Top Places For

Enjoying Fall Foliage

The end of summer means cooler temperatures, trips to the apple orchard and the pumpkin patch, and of course, fall foliage. It’s what makes autumn the perfect time to get outside and explore your Chesapeake.

In October and November, the Chesapeake’s forests explode with brilliant colors. At places like Gettysburg National Military Park, Elk Neck State Park, and Green Ridge State Forest, you can enjoy a dazzling array of gold, red, and purple trees dressed in the fleeting hues of fall.

From the region’s farthest reaches to your own backyard, there are dozens of parks, forests, and trails where you can enjoy a colorful outdoor adventure in the crisp autumn air.

  • Perhaps the most popular place to view fall foliage in the Chesapeake region is Shenandoah National Park. Cruise down Skyline Drive to take in miles of mountain vistas awash in vivid colors. Drive a little further and you’ll reach the Blue Ridge Parkway, considered one of the most scenic fall foliage drives in America.
  • Whether in Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania, state parks are a perfect destination to take in fall foliage with friends and family. State parks provide a picturesque autumn landscape that you can enjoy while hiking, canoeing, fly fishing, picnicking, and more. Patapsco Valley, Cunningham Falls, Seneca Creek, Sky Meadows, and Susquehannock are just a few state parks noted for their striking fall colors.
  • You don’t have to go all the way to the mountains to see some spectacular fall colors. Nearby parks like Rock Creek Park, Great Falls Park, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal are perfect places to hike, bike, jog, and appreciate autumn minutes from home.

Fall’s radiant colors won’t last long, so don’t wait! Pack your camera and hit the road for one of the top places for enjoying fall foliage.

Trail marker on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from Georgia to Maine.

Harper's Ferry, WV

Blue Ridge Parkway scene

Blue Ridge Parkway

A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands.

Asheville, NC,

Tree Lined Road Through Catoctin Mountain Park

Catoctin Mountain Park

With 25 miles of trails winding through Catoctin Mountain Park, a variety of experiences are available ranging from easy to strenuous, many leading to outstanding scenic vistas.

Thurmont, MD

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park lets visitors explore history and the Potomac River along the 184 mile canal from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD.

Potomac, MD

Bridge at Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park is located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains, opportunities including swimming, hiking, fishing and canoeing are available.

Thurmont, MD

Hikers at Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park boasts 2,188 acres of sandy beaches, marshlands, and heavily wooded bluffs within the peninsula formed by the North East River, Elk River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

North East, MD

Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area

Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area

Fair Hill is a 5,656 acre Natural Resources Management Area, is known for its pristine fields, woodlands and natural beauty. Fair Hill's attractions include the turf course, where horse races are held.

Elkton, MD

Sunset at Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Military Park

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North.

Gettysburg, PA

Gifford Pinchot State Park

Gifford Pinchot State Park

Gifford Pinchot State Park consists of reverting farm fields and wooded hillsides, with the 340-acre Pinchot Lake serving as a prime attraction.

Lewisberry, PA

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park

Just 15 miles from the Nation's capital, Great Falls is considered the most spectacular natural landmark in the DC metropolitan area. The park providing a series of trails and overlooks from which to view the falls and the gorge.

Great Falls Park, VA

Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge State Forest is the second largest of Maryland's State Forests consisting of a 46,000-acre oak-hickory forest. It is located in eastern Allegany County, approximately eight miles east of Flintstone off I-68 at Exit 64.

Flintstone, MD

Scenic Overlook View at Harper's Ferry National Historical Park

Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park offers a variety of experiences for visitors. Whether you enjoy recreation or historical inquiry, a quiet stroll by the river or a guided program with a ranger, there are opportunities for everyone.

Harpers Ferry, WV

Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area

Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area

Dominated by large hardwood trees, this large block of nearly unbroken forest is a haven for wildlife like forest warblers and other deep-woods animals. A main attraction to the conservation area is the elaborate trail system.

Halifax, PA

Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley includes five developed recreational areas, providing hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, horseback and mountain bike trails, as well as picnicking for individuals or large groups in the park's many popular pavilions.

Ellicott City, MD

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation's capital. It offers visitors an opportunity to reflect and soothe their spirits through the beauty of nature along a tributary of the Potomac River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Washington, DC

Seneca Creek State Park

Seneca Creek State Park

The park, comprised of 6,300 acres, extends along 14 scenic miles of Seneca Creek. The Clopper Day-Use Area contains many scenic areas, including the 90-acre Clopper Lake, surrounded by forests and fields.

Gaithersburg, MD

Scenic Overlook of Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—plan a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or a picnic with the family.

Front Royal, VA

Shenandoah River State Park

Shenandoah River State Park

Located just down stream from Bentonville, the park boasts over five miles of frontage on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The park consists of pastures, forests and vistas of the mountains and the river.

Bentonville, VA

Sky Meadows State Park

Sky Meadows State Park

Just an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., Sky Meadows State Park in Clarke and Fauquier counties, offers a peaceful getaway on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Delaplane, VA

Sproul State Forest

Sproul State Forest

The park features steep and rugged hillsides cut by the West Branch of the Susquehanna and its tributaries. The area provides hunting, fishing, picnicking, camping, and trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATVs.

Renovo, PA

Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area - Lonecellotheory/Flickr

Spruce Knob - Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

Enjoy spectacular scenery and outstanding outdoor recreation at the headwaters of the Potomac River.

Seneca Rocks, WV

Scenic Overlook View at Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain has been designated a Registered Natural Landmark because of its geological interest and striking beauty.

Dickerson, MD

Susquehanna River from Susquehannock State Park

Susquehannock State Park

The 224-acre Susquehannock State Park is on a wooded plateau overlooking the Susquehanna River in southern Lancaster County. Besides the awesome view, the park offers a variety of recreational opportunities for year-round fun.

Drumore, PA

Tiadaghton State Forest

Tiadaghton State Forest

Tiadaghton's forest features high-country flats bisected by clean, fast-moving mountain streams. The area offers hunting, fishing, boating and trials for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATVs.

Waterville, PA

Hunters at Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area

Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area

Located in the tidal recesses of the Chesapeake Bay between the Wye River and the Wye East River, Wye Island offers 2,800 acres of habitat for wintering waterfowl populations and other native wildlife.

Queenstown, MD

October 5, 2016

Main image: A hiker enjoying the fall foliage at Spruce Knob / Seneca Creek. (Image courtesy: Beth Adelson / Flickr)
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