Fall is definitely an ooh, ahh event. Whether you’re hiking, biking, clutching a zip line, soaring up and away in a hot air balloon, riding the rapids or chugging along on a train, you’re sure to catch fall’s spectacular show, if you know where to go. We've rounded up the best spots to hit for foliage sightings in Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and even West Virginia.
On the Virginia side, Northern Virginia’s River Trail offers views of magnificent waterfalls and nature. This trail follows the Potomac River along cliffs giving you stunning views of both the Virginia and the Maryland sides of the river. Several trails connect to the River Trail, allowing you to create a loop hike with the distance and difficulty right for you. On the Maryland side there is the Billy Goat Trail. There are three sections --A, B and C-- that make up the trail. Section A is the longest and most difficult with steep slopes and slippery rocks. Section B is challenging, while trail C is an easier hike.
The park includes the 16.5-mile Seneca Creek Greenway Trail for adventurous hikers. On October 14 and 21 park staff will provide Fall Foliage Pontoon Tours on 90-acre Clopper Lake to see the changing colors.
There are over 500 miles of fabulous trails, so you can choose the one right for you. Depending which one you choose, you'll see waterfalls, sweeping summits, canyons and plenty of wildlife. And if you wish, you can stop at the visitor center for schedules and to register for ranger-guided hikes.
You might be living in the city but right in our own backyard is Rock Creek Park, were you can create your own hike. There are two main trails that run North-South and many connector trails. You can also bike through the woods, over small brooks and under arching bridges.
There are over 20 miles of trails from easy riverside strolls to four-mile hikes across Civil War battlefields or eight-mile adventures on the tops of mountains. It’s considered one of the best walking parks in America, as you get to see the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as the Potomac and Shenandoah river valleys.
The rails-to-trails conversion goes from K Street in Georgetown to Downtown Bethesda and is a mix of everything. Part of the trail parallels the C&O Towpath, part is along woods and at one point you’ll see the Washington Monument.
This is a 45-mile long rails-to-trails conversion between Shirlington and Purcellville. It passes through urban area and Virginia countryside.
This 18-mile trail is scenic and starts from Roosevelt Island and runs along the Potomac River to Mount Vernon. Along the way you’ll pass Old Town Alexandria, Ronald Reagan National Airport, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, sailing marinas and Fort Hunt Park.
The Towpath follows the Potomac River for 184 miles between Georgetown and Cumberland, MD. Along the way you’ll see 19th-century locks from the canal’s working days, Great Falls, the Monocacy River Aqueduct, Harpers Ferry and the Paw Paw Tunnel.
Riding the Rapids
Several companies offer white water rafting trips for beginners to intermediate level riders on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.
The whitewater river flows through deep and magnificent canyons. The Lower Gorge of the river offer premier whitewater rafting with imposing rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V, many of them obstructed by large boulders which you’ll have to maneuver. The upper part of the river offers somewhat less challenging Class I to lll rapids.
Fly over the treetops, fields and the Choptank or Tuckahoe Rivers. The balloon flies at different altitudes so you see a variety of scenery.
The Wisp Mountain Park offers three canopy tour zip line challenges. The Flying Squirrel Canopy Tour has five breathtaking zips from 180 feet to over 400 feet. From your view above the tree tops you'll see Deep Creek Lake in the distance.
Ride a network of eight zip lines, at heights of up to 800 feet and take on the challenge of the adventures of sky bridges suspended high above the forest floor.
Experience tandem skydiving while seeing unmatched fall views of the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River and more.
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River in the Appalachian Mountains. On the third Saturday of October the New River Gorge Bridge is open to pedestrians with lots of activities (great views, food, crafts, music and BASE jumping). BASE jumping is definitely not for the faint of heart -- it’s for daredevils. BASE stands for Building, Antenna (tower), Span (arch or bridge) and Earth (cliff or natural formation), which are the four categories of objects in BASE jumping.
Riding the Rails
See all the colors while traveling aboard a restored diesel locomotive. You’ll climb through the Allegheny Mountains while a narrator provides historical facts along the route from Cumberland to Frostburg.
This train that will take you to the overlook at Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia.
Enjoy the sounds of vintage diesels as the train winds along the South Branch of the Potomac River where you’ll enter a striking gorge known as the Through, one of the most scenic views along the South Branch and home to American Bald Eagles.
Hop on a restored historic train and travel through the colorful woods of beautiful Buck’s County. You might even spot some wildlife.