Best Fall Color Spots in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Roanoke, VA

Everyone wants to know the best places to see the fall colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every autumn, the fall foliage that can be found along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia make the region one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Peak fall color for the region typically occurs in mid-to-late October through early November, and this is often the best time to visit if you're planning a trip focused on seeing the gorgeous leaves.

The elevation changes, various plant species and a supportive climate make the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge a place that features views of the mountains covered with colors that you would expect to find in a postcard.

Here's more information on the science of the fall color in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

While there are great views of fall foliage all around the region, including many scenic drives you can enjoy, there are a few particularly special spots that offer views that will leave you amazed.

NOTE: Many of our best fall color spots are some of our most popular trails and outdoor areas. Before you visit, please familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace 7 Principles, a set of guidelines to ensure you recreate responsibly and minimize your impact on the natural environment.

We've created an alphabetical list of best places to see fall colors in Virginia's Blue Ridge, as well as a map to help you find them!

​See a Map of Locations >

Appalachian Trail

McAfee Knob - Fall - Blue Ridge Mountains

Roanoke is the largest city along the Appalachian Trail and there are numerous access points in Virginia's Blue Ridge for hiking and backpacking the trail. The region is home to the popular Virginia Triple Crown, featuring three of the most iconic summits along the trail - Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs (pictured above).

The hikes can be combined together for an epic backpacking loop, or each one makes for fantastic individual hikes.

Another great option for seeing fall colors is the nearby hike to Hay Rock, which offers a beautiful view of Carvins Cove. Remember to recreate responsibly and respect your surroundings to help preserve the beauty of the trail.

Learn More: Hiking the Appalachian Trail >

Photo by Rochelle Masudal

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Poor Mountain Overlook - Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

One of the biggest reasons the Blue Ridge Parkway has earned its reputation as "America's Favorite Drive" is the unforgettable experience of a scenic drive during peak fall color season! With numerous scenic overlooks and mountain vistas, hiking trails, and easily accessible spots for picnics, you can be a #Trailsetter and experience the beauty of fall along the Parkway in Virginia's Blue Ridge.

A few of our favorite spots to check out the fall foliage include Purgatory Mountain Overlook (Milepost 92), Pine Tree Overlook (Milepost 95), Cahas Mountain Overlook (Milepost 139), and The Saddle Overlook (Milepost 168).

Learn More: Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia's Blue Ridge >

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Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve

The Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve has a trail network of over 5 miles of hiking trails and the opportunity to see Bent Mountain Falls, the 2nd highest waterfall in Virginia. Bottom Creek is one of the streams that creates the South Fork of the Roanoke River.

From the parking area, you'll follow the entrance road and then take the Johnston Trail to reach the waterfall overlook.

Learn More: Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve >

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Carvins Cove

Carvins Cove - Fall - Roanoke, Virginia

As the second largest municipal park in the United States, the 12,700-acre Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is a place full of outdoor recreation opportunities in the heart of the natural beauty of Virginia's Blue Ridge. Take in the fall colors and enjoy a mountain biking, fishing, hiking or boating adventure.

Learn More: Carvins Cove Natural Reserve >

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Explore Park

Fall Colors - Explore Park Hiking Trail - Roanoke, VA

With a network of trails for hiking and mountain biking, an aerial adventure course where you can zip-line through the trees, access to the Roanoke River, and multiple options for overnight lodging, including cabins & camping, you can spend an entire getaway to Virginia's Blue Ridge surrounded by fall colors in Explore Park!

Learn More: Roanoke County's Explore Park >

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Grassy Hill Natural Preserve

Tucked away near the town of Rocky Mount in Franklin County, the Grassy Hill Natural Preserve features over six miles of hiking trails, with spots that include scenic overlooks of the town and the rolling countryside and mountains that surround the area.

Download: Grassy Hill Trail Map >

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Hanging Rock on Potts Mountain

This short hike in Craig County is an easy, family-friendly trail that leads you to the Hanging Rock Overlook that's easily reachable via Route 311, a very scenic drive. The hike offers stunning views of the mountains of Craig County and the ridgeline toward West Virginia.

Continue your adventure with scenic drive to Paint Bank for a delicious meal at The Swinging Bridge Restaurant and overnight stay at The Depot Lodge

Learn More: Hanging Rock Overlook Trail >

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Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway | Milepost 176.1

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill has long been regarded as one of the most iconic spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 176.2) and is a beautiful place to stop to get some pictures of fall colors. The restaurant is also known for their buckwheat pancakes and is a popular breakfast spot.

Learn More: Visiting Mabry Mill >

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Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State Park - Virginia

See one of our nation's oldest landmarks while also enjoying the various trails that are part of Natural Bridge State Park. The historic Cedar Creek Trail leads you under The Natural Bridge and keep your eyes open for unique plants and wildlife.

