Virginia’s expansive woodlands, famously blue-tinged mountains, and rambling scenic byways are the place to be when colorful autumn leaves are at their fiery peak. Fortunately for seasonal color seekers, the Old Dominion state is also sprinkled with state parks, national forests, and vast wilderness areas. For those to prefer to do their leaf-peeping on foot, Virginia boasts a staggering 554 miles of the Appalachian Trail—more than any other state. When you are ready to seek out some fall color, take to the state’s wild spaces, and cherish the seasonal transition at these 10 stunning Virginia locations.
Southwest Virginia serves as an excellent starting point to explore the foliage. Abingdon is one of several small mountain towns that offers easy access to both cultural amenities and stunning outdoor vistas, perfect for a weekend getaway. Take the time to enjoy the spectacular transition of fall at these 10 Virginia locations.
Grayson Highlands State Park
One of Virginia’s most unique places, the highland meadows, dense forests, and panoramic summits of Grayson Highlands State Park are still the domain of roaming bands of wild ponies. The park also straddles the massive Mount Rogers National Recreation Area – offering color-seeking autumn visitors sweeping views of some of the largest undisturbed wild spaces in the state. For a short hike with endless Blue Ridge vistas, trek the mile-long Rhododendron Trail—you are also likely to be sharing the path with the park’s famous hoofed residents.
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
One of the most spectacular corners of Virginia, the 200,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, part of the massive Jefferson National Forest, is spread over a picturesque, high-elevation pocket of Southwest Virginia, sprinkled with alpine meadows, vast tracts of mixed hardwood forest, and the famed “bald” peaks of Appalachia. The Mount Rogers Scenic Byway, flanked by towering forests, winds gracefully through the massive wilderness area. However, if you prefer a self-propelled leaf-peeping tour, 60-miles of the Appalachian Trail meander through the highlands of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which boasts views of the two highest peaks in Virginia—the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers and the 5,518-foot Whitetop Mountain.
Channels State Forest
Spreading into Washington and Russell counties, 4,836-acre Channels State Forestis one of Virginia’s best kept secrets—and a most exceptional natural space. In the fall, visitors can admire not only the fiery reds and burnt oranges of the protected area’s mixed hardwood forests but also can hike to the namesake channels. The 400-million-year-old sandstone formations are nestled into the southern slope of Clinch Mountain, near the summit of Middle Knob. For shutterbugs, the labyrinth-like, ice-age-era geological formations provide a singular backdrop for any attempt to photograph seasonal color.