Shenandoah fall foliage peaks at different times depending on the area, but October is the best bet for seeing the most spectacular shows.
Tracking Shenandoah fall foliage
If you’d like to plan a visit to take advantage of the Shenandoah fall foliage—and we think you definitely should!—there are several ways to keep track and pick your moment. To follow the turning season from afar, go to the National Parks Service website that’s dedicated to tracking Shenandoah fall color. Weekly updates begin in September.
The Virginia Department of Forestry lists a number of tour routes for you to enjoy the Shenandoah fall foliage. The drives they recommend are off the beaten path, ensuring a leisurely, nature-focused experience. Click here to see the list of tours.
Ways to enjoy Shenandoah fall foliage
A no-fail option would be Shenandoah’s famous Skyline Drive. With a maximum speed limit of 35 and 75 scenic overlooks, a drive along Skyline can take several hours and include multiple stops. A picnic lunch wouldn’t be out of place.
Shenandoah fall foliage is the centerpiece of a year-end Skyline tour. This beautiful imagery from the Shenandoah website says it all:
“The many overlooks along Skyline Drive reveal wide valley views to the west and the Piedmont area to the east. You’ll pass banks of wildflowers along the roadside and perhaps deer. A trail can lead you up a mountain or down a canyon, past waterfalls and wildlife and ancient rocks. You may pass old walls and homesites, too, for families lived here not long ago. You can also experience the past through a visit to Rapidan Camp (a National Historic Landmark) and to Massanutten Lodge (identified as part of the Skyline Drive National Historic Landmark). Or you can just sit somewhere—at an overlook, on a trailside rock, near a picnic table – absorbing the beauty and feeling of the silence settle around you.”
Alternatively, a wonderful way to enjoy Shenandoah fall foliage is by participating in the multiday Fall Foliage Bike Festival. This year, the 25th anniversary of the festival, includes new and improved routes fit for everyone from casual family riders to expert cyclists.
The Fall Foliage Bike Festival website explains:
“For those of you new to our festival, you’ll enjoy a full weekend of riding some of the most beautiful parts of our state. Constant vistas of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains enhance your enjoyment of the scenic countryside of the Shenandoah Valley.
You’ll pass bucolic farmlands (where the pace of life slows down so much, you may even pass a few horse-drawn buggies, especially on the BOBB Route), trees loaded with changing Fall colors, historic Civil War battlefields, and small towns with picturesque town squares and classic Americana architecture.
Perfectly suited for a wide range of cyclists: from motivated century riders to families with young children (and all levels in between), we offer well-marked courses with maps and cue sheets, plentiful rest stops with abundant snacks, a hearty lunch on Saturday and a brunch on Sunday, evening entertainment, and discounts to local attractions.”
Key to the color
For those of you interested in knowing the story behind the color, this handy guide from the forestry website offers a key:
Yellow, maroon – ash tree
Yellow to orange – beech
Scarlet to purple – dogwood
Golden bronze – hickory
Red, brown or russet – oak
Golden yellow – poplar
Brilliant scarlet – red maple
Photo credit: Skyline Drive in wet foliage / daveynin / flickr