Discover for yourself why the bridge was once regarded as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World!

Learn More: Visit Virginia's Natural Bridge State Park >

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Peaks of Otter - Blue Ridge Parkway | Milepost 86

Sharp Top Mountain - Peaks of Otter - Bedford, VA

With a lake, restaurant, lodge, campgrounds and hiking trails, the Peaks of Otter has been one of the most popular spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway for years. The hike to Sharp Top Mountain, which is one of the peaks, provides an incredible view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

You can also enjoy a leisurely walk around Abbott Lake, or make the climb to the highest of the peaks - Flat Top Mountain. For a fun waterfall hike, check out Fallingwater Cascades.

Learn More: Iconic Mountains: Peaks of Otter in Virginia's Blue Ridge >

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Read Mountain

Fall Colors - Read Mountain Preserve - Roanoke, VA

The Read Mountain Preserve is a hidden gem for hiking in Virginia's Blue Ridge. It's a 243-acre preserve that features a 5-mile trail network, including a 2-mile trail to Buzzards Rock, the most popular spot for hiking in the trail system.

Buzzards Rock is a beautiful spot to be surrounded by fall colors and it offers a gorgeous view of North Roanoke and the ridgeline on the horizon.

Download: Read Mountain Trail Map >

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Roanoke Star & Mill Mountain Park

Roanoke Star - Fall Colors - Blue Ridge Mountains

A can't miss spot when you visit Virginia's Blue Ridge. The Roanoke Star & Overlook provides a spectacular view of the Roanoke Valley, including the downtown skyline, as well as the surrounding mountains. The area is also home to multiple trails for hiking & mountain biking, picnic areas and the Mill Mountain Zoo.

It's only a 15-minute drive from Downtown Roanoke and is located directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 120.

Learn More: Fun Things to Do on Mill Mountain >

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Roanoke Valley Greenways

Roanoke River Greenway - Fall Colors

For a relaxing walk, run, or bike ride full of opportunities to see fall foliage and get to know the different communities in Roanoke, explore the network of Roanoke Valley Greenways. There are over 30 miles of greenways in Virginia's Blue Ridge and it's a wonderful option for all ages to enjoy the outdoors.

A few recommended segments of the greenway for enjoying beautiful fall colors would be the Tinker Creek Greenway, Roanoke River Greenway in Roanoke & Salem, and Wolf Creek Greenway in Vinton.

Learn More: Roanoke Valley Greenways >

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Roaring Run Trail

Roaring Run Falls - Botetourt County, VA

The Roaring Run Trail in Botetourt County is an easy hike that offers a chance to see fall colors while also visiting one of the most historic spots in the region. The Roaring Run Furnace is a 19th century iron furnace that's on the National Register of Historic Places.

The trail also follows the Roaring Run Stream and features multiple spots of cascading water, including the beautiful Roaring Run Falls.

Learn More: Roaring Run Day Use Area >

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Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

Whether you're on the water for paddling, boating and fishing, or simply taking in the stunning views from a vacation property at Smith Mountain Lake, the "Jewel of the Blue Ridge" is the perfect spot for a fall getaway.

Head to Bridgewater Marina for information on boat and water toy rentals, or enjoy public access and trails at spots like Smith Mountain Lake Community Park and Smith Mountain Lake State Park.

Learn More: Smith Mountain Lake >

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Upper James River Water Trail

Upper James River Water Trail - Virginia

Seeing the fall colors from the water while paddling along the Upper James River Water Trail in Botetourt County is the best ways to experience fall in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

60 miles of the trail have been designated as Virginia Scenic River, helping protect and conserve the natural beauty of the river for years to come. For paddling rentals and adventures on the Upper James, check out Twin River Outfitters in the Town of Buchanan.

Learn More: Suggested Itineraries for the Upper James River Water Trail >

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Wineries & Vineyards - Blue Ridge Vineyard, Virginia Mountain Vineyards, Peaks of Otter Winery

Johnson's Orchards & Peaks of Otter Winery, Bedford

In addition to producing some of the finest wine in a state that has become known around the world for its wine, many local vineyards and wineries are also located in picturesque settings that make for a great experience of sampling delicious flavors and beautiful colors.

A few local wineries where you can sip wine while enjoying views are Peaks of Otter Winery & Orchards, Blue Ridge Vineyard, and Virginia Mountain Vineyards.

Learn More: Wineries in Virginia's Blue Ridge >

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Map of Locations

Roanoke Region Spotlight

See why Virginia's Blue Ridge is one of the best places in the world to enjoy the stunning colors of fall.

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