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 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 2021
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 Washington DC, 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 18th to October 25th for 2021. Of course, as we get closer into fall expect the predictions to change.
We’ve been experiencing some unseasonably warm weather in DC recently so I’m guessing peak fall foliage will probably hit a week late around October 31, 2021.
Best Places to Experience Fall Color in Washington DC
Autumn color is easily experienced all around Washington DC. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite places for leaf-peeping and fall photography in Washington DC!
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!
U.S. National Arboretum
Not only is the National Arboretum a great place to see cherry blossoms in DC, but it’s amazing during the fall! You can actually find beautiful purple flowers (asters) here in November. Yes, flowers do bloom in fall!
The National Arboretum is 446 acres with 9.5 miles of winding roadways. Perfect for those fall in the middle of the road photos! Because it’s so big, the National Arboretum never feels crowded. My favorite places to wander around and photograph are the National Capitol Columns.
Location: 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
Hours: Open daily from 8am to 5pm (The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum and Administration Building remain closed)
Swann Street Northwest
Swann Street has to be the most Instagrammed street in Washington DC! Fall is definitely the time to come to this street in Washington DC. HUGE ginkgo trees line both sides of the street and turn pretty bright gold in the fall.
Swann Street is actually kind of confusing! It’s really 2 streets that don’t connect. There’s one section between 14th and 17th NW, which is the main Swann Street.
But there is another section between New Hampshire and 19th St NW, which is also Swann Street.
The first time we went to Swann I went to the wrong one between New Hampshire and 19th. But the second time around I made it to the correct Swann Street.
I would check out both Swanns because they both have beautiful ginkgo trees! It was also surprisingly easy to get some photos here.
There’s not much traffic on these streets. We went on Saturday morning around 9 or 10 am and barely saw anyone here, and this was during the MAGA protest.
Ginkgo trees usually turn yellow in Washington DC around mid-November.
They have a habit of turning yellow then losing all their leaves immediately! I must have been lucky last year because the gold leaves have lasted for quite a while.
It’s probably because of the unusually warm November we have had!
Georgetown for Fall Foliage in DC
Georgetown is the perfect place to enjoy fall foliage in Washington DC! With cute cobblestone streets and historical 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.
My favorite time to visit Georgetown in Washington DC during fall is in November when the ginkgo trees turn a bright golden yellow!
A few years ago there was a huge controversy as to whether or not the ginkgo trees in Georgetown should be cut down because of the smell. The female trees produce fruit, the ginkgo nut in the fall, and it smells!
I found the smell tolerable though, to me, it smells like freshly mulched gardens! I’m glad the city decided not to cut down the trees though because they are so pretty!
The ginkgo trees in Georgetown are on 27th street NW between Dumbarton Street NW and Olive Street NW. Pretty ginkgo trees also line Olive Street NW.
Update 11/27/2020: If you are still looking for a beautiful awning of ginkgo trees then head to the corner of 27th and Olive St NW! There’s a little park that has the perfect row of ginkgo trees. I stalked this area for 3 weeks but it remained stubbornly green but finally turned gold this past weekend!
I think it has to be the last patch of ginkgo trees to turn yellow!
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!
Though Boulder Bridge gets all the glory, this bridge below is beautiful too! For the exact location sign up to access my map below.
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! My map also shows the location of the other bridge I featured on my TikTok and Instagram above.
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
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.
West Virginia Day Trip From DC for Fall Foliage
If you are up for a day trip from Washington DC for early fall foliage then West Virginia is your best bet! At about a 3 hour drive from DC, West Virginia generally starts showing fall color at the highest elevations around early October.
We visited Blackwater Fall State Park around October 10th and the first round of fall leaves had fallen off already, but there were many trees still waiting to turn!
So there’s still plenty of time to go and visit if you want some amazing views without hiking!
The viewpoints we went to at Blackwater Falls State Park, WV:
- Pendleton Point
- Lindy Point
- Blackwater Falls Boardwalk
- Blackwater Falls View Point
- Elakala Trail
Most of these places offer incredible mountain views with virtually NO HIKING!
The longest walk took about 10 minutes!
My favorite views were from Pendleton Point and Lindy Point.
There’s absolutely no hiking needed at Pendleton Point, you simply hop out of your car and you are there.
Lindy Point was spectacular!
Parking is difficult at Lindy Point in Blackwater Falls because it’s such a small area.
The park rangers only let a few people into the parking area next to the trailhead at a time. But you can choose to park before the trailhead and there will be plenty of parking. You will just walk a bit more.
From the trailhead though it was only about 10 minutes walking to the viewing platform.
The viewing platform at Lindy Point is a small space and can get crowded rather quickly, but it is breathtaking!
Elakala Trail leads to a stunning waterfall! It’s not huge but so pretty! The hike is not hard but can be a bit steep and slipper. I fell TWICE here!
(My dress is not from Selkie, see my Selkie Dupe Review.)
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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