the 7-acre Upper Sherando Lake, open for fishing only. Visitors may hike, camp, and picnic below the canopy of trees, marveling at the surrounding fall foliage. Though the recreation area is a popular summer destination, it is open until late October, making for an idyllic and secluded fall getaway. For those in search of a cozy rustic stay, Cabin Creekwood is just 1 mile away, home to three fully furnished cabins, backdropped by the gorgeous mountain setting.
Charlottesville is one of the most scenic Virginia towns, situated within the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over 40 wineries dance along the Monticello Wine Trail, ideal for a scenic drive and a day well spent sipping locally crafted wines. There are also plenty of spots for pumpkin picking, such as Carter Mountain Orchard, which is just minutes away from Thomas Jefferson's historic mountain-top plantation and mansion, Monticello. Liberty Mills Farm is home to Virginia's Largest Corn Maze, while Chiles Peach Orchard overflows with acres of pumpkin patches and apple trees, as well as a wide variety of ciders. The city also serves as a gateway to the breathtaking Shenandoah National Park, where outdoor recreation opportunities abound.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park sits just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., and is easily accessible through the charmed town of Charlottesville. Breathtaking waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of wildflowers, and towering trees fill the area, including 200,000 acres of protected lands, home to deer, songbirds, and black bears. The Skyline Drive offers the opportunity to traverse 105 miles along the park, taking in views of the fall foliage. Hiking is an essential part of any visit to the national park, where travelers can reach the highest and deepest points of the Shenandoah Valley. Visitors can stay overnight in the many campgrounds, cabins, or lodges situated beneath the sparkling night skies.
Blacksburg sits in the Blue Ridge Highlands region of Virginia. The city is home to the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech, as well as the 1773 Smithfield Plantation, once home to Revolutionary War patriot William Preston and his family. Travelers hike the scenic trails of Jefferson National Forest to take in the beauty of the falling leaves and autumnal colors, or visit the McAfee Knob and stop at the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. The Cascades are another popular hiking destination, a scenic 4-mile trek along a stream that ends at a picturesque waterfall. The area also hosts a number of fall festivals and events, including the Blacksburg Brew Do Craft Beer Festival, the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival, and the Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best scenic road trips to take in the Appalachians, but it is especially breathtaking in autumn. The parkway runs 469 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties and between Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Lovingly known as "America's Favorite Drive," it allows visitors to view a hundred species of trees, 54 different mammals, and 59 species of birds. There are plenty of developed sites along the way where travelers can stop and enjoy the views, check out exhibits, camp out, or hike around. Popular stops for an extended stay include Rocky Knob Campground, Sherando Lake, and Primland Resort, all nestled within the warm depths of the autumn trees.
Roanoke is one of the most beautiful cities in Virginia, home to over 14,000 acres of parks and situated in the depths of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A hike or mountain bike ride through the Appalachian Trail is an excellent way to view the fall foliage, while a kayak trip along the Upper James River Water Trail displays the warm tones along the shore and in the reflection on the water. A boat ride on Smith Mountain Lake is the perfect opportunity to watch the sunset light the sky on fire, filling the area with hues of orange, red, and yellow for a breathtaking autumnal photo op. For another photo op, visit the Roanoke Star & Overlook on Mill Mountain, which offers an incredible view of the mountainscape. Each fall, Roanoke hosts events and festivals such as Big Lick Blues Festival, the Harvest Festival, and Ghost Tours.
Abingdon is one of the most charming small towns in the American South, rich with historic architecture and beautiful scenery. Once adorned with railroads and steam engines, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34-mile multi-use trail with spectacular fall scenery. Just a half-mile from the trail is Abingdon Vineyards, perfect for a tasting, some snacks, and a photo op. The Historic Main Street draws visitors from all over, donned with colorful trees, the beautiful Washington County Courthouse, which was built in 1868, and the market district, perfect for tasting fresh fall treats. For those interested in a scenic drive, visit the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway and be sure to stop at Grayson Highlands State Park, which offers views of Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia's two highest mountains, as well as hiking trails, waterfalls, and plenty of overlooks.
Yorktown sits between the James and York Rivers, as well as the Chesapeake Bay, and boasts a storied past as a battleground in the American Revolutionary War. The Yorktown Victory Celebration is a chance to delve into the town's history, featuring a war reenactment, tales of military life during colonial times, and live entertainment.
Yorktown melts into the fall season with an abundance of events, including Oyster Roast, Folk Festival, Art Stroll, and Rhythms on the Riverwalk. It also hosts the Yorktown Wine Festival, with a chance to sip the state's finest vino. Visitors may wander the shores of the York River, indulging in the surrounding beauty after a day well spent perusing the town's bustling streets.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park sits at the border between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. It is home to over 85 miles of trails and 14,000 acres of wilderness, as well as a cave and a Hensley Settlement, which features hand-hewn cabins and pastoral landscapes. Travelers may enjoy a night under the stars, scenic vistas, and cascading waterfalls. There are guided tours from mid-May through late October, detailing the history of the Hensley Settlement or delving into the depths of the Gap Cave. Surrounded by woodland, the park is an excellent spot to enjoy Virginia's fall foliage. Access the park from Virginia by traveling west on Highway 58, reaching its intersection with Highway 25E in Tennessee.
Enjoy a Fall Trip to Virginia!
Virginia in fall is an unforgettable vacation destination, chock full of stunning autumnal foliage deep in the mountains, as well as family-friendly events and festivals in each of the small towns. Plus, the harvest season brings bountiful goodies in terms of apple picking, pumpkin patch visiting, and winery touring. For those searching for a classically spooky October, a ghost tour or two may find its way into your itinerary! No matter the adventure you seek, Virginia offers endless discovery and excitement in the fall.