Where to Find Fall Foliage In & Around Washington DC

Washington Monument with fall leaves (David Coleman)

Washington DC may not have the kind of fall foliage fireworks of more famous leaf-peeping destinations like Vermont or upstate New York, but the area still some good options for catching those warm autumnal colors. Best lighting for the most atmospheric shots is usually in the early morning or the late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky and casts a nice warm glow.

Here are some ideas. Some are close into the city and some further afield.
Red Maple Leaves

Washington DC

C&O Canal

The old C&O Canal starts in Georgetown, but head a bit further along the river to get to the trees. Your best bets are to walk or ride a bike. Open daily during daylight hours.

Rock Creek Park

Can’t get out of Washington? Rock Creek Park offers over 1,700 acres of protected parkland, much of it wooded. While certain areas are highly trafficked by city dwellers getting their daily exercise, a short jaunt deeper into the park can make you feel like you’re the only one around. Open daily during daylight hours.

National Arboretum

The National Arboretum is one of Washington’s best kept secrets. It is so quiet and unspoiled that it’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of the nation’s capital. Its varied collections (dogwood, azalea, Asian, boxwood, and more), plus some interesting architecture, make it a great spot for capturing autumn at its best. Best way to get there is by car or taxi. If the weather’s nice, take a picnic. Open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Fall leaves

Arlington & Great Falls, VA

Great Falls

Great Falls Park is an 800-acre national park with something for everyone–a river, spectacular scenery, and of course, waterfalls. Take your hiking boots along with your camera and enjoy all that the park has to offer, but go early-when the weather is nice, traffic getting into the park often comes to a virtual standstill. Open daily from 7am until dark.

Four Mile Run/W&OD Trail

This path goes for miles, connecting with the Potomac next to National Airport, but a few miles in from the river there’s a stretch of greenery running through the heart of Arlington. It follows a creek. The most scenic section is the stretch from Columbia Pike to East Falls Church metro station. Biking or walking is ideal, but there are several small parking lots at various points along the trail.

Arlington National Cemetery

Just across Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery covers a vas expanse of land. Towards the top of the hill is more tree-covered than down below. More info here.

Fall Leaves

Alexandria, VA

River Farm

Situated along the Potomac River on 25 acres of landscaped lawns and gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, River Farm was once owned by George Washington. It is now the headquarters of the American Horticulture Society and features a wide range of plants and flowers along with superb river views. It’s open to the public Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon was George Washington’s plantation home. Just the drive itself, along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, is a sight to behold in autumn. Take a tour of the house while there, or simply wander the well-maintained grounds and marvel at the beautiful view overlooking the Potomac River. Or go for Fall Harvest Day (October 22 and 23) and enjoy hayrides, corn mazes, half-price boat cruises. Open daily 9am to 5pm. Tickets required.
Red leaves

Maryland

Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park is situated at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, where West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland meet. The charming town of Harper’s Ferry is worth a visit, too, and is special for being one of the only towns through which the Appalachian Trail passes. Open daily 8am to 5pm.
Red Maple Leaf

Further Afield

Shenandoah National Park & Blue Ridge Parkway

Shenandoah National Park is popular in autumn, for good reason- the colors are spectacular and with over 500 miles of hiking trails and 75 scenic overlooks, there are multiple opportunities to see nature at its finest. But go early because traffic can get busy, especially on weekends. Open all the time.

Route 20 Between Fredericksburg & Barboursville

The road between Route 3 near Fredericksburg and Barboursville to the southwest makes for a very pleasant drive through the Virginia countryside. You’ll see a mix of farmland and forest. And if you want to add an overnight stop, stay in Charlottesville and explore the surrounding area, including Blue Ridge Parkway/Shenandoah National Park, the University of Virginia’s historic “Lawn,” and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
A snow-covered Arlington National Cemetery (David Coleman)

Map

More to Explore

Navy-Marine Memorial in Arlington, VA, Seagulls Against Blue Sky-COPYRIGHT HAVECAMERAWILLTRAVEL.COM

Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial

The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial, featuring a large, evocative aluminum sculpture of a cresting wave and seagulls in flight, sits on Columbia Island on the Arlington side of the Potomac.

Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington VA Statue with Flag Silhouette-COPYRIGHT HAVECAMERAWILLTRAVEL.COM

Iwo Jima Memorial

At the heart of the Iwo Jima Memorial (or the Marine Corps War Memorial) is a massive bronze statue based on an iconic World War II photo of the Marines planting the flag at Iwo Jima. The Memorial is next to Arlington National Cemetery on a hill overlooking the National Mall.

Simon Bolivar Statue Silhouette Framed by Branches-COPYRIGHT HAVECAMERAWILLTRAVEL.COM

Simon Bolivar Statue

The Simon Bolivar Statue in Foggy Bottom in Washington DC is dedicated to the Latin American revolutionary.

Cuban Friendship Urn Eagle-COPYRIGHT HAVECAMERAWILLTRAVEL.COM

Cuban Friendship Urn

The Cuban Friendship Urn is not the most impressive landmark you’ll find in Washington DC, but it does have an interesting story behind it.

Robert Taft Memorial and Carillon in Washingotn DC Piazza-COPYRIGHT

Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon

Mr Republican has his own Carillon. Senator Robert Taft had a long political career and had connections–he was a former Speaker and was President William Howard Taft’s oldest son–but the arch conservative is best remembered as an leading opponent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Cherry Blossoms on April 9, 2013-COPYRIGHT HAVECAMERAWILLTRAVEL.COM

Washington DC’s Cherry Blossoms

Each spring, Washington’s famous cherry blossoms burst into white and pink bloom. But the date shifts each year depending on natural environmental factors. Here’s the latest information on the 2013 blooming of the cherry blossoms.

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