Five Unforgettable Ways to Experience Virginia State Parks This Fall

Virginia State Parks are known for their beautiful vistas, and nothing makes them more spectacular than the vibrant colors of fall. With the change in temperature and breathtaking views, autumn is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy a Virginia State Park adventure. 

fall foliage at Bear Creek Lake State Park

Take in the fall foliage views from the seaside to the mountain top. Virginia’s 41 state parks offer various vantage points to enjoy all the amazing attributes of the changing leaves. From Wilderness Road to Kiptopeke, take a hike, bike or simply sit and enjoy the wonderment. Immerse yourself in the season even more by camping.

Many of the parks have scenic overlooks that provide amazing vistas to experience and photograph. The Tye Overlook at James River State Park can be reached by a moderately difficult, .11-mile hiking trail that is accessible from the Cabell Trail in the northeast part of the park. The platform overlooks the confluence of the Tye River and the James River. Cullers Overlook at Shenandoah River State Park is accessible by Overlook Trail, or you can simply park and walk to the platform to see the spectacular views of the Shenandoah River. Looking for more of a challenge? Check out the Tuscarora Overlook at Douthat State Park which is accessible by trails that are rated difficult.

natural tunnel state park in the fall

Natural Tunnel State Park has amazing overlooks as well, including the well-known Lover’s Leap Overlook and the lesser-known Purchase Ridge Overlook. From Lover’s Leap you get a view of the tunnel, while Purchase Ridge reveals fall colors with the natural tunnel in the distance. Rent a cabin at the park so you have plenty of time to see all the amazing views from the tunnel floor and above.

Participate in the Trail Quest Program. Who doesn’t love to get outside in the fall? It’s even better when you get rewarded for your efforts. There is no better time to start Virginia State Parks’ trail quest program. Visit a Virginia State Park and, after the visit, log into the State Parks Adventures page where you will find all the details and learn about your reward. It’s up to you to decide what you would like to do during your visit – hike, bike, kayak – the options are endless. Start the program on you own, or grab your family and friends and get started on your quest.

bikers on the new river trail

Bike the New River Trail. Grab your bike and head out to New River Trail State Park. The 57-mile linear park follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way and parallels the scenic New River for 39 miles. The gentle slope of the trail makes it popular with visitors of all ages and biking abilities.

a bridge along the new river trail in a virginia state park

There is so much to see along the way, you may ride longer than you planned. Not only will you be surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, but there are lots of extras along the way to keep your attention. There are two tunnels, three major bridges, and 30 smaller bridges and trestles. Visit a historic shot tower that was used more than 200 years ago to make ammunition.

If you’re looking for more adventure, you’ll love the Hoover Mountain Bike area with its five loops and seven trails. Not only can you bike surrounded by the colors of the leaves, but you’ll also experience the amazing colors of the pigment-filled landscape. The area includes high, colorful walls of a former mine where iron oxides were produced for pigment. The pigment was used to make a variety of colors and was used in products such as crayons, paint and furniture stains around the world. Take a look at the trail guide to get started on your adventure.

Yurt at Virginia State Parks

Fall is the best time to book a yurt. Yurts at Virginia State Parks are modern versions of the traditional nomadic structures that began being used thousands of years ago. They bridge the gap between tent camping and staying in a cabin. Except for one yurt at Kiptopeke State park, they do not have electricity, which makes them perfect for a cool, fall evening. So if you want to rough it, but not too much, check out a state park yurt.

Caledon State Park Hiking Traill
Caledon State Park Hiking Traill

Pick a park and hike all of the trails. All 41 Virginia State Parks have hiking trails, ranging from an easy stroll to steep climbs up a mountain. There are 626 miles of trails in the park system, with 160 miles strictly reserved for hiking and 397 miles of multi-use trails that include hiking. See how many miles of trails each park has, pick a park and see if you can hike them all.

Bonus suggestion: Participate in an interpretive program. Many parks have both self-guided and ranger-led programs for learning more about nature, history, animals, crafts, etc. Find out what programs and events are being offered at your favorite park, or one you have never visited.

colorful leaves at a virginia state park

Before heading out for your fall adventure you will want to know when the leaves start changing or when they are at their peak. Be sure to check out the Fall Foliage Report beginning the last week of September for updates on seasonal conditions. We know you will fall for Virginia State Parks – enjoy the pun and your visit!

Photos courtesy of Virginia State Parks

Places to Go, Things to See: