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Fall 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!
When Will Fall Foliage Peak in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia 2019
So how exactly do you know when fall color will hit the DC region? Cue this awesome interactive fall foliage prediction map from SmokyMountains.com: https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/.
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, 2019. 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.
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! Rock Creek Park is open all year round during day light hours. More information on the Boulder Bridge hike here: https://www.nps.gov/places/boulder-bridge-hike.htm.
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
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
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!
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
Annapolis Rock Fall Color Hiking
Annapolis Rock is a stunning autumn hike in Maryland not far from Washington DC. This hike is exceptionally busy because of the sweeping views it offers of fall colors. The hike is about 5 miles out and back. For more details on this fall hike in Maryland click here.
My packable jacket available here.
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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