Are you looking for the most beautiful places to experience fall in Virginia? Look no further! We’ve got the most comprehensive list of places to view stunning fall foliage that spans the state.
From scenic drives, to water-based adventures, to outstanding mountain views, there are so many ways to experience the charm of autumn in the state! Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities or exploring the state’s history through it’s natural landscape, we’ve compiled a varied list of the best places to visit when you’re exploring Virginia in the fall.
Pick one, or try them all! With so much to offer, in addition to spectacular fall colors, you won’t be disappointed with a stop to any location on our list!
10 Best Places to Experience Fall in Virginia
Nestled along the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill offers outstanding views of beautiful fall foliage, including a trip into Virginia’s history and a tasty meal! Mabry Mill is a must-do when traveling to experience fall in Virginia.
Located in a lovely hillside village, Mabry Mill offers a variety of options to visitors looking to take in the surrounding natural beauty. Start in the Mill’s delicious cafe (we recommend stopping by for breakfast), before taking a stroll around the property.
The Mill itself is steeped in local history. Originally built in 1905, the gristmill was milling corn for residents in the area up to 8 miles away. After the gristmill became successful, the Mabry family added a sawmill to their business, which brought them even more prosperity.
Mabry Mill was acquired by the National Parks Service in 1938 and has been fully restored to be enjoyed by visitors today. With so much to see on a stop to Mabry Mill, you can’t go wrong when you make an autumn visit here.
Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Forest
Enjoy a scenic drive inside the gorgeous Shenandoah National Forest, one of the most ideal places to experience fall foliage in Virginia. With 105 miles of natural wonder flanking winding roads, this trip is sure to be peaceful, stunning, and you get to control the radio!
Skyline Drive is typically open to the public at all times, but it has been known to close if the weather in the area is not great. Make sure to check the forecast in advance before setting out on your three-hour tour of the most outstanding natural landscape in the area.
There are four entrance points to make your way onto Skyline Drive, and there is a small fee to enter into the forest. Once inside, be on the lookout for some special residents in the area – black bears, wild turkeys, and other woodland animals have been seen frequently on the roadside.
If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, hiking options are available along Skyline Drive in addition to special lookouts and views inside the forest, which will allow to guests to take a break from the car and explore outside.
Little Stony Man Overlook in the Shenandoah National Forest
One of the best spots to take in the beauty of fall in Virginia is Little Stony Man Overlook inside the Shenandoah National Forest. The view is located on an outcropping of rocks on the side of Stony Man Mountain, not far from Skyline Drive, though this section of the forest is best located by hiking to it.
If you’re traveling with a four-legged companion, there are sections of the hike in this area that are dog-friendly, and sections of the hike that are not. Make sure you check the map ahead of time if your furry friend is planning to join you for an extensive walk of the area.
The actual Stony Man Trail is not a long or super challenging hike. It’s great for a quick view of the area, or as a spot to relax with a picnic and good book. On your fall foliage tour of Virginia, this is probably the most outstanding sunset you will see at this time of year. Just make sure you bring a flashlight to find your way back down the path!
Blue Ridge Parkway
For the most iconic (and varied) view of fall colors in Virginia, a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute must-do. The parkway was the first rural parkway to be constructed in the United States for a leisure driving experience, and boy does it really deliver – especially in the fall! Make sure to check out our comprehensive guide on the ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway road trip!
With numerous access points along the drive, it’s easy to get to and offers views of many different landscapes along the way. If you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you have the opportunity to see the longest stretch of topography in the Appalachian area and at the highest elevation. The entire multi-state route spans a total of 469 miles and is a great way to travel long distances in Virginia.
Like Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway is open at all times, but can be subject to closure if inclement weather is in the area. Check the forecast and the parkway’s website before setting out. Guests should also be alerted that weather can change quickly at higher elevations, so drivers can stay up to date with the Blue Ridge Parkway’s weather website for real time alerts.
Sherando Lake in the George Washington National Forest
Sherando Lake is affectionately known as “the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” The phrase must have been coined in the autumn, because this recreation area located in the George Washington National Forest is one of the most gorgeous places to view fall in Virginia.
If you’re traveling with little ones or people with limited mobility, this is an excellent spot to visit where everyone can experience the beauty of fall foliage in the area. Picnics are a popular pastime at the wooded picnic areas surrounding the lake, and a day of family fun can be spent under the canopy of bright red leaves.
To extend your stay, take advantage of the many hiking trails, or make plans to camp at one of the campsites in the forest. If you’re interested in seeing the best of fall from a view on the water, guests may bring their own boat for a cruise, but be aware that combustible engines are not allowed on the lake.
