One of the best things about fall in the Virginia is the brilliant fall foliage. In fact, the Eastern part of the United States is know as one of the best places in the world to catch these stunning fall fireworks thanks to ideal weather conditions and our large areas of deciduous forests with their broad-leaved trees. Typically, around this time of year as the days grow shorter and the weather gets cooler, we start to see brilliant shades of orange, yellow, and red erupt as environmental conditions cause changes in the tree’s production of chlorophyll, the food-source that gives them their usual green color. However, because of the diverse geographic conditions and weather patterns we see throughout Virginia, when and where leaves change will vary from place to place. With that in mind we’ve created a simple guide that will help you navigate Virginia fall foliage so that whether you’re an avid fall foliage fan or you simply want to explore some new areas and enjoy Virginia’s scenery at it’s peak, you’ll be able to make the most of the season.
When to expect changes in the fall foliage
As previously mentioned, it’s about this time, mid-October, that we’ve already seen the leaves shift from green to varying tones of orange, red, yellow, brown, and even shades of purple and scarlet. However, after a particularly dry summer, the Virginia Department of Forestry has predicted a slightly later season with peak conditions only beginning now until the end of the month. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s fall foliage map, we’ll see peak conditions starting in the western part of the state from October 10-20, the central part of the state from October 15-25, and the Eastern portions of the state (including Richmond) from October 20-31, 2019.
Keep in mind, too, that often trees in suburban or urban neighborhoods will start to change colors sooner than those in dense forest areas – so you might start seeing changes in your own backyard first! In fact, it’s been reported that many dogwoods in Central Virginia have already begun their transformation to burgandy, while sumacs, black gums, sassafras, and red maples will be showing up in beatiful shades of red.
How to find the latest Virginia fall foliage information
It’s important to keep in mind, of course, that predicting the exact time that the leaves will be at their peak is not an exact science as a number of unpredictable factors go into the process. But thankfully, there are also a number of resources available that can help you keep track of the changes and plan the best time to catch Virginia fall foliage at its best. The Virginia Department of Forestry provides weekly fall foliage reports for Virginia, offering both current conditions, predictions, and more about when and where to catch the changing leaves.
Another great resource for tracking Virginia fall foliage is the Smokey Mountain’s interactive national fall foliage map which predicts the peak seasons across the country by region and time of year.
Last but not least, if you want to see what’s happening as it’s happening, be sure to catch the Shenandoah National Park’s webcams for live coverage of what’s going on in the park. As one of the most popular spots for viewing Virginia fall foliage, the roads around and through the park can get crowded, so be sure to check out the the Virginia Department of Transportation’s live traffic webcams (found on the same page) to help you plan your visit.
Where to find the best views of Virginia fall foliage
Knowing when the trees will change is one thing, but it doesn’t do much good if you don’t know where to go! According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, you can expect trees at higher elevations to change colors more quickly than those at lower elevations, so that might mean a bit of driving for those of us in the Richmond area. But thankfully, there are many prime spots within an hour or two’s drive, meaning that day trip for fall foliage viewing is easy to plan. Here are a few Virginia fall foliage tours that the VDOF recommends, along with links providing complete tour directions:
- Charlottesville area: Greene County tour directions
- Harrisonburg area: Rockingham County tour directions | Shenandoah County tour directions
- Lexington area: Bath County tour directions
- Front Royal area: Warren County tour directions
- Roanoke area: Bedford County tour directions | Craig County tour directions | Franklin County tour directions
- Staunton area: Highland County tour directions
However, don’t leave Richmond out of the equation! We’ve got a number of amazing spots right here in our own community that provide stunning fall foliage. Be sure to visit our list of the Best Places for Fall Foliage in Richmond to find great spots for seeing the changing colors, taking a picnic, and enjoying the beauty of fall.
If you have a favorite spot for viewing fall foliage in Richmond, or anywhere in the state, or know of another great resource for tracking fall foliage, be sure to let us know about it! Reach out anytime at email@example.com. And in the meantime, enjoy fall, y’all!