Leaf Peeping around the Chesapeake Region

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Public lands across the Bay region offer the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in fall foliage.

Benjamin Hoffman

Check out some of our favorite spots around the watershed to enjoy fall foliage.

Fall is here! The temperature has dropped, and we’re making our annual trips to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch (albeit, a little more distanced), and of course, the leaves are turning!

Throughout the Bay watershed, red, orange, and yellow leaves are starting to make their yearly appearance, making it a great time to go for a hike or explore the fall beauty of our region. Check out our list of great hikes, biking trails, and more to enjoy during this peak leaf-peeping season (Note: SmokeyMountains.com has a great Fall Foliage Prediction Map).

Pennsylvania

Pine Creek Gorge

Called the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” Pine Creek Gorge is a must-see for hikers and leaf-peepers alike. It stretches over 45 miles with depths of nearly 1,500 feet along Pine Creek, a tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The dynamic typography in northcentral Pennsylvania creates many scenic wonders, including steep canyon walls and waterfalls. Colton Point on the west rim and Leonard Harrison on the east rim of the canyon are the must-see vistas to visit. There’s plenty to hike, bike, and see, and picnic table and camping sites are available.

Hawk Mountain

Looking for changing leaves and some fun wildlife? Look no further than Hawk Mountain. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a wild bird sanctuary located along the Appalachian flyway in eastern Pennsylvania, and right now is a great opportunity to see a diverse set of raptors and other avian migrants soar past mountain lookouts with the colorful fall foliage in the backdrop. According to the Sanctuary’s website, autumn hawk flights are best on days with northwest winds following a cold front.

Maryland

Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park extends along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, encompassing 16,043 acres and eight developed recreational areas. Along with leaf peeping, there are lots of opportunities to hike, fish, camp, canoe, ride horseback, and mountain bike. You can also check out the site of the former Bloede Dam, which was removed in 2019 to help restore the river to its natural state.

Terrapin Nature Park

Terrapin Nature Park is the perfect spot for bird and leaf lovers alike. This 276-acre Queen Anne’s County Park is located on Kent Island and is the top eBird hotspot in Queen Anne’s County in terms of number of species reported. The park has a diversity of habitats that make it the perfect stop for a variety of birds during their fall migration. Terrapin Nature Park even offers a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk so those with differing abilities can enjoy the birds and fall foliage.

Washington, D.C.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath

This 184.5-mile trail is the fall foliage- and bike-lovers dream. The trail starts in Washington, D.C. and winds its way along the "Grand Old Ditch” to Cumberland, Maryland. There are a variety of spots to park and join the trail in both Maryland and D.C. For those seeking a more adventurous route, you can catch the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, Maryland and make your way all the way up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

Virginia

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

This popular destination is easily a fan favorite for many across the Chesapeake Bay region for its accessibility for drivers and hikers alike during fall. But don’t get caught up in the lines to the top of Old Rag, try out some of the other less traveled trails, like Bear Church Rock or even pop over to George Washington National Forest after your drive up Skyline Drive! If you’re planning to drive, make sure you plan your trip to enter at Swift Run or Rockfish entrance stations to avoid the longer lines at Front Royal and Thornton Gap entrance stations. And remember, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife crossings!

Prince William Forest Park

In one of Northern Virginia’s best kept secrets, fall foliage is nothing short of breathtaking! This forest located less than an hour from D.C. and an hour and a half from Richmond features a long scenic loop drive and lots of cool trails along babbling streams. The park also features plenty of opportunities to picnic, camp, cycle, and more.

James River Park System

Hit the trails here around Halloween, and you’ll see some of the best fall colors in Central Virginia! This park system features rocks, rapids, meadows, and forests—a little bit of wilderness in the heart of Virginia’s capital city. With rock climbing, cycling and hiking trails, paddling, bird watching opportunities, and more, this is the perfect spot to relax, unwind, and check out some foliage. Our Virginia Media Coordinator Kenny Fletcher highly recommends the Buttermilk Trail or Pony Pasture area for those looking for changing leaves.

Rebecca Long_90x110

Rebecca Long

Digital Engagement and Social Media Manager, CBF

rlong@cbf.org

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