Here's How to Enjoy "Unbe-LEAF-able" Fall Colors this Year
The pandemic has halted many things, but it can’t cancel the fall colors! Now that the weather has cooled, it’s finally comfortable to get outside to admire them. And just in time: not only are we hearing that this season might bring the brightest leaves in years, but SmokyMountains.com’s Fall Foliage Predictor Map and the VA Department of Forestry point to the next two weeks as the height of the leaf show in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s also a time of year when the light is beautiful for family photographs. So what are you waiting for? Grab your favorite pumpkin-flavored snack and read on for tips on how to best enjoy the fall colors around Waynesboro.
Drives to See Fall Color
The southern entrance to the Skyline Drive is a mere three miles from Waynesboro. This scenic byway meanders north for 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park. You’ll be hard pressed to pick a favorite view from the 75+ overlooks, but the Turk Mountain Overlook (M.P. 93.5) is nice for leaf peeping. The road's slower speed limit encourages keeping the windows down and looking for the over 300 species of native animals. You might also head south along the Blue Ridge Parkway into the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. This road also features frequent overlooks with show stopping views. A good starting point is Raven’s Roost overlook at M.P. 10.7. On clear days, you can see far across the valley to the Allegheny Mountains. Watch for migrating raptors. If you’re lucky, you'll see hang gliders launching and sailing off into the distance. For a leg stretcher, follow the short trail to a rock ledge that is often home to ravens.
If you’d rather explore the area from the Valley floor, set out from Waynesboro on Rt. 608 in either direction. Expect distant views of the mountains as you wind through farmland and small communities like Stuarts Draft and Grottoes.
Hikes for Admiring Leaves
If you’re in downtown Waynesboro for an easy walk, try strolling along the paved South River Greenway. There's ample parking at both ends of the mile-plus tree-lined stretch of the South River. Hop off the trail at Constitution Park and walk over to The French Press for a warm mug of something tasty like a bourbon caramel latte or cocoa. Next, drive to Ridgeview Park to explore the open spaces and the paths lacing the woods where colorful leaves will drift down to your feet. Another of Waynesboro’s public spaces that is good for checking out the leaves is Coyner Springs Park. Here, you’ll be able to wander the trails and capture photos of open spaces bordered by trees. As a bonus, you can take your dog and let him run.
If you’d rather hike hard for your leaves, park at the lot for Riprap Trail (M.P. 90 in the Skyline Drive). This hike is a strenuous 9.8 mile-loop, but you can always do a portion as an out-and-back to make it shorter. You’ll encounter views into the Shenandoah Valley, interesting rock formations, waterfalls, and colorful leaves.
Fall Backdrops for Family Photos
Dress the kids in their cutest clothes and get them outside for some seasonal photographs. The Homestead Manor Market, which always offers locally grown produce, has geared up for fall with pumpkins, mums, and other autumn décor. The festive displays make nice backdrops for family photos. Save room on your memory card for photos of the family loading a wheelbarrow with pick-your-own pumpkins and gourds at Troyer’s Farm. Troyer’s Farm also has a 10-acre corn maze and goats to pet. Another nearby place to catch shots of the family solving a corn maze and enjoying other outdoor activities is Skeeter’s Maze Adventure. The kids will discover large, colorful Dr. Seuss-themed cutouts hidden in the maze, perfect for posing with your family. Lastly, if you want some photos of your pets in costume, plan to march the South River Greenway for the Pet Halloween Walk on Thursday, October 29th at 5 p.m.