Fall or Autumn has always been my favorite season. In school, we had a poem called Autumn by the Indian poet Kalidasa. Later, at higher latitudes in North America, my fascination with this transitional season continued.
Various areas in the United States are famous for their fall foliage or fall colors as they are called. Like the Cherry Blossom Festival, it is almost an annual pilgrimage. Fall isn’t ‘Fall’ without going to watch the leaves at least once. The North East or New England, upstate New York, Vermont etc. provide a riot of colors for leaf watchers every year.
Actually, pretty much every city or place in the US shows its share of fall colors. The New England countryside or higher latitudes/ elevations peak at an earlier time. In the South, we pride ourselves on our leisurely pace of life. Can autumn dare to arrive early here?
In Virginia, the Fall Colors start showing in early October and sometimes are seen even until November dawns. Weather, frost etc. play a big part in when the leaves peak, what colors are seen and so on.
My favorite place for watching the leaves turn is Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The park boasts of Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is adjoining it.
You can enter the park either from Charlottesville, VA in the South, or Front Royal which is closer to the DC metro area and more north.
There are scenic outlooks almost every 2-3 miles. The Shenandoah Park also has several trails but I have not ventured onto those. Just stopping at the different outlooks, letting your heart still as you gaze into a deep valley, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and filling your eyes with this splendor of nature seems enough.
In the Fall, the sun plays hide and seek and the shadows create so many different hues. Carpets of red, orange, yellow, brown, green are ablaze across the mountains and their intricate patterns rush to embrace the blue skies.
Every point presents a different vista. If you enter from the North, you enter a slightly different point. Big Meadows is pretty well developed, but alas, it is also more crowded.
Exit 100 on I-64 remains my favorite place to enter Skyline drive. The best part here is that you can either go in one direction toward Skyline Drive, or go south to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This portion of the park is also quieter. As you turn to go back with the setting sun, be very careful. You will come across plenty of deer on the road and yes, your headlights will scare them!
There is a small entry fee per car to enter the park. There is also an annual multiple entry pass which allows you unlimited entry to any National Park in the US. It makes sense to get this pass in a year and plan to cover a few parks.
The Charlottesville, Virginia area is a great place to have a meal with its quaint and charming downtown.
The park helpline provides updates and you can check this link – for more details.
And oh yes, there is apple picking and fresh cider, maybe a hay maze to be found on the way, especially from the northern entrances.
It has been a long time since I feasted my eyes on Fall foliage. Every year, I think about writing this post. As time fades, so do memories. So I am finally penning down a little bit of Skyline Drive for posterity. The person you see in the photo is of course a much younger model.
I hope you enjoy all these vibrant fall colors, and if you are in the area, do plan a visit to Shenandoah National Park this October.