Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Places to Look for Fall Foliage in the DC Area

Lots of people from DC drive out to Shenandoah National Park to see the fall foliage. But after a long drive, you can end up stuck in traffic in the park with all the other leaf-peepers. Not to mention the traffic on I-66. Why not stay closer to home, spend less time in the car, and have more time in the crisp air, crunching leaves underfoot? Just keep an eye on the forecast -- it may rain again on Saturday.

Here are a few of our favorite local spots:

Rock Creek Park. The Ridge Trail gives more panoramic views, but we especially like to see the fall colors reflected in the water from the Valley Trail and Beach Drive. Take advantage of the weekend road closures on Beach Drive.

The Potomac Gorge - Virginia Side. The deep valley carved by the Potomac gives the opportunity to see relatively dramatic bluffs any time of the year. There will be trees across the river just about anywhere you go on the Virginia side -- the waterfront in Maryland is all part of the C&O Canal park. There are many parks along this stretch of the river, including Riverbend Park, Great Falls, Turkey Run, Scott's Run, Fort Marcy, and Gulf Branch Nature Center.

C&O Canal. Whether you're in Georgetown, up at Great Falls, or anywhere in between, the foliage along the canal is lovely and offers another chance for catching reflections in the water. In many places you'll also have access to dramatic views of the bluffs across the river.

The Arboretum. The wide variety of trees at the Arboretum means there's something colorful going on here throughout the fall. Check out Fern Valley for the local color.(Thanks to John Beetham of A DC Birding Blog for reminding us of this option!)

And speaking of intentionally planted trees, what about your neighborhood? Within a few blocks of our house are probably more gorgeous maples than in all of Rock Creek park.

There are so many other options. The Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine both have their own lists. Where do you go for fall foliage in the DC area? Leave us a comment!

Like the photos in this post? Mouse over for credits; a click takes you to the photographer on Flickr.