Fall foliage in DC is beautiful! Autumn is such an amazing time in Washington DC, only second to cherry blossom season in DC. The temperature becomes temperate with usually warm sunny days. That’s not to say we don’t get any rain the Washington DC area during fall, last year we had a super wet fall, causing much delay in fall color. But hopefully this year we will have a “normal fall.”
When Do the Leaves Change Color in the DC Area
Fall foliage in DC usually starts to happen around mid-October and runs until the leaves all fall off around early to mid-November. Of course, mother nature is never predictable and fall color can vary greatly depending on the weather. Like last year we had an unusually warm September followed by an unusual amount of rain, causing the the fall leaves in DC not to change color at all, then directly falling off brown!
For good fall foliage in DC we need nice dry sunny days to really bring out their color and we really didn’t have that at all last year!
My dress available here.
When Will Fall Foliage Peak in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia 2020
So how exactly do you know when fall color will hit the DC region? Cue this awesome interactive fall foliage prediction map from SmokyMountains, see here.
I used this map last year to plan my fall hike in Maryland and it was semi-accurate. The map gives you a general idea of when fall color will show and peak throughout the country, but because we had such wacky weather last year, it was off by about 1 week.
According to the map as of now, we should be expecting peak leaf-peeping to take place around October 26, 2020. Of course, as we get closer into fall expect the predictions to change.
Rock Creek Park for Fall Color in DC
Rock Creek Park is an amazing spot for fall color in DC. Autumn really puts on a show at this 1,754-acre city park that has two main trails and countless connecting trails for picture-perfect fall hiking. Rock Creek Park is open all year round during daylight hours.
Additionally, NPS has closed Beach Drive, the main road that goes through the park, to motorized vehicle traffic every day! So this makes a great place for a fall bike ride!
One of the most scenic autumn hikes in Rock Creek Park is the Boulder Bridge hike. This 3-mile loop hike takes you to a picturesque stone bridge surrounded by fall foliage!
If you are looking for a short cut to Boulder Bridge that’s a little over a mile round trip sign up below for access to my secret trail and parking!
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is such a hidden gem in Washington DC. This little island in the Potomac River hosts beautiful tall trees, bridges, fountains, and ponds.
The pedestrian bridge to get to the island even offers amazing views of the Memorial Bridge.
The Theodore Roosevelt Island Memorial is quiet and peaceful perfect for a Sunday stroll in the crisp fall weather. Bring a picnic and have lunch on one of the benches here!
Afterward, hike the Swamp Trail around the island and enjoy climbing on hidden logs and views of the Georgetown waterfront.
The fall color around the Swam Tail usually shows first before the Memorial area, so if you are looking for some yellow and oranges this is a great loop to take!
There is a parking lot on GW Parkway right at the bridge to cross over to the island. It’s not that big but the turnover is pretty fast. I got there at 9:45 am on a Saturday morning and the lot was full. But I was able to park after about 5 minutes because cars were leaving.
The Tidal Basin for Autumn Leaves in DC
The Tidal Basin in DC is famous for cherry blossoms, but fall is a great time to visit here as well.
The canopy of cherry blossom trees turns beautiful orange and gold! Plus there’s definitely not as many crowds during October and November like those seen during March!
Georgetown for Fall Foliage in DC
Georgetown is the perfect place to enjoy fall foliage in Washington DC! With cute cobblestone streets and history houses taking a stroll here is a perfect way to spend a fall afternoon.
Don’t forget to visit the C&O Canal while in Georgetown because it is so pretty with color in the fall.
Seneca Creek Park in Maryland for Autumn Leaves
To enjoy autumn leaves with minimal effort in Maryland head over to Seneca Creek State Park! This stunning Maryland encompasses 6,300 acres and extends along 14 scenic miles of Seneca Creek. Hiking trails, picnic areas, and a playground surround the 90-acre Clopper Lake.
There’s nothing prettier than fall leaves next to a beautiful lake, and Seneca Creek Park really does have it all in the fall.
You can hike the trail around the lake for fall views or simply drive over to King Fisher’s viewpoint to get a breathtaking look at almost the entire lake. The boathouse is another lovely spot for leaf-peeping at this Maryland state park.
