Fall Foliage in Virginia

Virginia is diverse in landscape, from the highest mountains to the Eastern Shore. The variety in landscape and elevation provides a long fall foliage season, starting earliest in the higher elevations and moving eastward. Fall colors generally peak sometime between October 10 and October 31; however, these dates can vary from year to year, based on factors such as temperature and rainfall.

Virginia’s many species of deciduous trees create an interesting mix of autumn colors. Here are some colors you can expect from some of our most common species:

Tree Color
Beech Yellow to orange
Dogwood Red to maroon
Hickory Gold to bronze
Red maple Brilliant scarlet
Sugar maple Bright orange
Oaks Red, amber, russet
Tulip poplar Golden yellow

Weekly Fall Foliage Report

Begins in mid- to late- September.


Fall Foliage Driving Tours

Try our VDOF-recommended Fall Foliage Driving Tours.

Why Leaves Change Color

Most leaf colors are already in the plant leaf.

  • Chlorophyll gives leaves their familiar green color.
  • Carotenoids produce yellow, orange, and brown colors.
  • Anthocyanins add color to red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums. They are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.

Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. During this time, chlorophyll is produced and broken down, and leaves appear green. As days get shorter, chlorophyll production slows down until it stops. The green color is no longer visible, and other pigments present (carotenoids) with the chlorophyll are then revealed. During autumn, bright light and excess plant sugars produce anthocyanins within leaf cells.

Additional Resources

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Forest Facts: Virginia in the Fall
Forest Facts: Virginia in the FallF00009

Forest facts information sheet provides an illustrated explanation of the science of leaves changing colors, the role of pigments, effects of the calendar and weather, why these changes occur, and fall leaf identification information. Target audience: Youth – elementary age. Printed copies available.

Vieweducation public-informationpublication

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