Why Virginia is Where to go for Autumn Colors
If you love the brilliant reds, golds, and yellows of autumn leaves but never seem to see quite enough of them, a tour of the Old Dominion State may be in order this fall. Nothing is quite as spectacular as the display of color in the beautiful national parks and scenic areas of Virginia. Seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley painted with the rich palette of Autumn is like stepping into an Autumn fairy world and is an experience you will never forget.
Best Places for Color
While Virginia is always a great place to visit, autumn seems to bring out its best. Whether long drives, active fall festivals, or quiet getaways are your favorite, the Old Dominion has them all:
- Drives – The Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular fall color drive, and of course there are some amazing sites along the way, such as the natural bridge and historic Lexington, both beautiful in their fall colors (1). Another obvious favorite is Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. This 105 mile drive offers some of the most spectacular fall colors you can imagine. Of course, countless other drives await your exploration, and getting off the beaten trail will offer some unexpected treasures.
- Festivals – Many towns and communities celebrate autumn colors with fun festivals. Whether celebrating ethnic heritage, historic significance, or just reveling in the crisp days of fall, gold ol’ fashioned fun abounds in Virginia this time of year.
- Lakeside Serenity – Take the family camping, or get away to a cabin with just the two of you. Either way, the lakes in Virginia are especially beautiful in fall, with their surfaces mirroring the brilliant colors of the surrounding leaves. Smith Mountain Lake, the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” offers a variety of lodging options, all at reduced prices from the summer season (2).
The Source of Color
According to the National Park Service, the main sources of color in the Shenandoah Mountains and Valley are: sumac, various oaks, ash, poplar, maple, dogwood, beech, locust, sassafras, tulip trees, hickories, walnuts and mountain laurel. Of course, these deciduous trees are interspersed among evergreens, such as pine, creating a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors such as: red, gold, yellow, orange, brown, tan, and green which are a feast for the eyes.
When to Go
If you are lucky enough to live in or close to Virginia, you will want to make several color-viewing excursions. After all, the brilliant beauty is practically in your backyard. If, however, you are going to have to travel a little, you will want to plan ahead for the best views. Thankfully, there are some set patterns in nature, and Virginia has excellent viewing areas that peak at different times, including:
- Western Virginia – peaks in the middle to end of October
- Central Virginia – begins around the last week of October, ends first week of November
- Eastern Virginia – ending of October to the middle of November
With these guidelines in mind, you can expect to find fantastic color in Virginia, regardless of when during the fall season you arrive. There are a number of websites provided by the government that give up to the minute reports on fall color, and a fall foliage report is available at 1.800.424.LOVE.
Paul Moore has a real estate business near Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. He loves the view when the fall colors light up the country side.