Fall Foliage in Virginia

This map of Virginia shows the approximate dates of peak color for fall foliage.

Oct. 10 - 20
Oct. 15 - 25
Oct. 20-31

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year in Virginia, and traveling throughout the state during this season can reveal an abundance of color. As you enjoy the outdoors and Virginia's forests, remember to be careful with outdoor fire. A cigarette, campfire or cooking equipment can destroy the scenic wonders of Fall in Virginia.

Weekly Fall Foliage Report

Welcome to the Fall Foliage Report from the Virginia Department of Forestry. Here's our report for the weekend of October 10.

Despite last week's heavy rains, the forest color palette is beginning to change this week in the higher mountain areas. At high elevations in southwest Virginia and along the Blue Ridge Parkway, yellow patches are most obvious, dominated by early sugar maples, hickories, black birch and yellow-poplar. The upper elevations of Shenandoah Valley are also showing patches of yellow. All over the mountains, reds can be seen in early changers like Virginia creeper, dogwood, and black gum. Check out this under-appreciated species along roadsides, where it can be identified at a distance by its branching pattern, at right angles to the trunk. Meanwhile, shades of green will predominate for awhile in central and eastern Virginia.

In general, trees with greater exposure in any location are among the earliest changers and may even lose their leaves early if the weather is rainy or windy. But don’t worry, the show is just getting started, and there are still billions of leaves left to change! The last few sunny days will be especially helpful in developing the red and orange colors.

For a simple explanation of why leaves change color, check our Education section for a publication called “Virginia in the Fall.”

Virginia Trees and Colors

Tree Fall Leaf Color
ash yellow, maroon
beech yellow to orange
dogwood scarlet to purple
hickory golden bronze
oak red, brown or russet
poplar golden yellow
red maple brilliant scarlet

VDOF Recommended Fall Foliage Driving Tours

So, you’re interested in seeing some of the beauty that is Virginia during Fall Foliage season? But you don’t want to fight the traffic that clogs some of the best-known places, such as Skyline Drive?

Well, you’ve come to the right place! The Virginia Department of Forestry VDOF) is proud to present its first ever VDOF-Recommended Fall Foliage Driving Tours. And who better than the folks who know Virginia’s trees best to provide you with routes that will expose you to some of the Commonwealth’s most colorful tree-lined vistas?

Each of these tours – designed by a local VDOF forester – is sure to exceed your expectations and fill your eyes with wide swatches of vibrant yellows, reds and oranges. And, because these recommended drives are “off the beaten path,” you’ll be able to enjoy a leisurely trip without the hassles of a lot of traffic on the road or large crowds at stops along the way.

Simply choose one of the tours below, print out the route and take it with you as you enjoy the “leaf-peeping” in Virginia!

Additional Routes to see fall foliage

Fall Foliage Information

By Phone

  • Fall Foliage Report - 1.800.424.LOVE
  • Forest Service Fall Color hotline - 800.354.4595. Press "8" for the Southern States report.
  • Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park - 540.999.3500 (press “6”)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (between Waynesboro and the North Carolina border) - 828.298.0398 (press “3”)


Fall Foliage Activities

Why do leaves change color?

Most leaf colors are already in the plant leaf.

  • Chlorophyll gives leaves their familiar green color.
  • Carotenoids produce yellow, orange, and brown colors.
  • Anthocyanins add color to red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums. They are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.

Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. During this time, chlorophyll is produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As days get shorter, chlorophyll production slows down until it stops. The green color is no longer visible, and other pigments present (carotenoids) with the chlorophyll are then revealed. During autumn, bright light and excess plant sugars produce anthocyanins within leaf cells.

Learn more about Why Leaves Change Color, Autumn Colors, and the Anatomy of a Leaf.

Last modified: Thursday, 08-Oct-2015 09:03:18 EDT