Fall Foliage in Virginia

Virginia is diverse in landscape, from the highest mountains to the eastern shore. The diversity in landscape and elevation presents a prolonged fall foliage season here in Virginia, starting earlier in the higher elevations moving east toward coastal Virginia, which finishes the season each year.

Virginia is a great place to enjoy nature any time of year. VDOF reminds you to be careful with fire as you get outdoors in the fall.

Enjoy “leaf-peeping” in Virginia!

Key to Virginia Trees and Colors

Tree Fall Leaf Color
ash yellow, maroon
beech yellow to orange
dogwood scarlet to purple
hickory gold to bronze
oak red, brown, or russet
poplar golden yellow
red maple brilliant scarlet

Fall Foliage Information

Fall foliage generally peaks sometime between October 10 and October 31; however, these dates can vary greatly year to year, based on other factors (e.g., temperatures, rain, winds, storms, etc.).

Weekly Fall Foliage Report

October 20, 2021

Continued warm temperatures have given a slow start to this year’s foliage season, but this week it finally feels like fall! Look for major color changes in the coming week as a result of the cool nights.

High elevations of Southwest Virginia and the Alleghenies are approaching peak coloration, dominated by the orange and red shades of maples. Along the Blue Ridge and in the Shenandoah Valley, you’ll see patchy colors on a matrix of green. There’s still a lot of green in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, but eye-catching reds and yellows appear along roadways and in urban landscape trees. 

Shenandoah National Park (Photo by Cory Swift-Turner)


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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