- Location: 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20878
- Hours: 8 a.m. to Sunset, March-October; 10 a.m. to Sunset, November-February
- Over 50 miles of trails are open for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling which wind through a variety of habitat
- Entrance Fee $3 per person on Weekends, Free on Weekdays
Great Falls in Maryland for Fall Color
Great Falls is an excellent location for beautiful fall color! This National Park actually encompasses two sides that don’t connect, Maryland and Virginia! I’ve only visited the Maryland side of Great Falls, which is part of the C&O Canal Historic Park.
There’s two viewing platforms for the falls on the Maryland side which allows visitors to see the rushing waters of the gorge against a backdrop of fiery leaves without much effort. The canal itself is a lovely sight as well and has a broad flat path perfect for those with kids and strollers.
My favorite hike in Great Falls in Maryland has to be the Billy Goat Trail. This hike is a bit challenging with some steep inclines you will have to climb up, but the autumn foliage views it offers are incredible.
There should be a per vehicle entrance fee to Great Falls in Maryland, but I’ve never paid it. Not because I don’t want to, I’d love to help keep our parks clean and maintained, but I’ve only come during the afternoon around 3 p.m. It seems there’s never anyone at the entrance at that time to collect my money!
- Location: 11710 MacArthur Blvd. Potomac, MD 20854
- Entrance Fee: $15 per vehicle, though if you walk in it’s free
- Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
Lake Needwood Maryland Fall Foliage
I’ve been coming to Lake Needwood since I was a little kid. We spent many summers here fishing and row boating has kids. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the Needwood Lake’s beauty during the fall season in Maryland.
Lake Needwood is part of the Rock Creek Regional Park system with picnic areas, parking, and 6.4 miles of hiking trails.
The trail going around the lake is perfect for enjoying fall leaves and weather! My favorite viewpoint for autumn color at Lake Needwood though is the stone veranda next to the boathouse. Getting to this viewpoint requires no hiking since it close to the parking lot.
One note about the water at Lake Needwood. Montgomery County Parks has detected elevated levels of microcystin, a toxic substance produced by some species of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). Microcystin, a hepatotoxin, can cause harm to the liver of humans and pets if ingested. So please don’t touch the water.
- No entrance fee
- Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
- Do not touch the water here
Before the leaves turn in mid-September Lake Needwood is home the prettiest yellow wildflower field!
I’ve always wanted to go to California to see the wild poppy fields but since we don’t have that in Maryland this will have to do!
And these yellow flowers smell amazing!!
There’s also a similar field of yellow flowers at the National Arboretum in the fields near the National Capitol Columns.
These yellow flowers in at Lake Needwood in Rockville, MD are Bearded Beggarticks also know as Tickseed Sunflower and Bur Marigold. I’ve seen them misidentified as Swamp Marigolds which are different yellow flowers.
I also came across a beautiful field of wheat looking tall grass while hiking around Lake Needwood!
I had been looking for a field like this forever and it was great to discover it at a lake I’ve been going to since I was a child.
My packable jacket available here.
RedGate Park in Maryland
RedGate Park used to be RedGate Golf Course. I actually used to play golf here quite often and it was always a challenge for me because of all the hills!
Well back in 2018 because the city didn’t want to pay for the 3.1 million dollars in repairs, they turned it into a park.
And I’m glad they did! This park is huge at 131 acres with plenty of parking. What’s great about this park is that it has fully paved pathways because it was a golf course! The path was for golf carts!
The rolling hills I found so difficult to chuck my golf ball through make a beautiful backdrop for fall foliage. You won’t have any problem social distancing here because I barely saw anyone on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
And at the beginning of September, the prettiest fields of queen anne’s lace blooms here. I had been looking for a field of queen anne’s lace and I can’t believe I found it so close to home.
Location: 14500 Avery Rd, Rockville, MD 20853
Fall Foliage Washington DC
Fall color is all over the Washington DC area and it’s kind of hard to miss.
So if you are feeling lazy but still want to enjoy autumn leaves, just step outside of your front door!
Fall color is literally everywhere in this region and hard to miss. The photos below are from areas in Rockville that I pass every day. So cheers to getting out this fall and enjoying the season with PSL in hand.
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