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We’ve rounded up 8 more great fall hikes in Virginia that deliver beautiful foliage, stream-side paths, and awesome views. Our hikes range from a Nature Preserve just outside Washington DC, to the longest vertical cascade waterfall in the East, a scenic 200 mile drive away from the capital. These fall hikes in Virginia are fun all year long, but cool temperatures and vibrant foliage make them a must-see in Autumn.
The Pinnacle and Mary’s Rock, Shenandoah National Park
Drivers love to explore fall foliage in Shenandoah National Park, but we prefer to get out on the trails.This beautiful Mary’s Rock hike on the Appalachian Trail includes two spectacular Shenandoah vistas, a look at an AT hut, and a fun rocky outcropping that’s perfect for lunch, a rest, or a scramble. The hike is 6.5 miles out and back over moderately challenging terrain, with about 700 feet of elevation gain as you climb and descend three times.
If you follow our suggested hike to Mary’s Rock from the Jewell Hollow parking lot, you’ll reach The Pinnacles after about 1 mile of hiking. If you’re up for a longer journey, continue another 2.25 miles to Mary’s Rock and nearly 360 degree views from a granite out-cropping. The Jewell Hollow parking area is in the central portion of Shenandoah National Park, about 94 miles from DC.
Little Stony Man and Stony Man, Shenandoah National Park
Both of the Stony Man summits are perfect short fall hikes in Virginia. The Little Stony Man Overlook is only .9 miles roundtrip from the parking area at mile 39.1, following a fairly steep, rocky section of the Appalachian Trail to the Passamaquoddy Trail and a gorgeous viewpoint.
Two miles further south on Skyline Drive, just inside the northern entrance to Skyland, is the trailhead for Stony Man Summit. From the parking lot, it’s a fairly easy 1.6 mile round-trip to the panoramic views from Stony Man. Even though the hike is longer than Little Stony Man, the path is less steep so it’s actually an easier walk. The rocky outcropping at the top of Stony Man offers glimpses of the drive to the north, Skyland Resort to the west, and the ridge continuing to the south. Little Stony Man parking lot is at mile 39, and Stony Man parking is at mile 41.7 in Shenandoah National Park, about 90 miles from DC.
Our Scotts Run loop hike includes a cliffside view, a scenic waterfall, and a nice, moderately challenging stretch of the Potomac Heritage Trail in McLean, Virginia. The 3 mile loop begins at the eastern parking area, follows wooded trails down to the river, then turns left on an often steep, rocky, and narrow section of the PHT that can be tricky to navigate when the rocks are slippery. Make a stop at Scotts Run waterfall before climbing the hill and returning to the parking area. Wooded trails and Potomac River views make this an ideal fall hike.
1. Difficult Run and Great Falls Ridge Trail, Great Falls
This moderately challenging 3-mile partial loop explores a less-visited section of Great Falls Park, beginning at the Difficult Run parking area on Georgetown Pike. The trail follows a wooded section along Difficult Run, a steep climb on the Ridge Trail, and a steep section of the River Trail with stunning views. It’s a wonderful way to explore a section of the Fairfax County Trail and the less visited southeastern side of popular Great Falls Park. In late October and early November, fall foliage adds a beautiful dimension to the trails.
Prince William National Forest, Dumfries
Prince William National Forest offers many nice options for fall hikes in Virginia. The 1.4 mile Laurel Loop Trail, which passes through peaceful woods and along the South Fork of Quantico Creek, is a popular family hike which you can easily extend with connecting trails. If time allows, add a section of the Potomac Heritage Trail, crossing a pretty bridge over Quantico Creek.
We combined portions of the Laurel and South Valley Trails, with the Pyrite Mine and North Orenida Roads, to create a 4-5 mile loop hike that was stunning with colorful Autumn foliage. For a shorter but steeper hike to the creek, take the Quantico Falls Trail to the cascades along Quantico Creek. Rangers at the Visitor Center can help you plan the perfect route for your visit.
4. Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park, Leesburg
With a mix of shady trails and open fields, varying terrain, and interesting, well-marked historic sites, Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Leesburg is a great spot for exploring. Ball’s Bluff was the site of the first Civil War engagement to take place in Loudoun County, and the park has an excellent interpretive trail that explains how the battle unfolded.
A sometimes steep, wooded trail leads to the Potomac River and a segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail (which offers many options for fall hikes in Virginia). Nearby Red Rock Wilderness Overlook also offers wooded hiking along a bluff and down to the Potomac River.
Freestone Point, Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge
This 2-mile Leesylvania State Park hike follows the Lee’s Woods Trail through historic sites and lovely woods with commanding views of the Potomac River. The well-signed trail passes the ancestral home sites of Virginia’s famous Lee and Fairfax families, a Lee family cemetery, a Confederate gun battery, and a former railroad bed with an interesting history.
The trail climbs an historic bluff to beautiful views of the Potomac River from Freestone Point, the site of a Confederate gun emplacement during the Civil War and part of a series of batteries that effectively blockade the Potomac for five months. The mostly easy hike over dirt paths has a few steep, but short hills. Leesylvania State Park is about 30 miles from DC.
Crabtree Falls, Montebello
The viewpoint that looks out over Tye River Gorge fills with color in the fall, but the hike is popular year-round for the gorgeous waterfall views as the trail climbs along Crabtree Falls. Crabtree is the longest vertical cascade in the East; a series of several waterfalls cascading a total of 1200 feet . From the lower parking lot, it’s a steadily uphill but not too challenging 1.8 mile climb to the top of the falls.
There are several other great viewpoints of the cascades along the way, broken up by sections of stairs and dirt switchbacks. While the hike is well worth the effort, it is a very popular destination, so avoid weekends if you can. The trail is especially fun in Fall when heavier water flow and colorful foliage offer incredible sights throughout the hike. The Crabtree Falls trailhead is about 185 miles from DC.
How many of these fall hikes in Virginia have you tackled? Please suggest your favorite fall hike in the comments below; we’re always looking for new places to explore. Check out these round-ups for more of our favorite Northern Virginia trails:
- 8 Epic Virginia Trails to Hike and Bike Less Than 2 Hours From DC
- Short Hikes to Gorgeous Virginia Views
- 5 Virginia Hike and Wine Day Trips Close to Washington DC
- 8 Great Fall Hikes in Northern Virginia
- 8 Great Winter Walks in Northern Virginia
- 8 Great Spring Hikes in Northern Virginia
- 8 Great Summer Hikes in Northern Virginia