Things to Do DC

Fall Colors 2021: When and Where to See Autumn Leaves in the DC Area

When and where to see fall leaves, from right in D.C. to destinations like Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive

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From pumpkin patches to renaissance festivals, News4’s Megan McGrath reports on all the fall fun festivities occurring in the D.C. area.

It is that time of the year again when vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves paint a gorgeous display in our trees. Here is when to expect to see leaves signify the transition from fall to winter

“You can thank our warm temperatures for the first half of October for the slow change in the color or our leaves,” said Storm Team4 Meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts. “We need to have fairly cool nights to jump-start the change."

As October's warmer-than-average temperatures fade, you'll see more color in the D.C. area.

A slew of cool nights leading up to October's second-to-last weekend could help color along, Ricketts said.

"Expect our peak east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains to be through late October and into early November.”

While some areas are seeing some hints of fall foliage in the District, leaves are expected to peak during the final week of October, according to the Fall Foliage Map on smokymountains.com.

In nearby destinations such as Western Maryland or in the mountains of West Virginia leaves are peaking in mid-October, displaying dramatic changes.

It is expected all leaves will move past their peak between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8.

Even in the urban District, you can see some magnificent fall color — Casey Trees publishes a map that can help you find "showstopper" trees near you.

Here are some recommendations for places to visit to witness fall foliage in the D.C. area:  

 Rock Creek Park

One of the largest parks in Washington, D.C. runs 30 miles from Montgomery County Maryland to downtown D.C. Here visitors can take a hike, enjoy a picnic, or go for a bike ride and enjoy the astounding transition of color in leaves.

United States National Arboretum

This beautiful spot showcases 446 acres of trees, shrubs and plants. Once leaves hit their peak, visitors will be able to witness striking colors of leaves all across the Arboretum.

Shenandoah National Park

Just 75 miles form Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers 200,000 acres of trees, waterfalls, and trails. During this time, they welcome hundreds of visitors to witness the gorgeous transitions of the seasons. To keep their visitors up to date, they post pictures of the colors of their leaves every Thursday on Instagram.

Skyline Drive

Part of Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway running 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. During the fall many visitors drive through to experience the colorful foliage and enjoy 75 overlooks.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

This National Historical Park offers more than 180 miles of beautiful fall foliage in D.C. and Maryland.  Visitors may walk along the canal and take pictures with friends and family as they enjoy the red, yellow and orange leaves the fall brings.

View of the Great falls on the Potomac between Virginia and Maryland as the Autumn season wears its colors taken from Great Falls, Maryland, on November 2, 2018. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Great Falls National Park

The beautiful 800-acre park is one of the most visited destinations in the region. As leaves begin to change their colors, visitors come to view the build-up of the Potomac River and witness the fall colors in all their glory from both the Maryland and Virginia sides.