Charlottesville’s Best Fall Foliage Hikes

Western Virginia’s fall foliage is second to none. Here’s where to see it.

Come September, red maples, golden oaks, and bronze beech leaves turn Virginia’s mountains into a fiery tableau of color. While you can enjoy the show from hundreds of hikes throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains (and even closer to home), these four represent some of the best options for every level of hiker. 

EASIEST: Turk Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

2.5 miles, 450 feet of elevation gain

Turk Mountain’s wide summit rolls out views across the colorful Shenandoah Valley and the distant Allegheny mountains alike. To get here, start at the Turk Mountain Parking Area along Skyline Drive, at the southern end of the national park. Cross the road to pick up the Appalachian Trail going west, then turn right at the fork to gain the Turk Mountain Trail. This will take you to the summit, but don’t rush it: The canopy of red and yellow hardwoods along the trail are part of the draw. At the top, stop to admire the expansive views before retracing your steps back to your car. (Map here.)  

MODERATE: Humpback Rock, George Washington National Forest 

3.8 miles, 1,100 feet of elevation gain 

Perhaps the most popular hike in George Washington National Forest, the Humpback Rocks loop winds through lush hardwood forest before tackling a steep, 700-foot climb to the hike’s eponymous rock formation. Here, you’ll be rewarded with spin-around views across the Blue Ridge Mountains before retracing your steps down the Appalachian Trail’s gentler switchbacks. This one gets busy, so try to go on a weekday if you can. (Map here)

TOUGH: Chimney Rock Loop, Shenandoah National Park 

9.1 miles, 1,300 feet of elevation gain 

This loop traces trickling clear mountain streams and small cascades, culminating with gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ vivid orange slopes. Start at the Riprap Trail parking lot on Skyline Drive near the southern end of the park. Then, link the Appalachian, Wildcat Ridge, and Riprap trails for a full tour of Shenandoah National Park’s many ecosystems. Hint: Do the loop clockwise to end on a high note: the famous Chimney Rock views. (Map here)  

TOUGHEST: Spy Rock, George Washington National Forest  

13 miles, 3,000 feet of elevation gain 

This two-for-one hike takes you past both Crabtree Falls—a 1,200-foot cascade framed in golden leaves—and the iconic 360-degree overlook atop Spy Rock. To do it, start from the Crabtree Falls trailhead (just off state Hwy. 56 near Montebello, Va.) and head south. Connect the Crabtree Falls, Shoe Creek, and Appalachian trails before turning south onto the final Spy Rock summit spur. The last section is a short rock scramble, but the views are well worth it. When you’ve had your fill of gawking, retrace your steps back to your car. (Map here)

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.