George Washington National Forest closes for the winter, so if fall on Sherando Lake is on your bucket list, make sure to stop by the park before Halloween!
Crabtree Falls is the highest vertical-drop waterfall east of the Mississippi River and is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, making this a great spot to get out and stretch your legs on a parkway drive in the fall. The hike into Crabtree Falls is six miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it’s not a simple hike, but well worth it if you love a good nature walk!
Named Crabtree Falls for local colonial-settler William Crabtree, this land was almost developed as a local resort in the 1960s. Noted environmentalist LA Snead blocked the area’s development and was instrumental in having the land around the falls protected by the National Forest System. Because of his work, this natural treasure has been preserved for enjoyment by the many folks who come to experience a glorious fall in Virginia.
On your hike to Crabtree Falls, make sure to stop by the 100-foot bridge overlooking the Tye River for another spectacular view of the area’s fall foliage. The falls are open from dawn to dusk, and are pet friendly, though dogs must be leashed on the hike.
High Bridge Trail State Park
To experience fall in central Virginia, you can’t miss a visit to High Bridge Trail State Park! The entire trail spans 31 miles of lush views, some of which you get from great elevation.
The High Bridge itself is 2,400 feet long, and it runs 125 feet above the Appomattox River rushing below. The bridge is known as one of the longest in the United States, and holds the distinction of being the longest in Virginia. Walking, biking, and horseback riding are all popular recreation activities along the trail, so you can take your pick of your favorite way to explore the area!
If you’re looking to make an overnight stay in the park, you can’t quite do that here. No camping sites exist within High Bridge Trail State Park, but you can camp nearby at Bear Creek Lake, Twin Lakes, and Holliday Lake. Fishing is also a great way to experience the outstanding natural surroundings of the area. Through limited access to the Appomattox River, visitors can catch many different species of bass surrounded by the shady leaves of fall.
Roanoke River along the Blue Ridge Parkway
If you’re driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Roanoke River, you’ll absolutely want to make a stop to check it out. Surrounded by dense forests and enchanting woodland areas, the Roanoke River is one of the most picturesque visits you can make while enjoying fall in Virginia.
Bird watchers will delight in a trip to this region of Virginia, as the forest and river lands are home to over 200 different bird species! Bring your bird guide along to find out who is nesting or passing through Virginia in the fall months.
For an easy stop off the Blue Ridge Parkway, head over to the Roanoke River Overlook. It’s an easy dog and child-friendly hike off the parkway, where visitors enjoy majestic mountain and river views. This is also an excellent spot for fishing with simple access to the river.
Walk the campus at the University of Virginia
Near Charlottesville? Plan for a stroll across the beautiful campus at the University of Virginia for a view of fall unlike any other in the state. Set amidst a backdrop of historic architecture and hundred year old trees, this is a great way to take in fall in Virginia.
As you walk the campus, stop by the Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson and surrounded by lovely trees that embody all the beauty that autumn has to offer. It’s a study hub for UVA students and is a great spot to settle in with a good book. The Lawn is also a perfect spot to see fall on campus in all its glory. In this open meeting space, enjoy a picnic or bring a frisbee for a day of sport.
Flanked by gorgeous landscaping, the new Memorial to Enslaved Laborers has been added to the campus to honor the lives and work of the many enslaved people who built and lived at UVA from 1817 to 1865. This is a wonderful place to reflect on the history of this school, and the people who were here before us.
Finally take a drive past Scott Stadium to appreciate that favorite fall pastime – football!
Big Walker Lookout
Named after famed explorer Dr. Thomas Walker, Big Walker Lookout is the only place in the state where you can get a true bird’s-eye-view of autumn foliage. At an elevation of 3,405 feet, the 100-foot lookout tower takes you right into the clouds to give you a view as far as the eye can see.
Located in Wytheville, a trip to the top of the lookout tower affords visitors views of mountain peaks across five states! After you’ve experienced the view of a lifetime, make a visit to the BW Country Store down below. Here you’ll find arts and crafts pieces from local artisans, and foods special to the area – jams, jellies, relishes, and hand-dipped ice cream are favored by locals and tourists alike.
On weekends through October, the store also plays host to local musicians who play for visitors as a soundtrack to the trip. From time to time, guests can also visit with local authors and view historic demonstrations. You never know what you’ll be treated to when you visit Big Walker Lookout!
No matter where you find yourself in the state, or what kind of experience you’re looking to have, there are so many ways to enjoy the cool, crisp colors of fall in Virginia. As you delight in the stunning mountain and forest landscapes, there are always opportunities to appreciate great food, learn about the history of these places, and immerse yourself in enertaining outdoor activities along the way.
Grab your camera, and get ready to experience an autumn in Virginia unlike any other!