There’s no question that autumn brings the most beautiful hillside coloring out of any of the seasons.
And sure, you could catch a glimpse of the changing leaves almost anywhere, but nothing beats the panoramic view of the Shenandoah Mountains.
But there’s more than just one way to visit Virginia’s highlighted landscape. Here’s our inside scoop on a few of the best ways to get the most out of Shenandoah’s fall foliage.
Cruise down Skyline Drive
October is typically the best time to witness the fall foliage. Golds, greens, and yellows flood the popular Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains with bursts of reds and oranges along the way.
Since the leaves change at the higher altitudes first, begin your journey between the Thornton Gap and Rockfish Gap Entrance Stations, suggests Fun in Fairfax website.
Be sure to stop at the overlooks where prominent orange and red maple trees give you the perfect backdrop for a family picture.
Hike the Hills
Driving lets you cover a lot of terrain in a short amount of time, but getting up close and personal with nature’s artistic expression is unparalleled.
Easy, family-friendly hikes include Little Stony Man that’s less than a mile. There’s Stony Man Summit which is a bit longer at 1.6 miles, and Crescent Rock Overlook racking in a .9 mile trek to Betty’s Rock.
Please be prepared with proper footwear and water if you decide to take a hike. The ground can be uneven at times with slick rocks, so keep those little explorers extra close.
Grab a Bite on the Colorful Mountainside
You’ll pass several restaurants and diners throughout Shenandoah National Park, but the ones with the best views are at Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge.
Neither of these are the de l’Arpège in France, and you probably won’t see any entrees on the menu that compare with Chef Alain Passard’s world-renown dishes, but you will get a hearty hometown experience with classic comfort cuisine.
And you can always pack a picnic lunch to take on your hike or enjoy at one of the public park areas.
Sitting down for a meal together outdoors will give the family time to talk about all the beauty around you and really take in the fall foliage before it’s gone for the winter.
Get a Tour
Dickey Ridge Visitor Center at the north end of the park and Harry F. Byrd Sr. Visitor Center at Big Meadows are two great resources at your disposal.
In addition to informative exhibits and captivating videos, both visitor centers offer Ranger programs where you can take a guided hike with staff who know all of Shenandoah’s gems.
There are also Junior Ranger programs for the wee ones, so no one has to feel left out of the fun.
Go Good Old-Fashioned Camping
Shenandoah is close to a lot of big metropolitan areas like Washington DC, making it the perfect fall weekend getaway.
Spending a few days in the park gives you more time to do all of the recommended ideas above and capture the autumn palette from every angle.
If camping in a tent is not your thing and you prefer a bit more civilized accommodations, try the lodge at Skyland, complete with a cozy fireplace to warm up next to after a long hike.
Knowing the absolute perfect time to visit Shenandoah National Park to take in all the fall colors is an educated guess at best, but plan a trip soon and make the most of this season!
Please let us know in the comments some of your favorite places to see the autumn foliage.