When it comes to breathtaking fall foliage, few states can measure up to the sheer, stunning splendor that West Virginia has to offer. With its numerous state forests and parks, wilderness areas, and scenic highways, the Mountain State has an incredible amount of beauty on tap from early September all the way to the beginning of November.
Read on for our roundup of the best places to see West Virginia fall foliage, as well as some things to consider before you strike off to take in the autumn beauty for yourself.
Things to Consider When Seeing West Virginia Fall Foliage
When to Plan Your Trip
Different regions of the continental United States see their fall foliage peak at different times. So it’s important to know the optimal time to see the beautiful West Virginia fall foliage in this more easterly location.
Even within the state, prime spots and peak times will also vary. For example, many of West Virginia’s highland forests see their peak foliage beginning in September; meanwhile, the state parks that lie along the New River Gorge actually don’t peak until the middle of October.
The good news with this variety of peak times is that you have some wiggle room to plan your trip to see the West Virginia fall foliage! Generally speaking, you can aim to see some truly spectacular colors in the span of early-to-mid September to mid-to-late October.
There are several spots to plan for some camping when you travel to see the West Virginia fall foliage. Because many of the locations for the best fall foliage viewing are located in state parks and wilderness areas, chances are you can find a campsite or two there–whether developed or primitive.
Campground availability will often depend on when you visit and whether any given location has year-round camping options, however. Some campgrounds close for the season in early September–just before you might be planning your trek to view the fall foliage.
A few spots where you can go camping while basking in the glory of the West Virginia fall foliage include Cooper’s Rock State Forest, Blackwater Falls State Park (weather permitting), and Pipestem Resort.
Before you visit any area to view the autumn hues, be sure to check the local campgrounds and see what the availability is.
It’s always important to be aware of local driving conditions before you strike off on your trip to see the West Virginia fall foliage! Luckily, roads tend to remain clear, and the weather is chilly to mild in this state during the autumn months. Chances are, you will not run into any especially hazardous road conditions.
However, as West Virginia is part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, cold temperatures, rainstorms, and even an early snowfall can and do happen some years. It’s always important to check the weather and review driving conditions before you set off on your fall foliage viewing excursion.
Whether you are camping, going for a scenic drive, or just taking in the views of some gorgeous West Virginia fall foliage during a day trip, there are some must-have items you will want to consider!
If you plan to enjoy the lovely views from the warmth and comfort of your car, be sure to check your vehicle and make sure it’s in good repair before you hit the road. Since West Virginia does not tend to have particularly heavy, early snows due to its altitudes, you should only need the basics: a full tank of gas and a vehicle in sturdy driving condition. No snow chains required!
For camping, you want to be sure you have items that are fit for both warmer days and particularly chilly nights. Referring to a comprehensive camping checklist will help you make sure you have everything you need for a safe and comfortable camping trip, with no crucial items left behind.
For a day trip, be sure to bring clothes suitable for the day’s weather–whether that may be a rainy day, a sunny day, or any sort of weather in between. You should also consider bringing along a camera or making sure you have plenty of room on your phone to capture some pictures of the incredible West Virginia fall foliage!
Best Places to See Northern West Virginia Fall Foliage
Cooper’s Rock State Forest
Among the most popular places to see West Virginia fall foliage in the northern portion of the state is Cooper’s Rock State Forest. This beloved state forest is home to Cooper’s Rock Overlook, which offers breathtaking views of the valleys between the mountains and the water carving its path at the base of the peaks.
From here, you can see all of the majesty of the West Virginia fall foliage…so you may want to take a couple of days to admire the scenery! Whether you’re camping or just taking a day trip to soak in the scenery, you’re sure to love Cooper’s Rock State Forest.
Blackwater Falls State Park
In terms of the best that West Virginia state parks have to offer, Blackwater Falls State Park truly has it all. Its waterfalls, woodlands, and canyons are incredible in every season, but something truly pops and becomes magical in this state park during the autumn season.
Stunning, picturesque views of the West Virginia fall foliage await at Blackwater Falls. You can hike the trails to the various waterfalls for an even more incredible setting against which to witness the changing leaves.
Seneca Rocks State Park is best known as a favorite getaway for rock climbers, with its unique crags that are only accessible by climbing. But you haven’t fully experienced the splendor of this state park until you’ve seen the fiery colors of the West Virginia fall foliage splashed against the unchanging gray backdrop of those climbing rocks!
The contrast of the autumn hues against the stone is one of the things that truly makes Seneca Rocks State Park a standout. Even if you aren’t much for rock climbing, a driveby view of the fall foliage here is an outing you won’t regret.
Dolly Sods Wilderness Area
West Virginia fall foliage and the beauty it offers can extend beyond the changing treetops. If you visit Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, you will experience this firsthand! In addition to its native deciduous trees changing hues at the onset of fall, this wilderness area is also full of bushes that shift colors in autumn.
When you visit Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, you will witness a whole blanket of changing landscape. The trees and bushes, in their fall glory, set the landscape ablaze in hues of red and orange, contrasting sharply against the lingering greens.
These dramatic color patterns are what makes Dolly Sods such a popular location for autumn photography in West Virginia.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Though Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is best known for its rich history and how it makes that historical feeling accessible to folks of all ages, there is still more to be enjoyed at this National Historic Park. One of those enjoyable features is its breathtaking West Virginia fall foliage!
Splashed against the backdrop of stunning bridges, steepled churches, and historic architecture, the autumn foliage at Harpers Ferry is truly like nowhere else. You will feel like you’re living in a small town romance or a movie setting as you stroll the streets or drive the bridges and witness the beauty of nature all around you.
Best Places to See Central West Virginia Fall Foliage
Highland Scenic Highway
Do you have your heart set on seeing the West Virginia fall foliage but don’t have much interest in leaving your vehicle to brave the crisp air or walk around a state park? Then, you will want to gas up your tank and hit the Highland Scenic Highway to experience the West Virginia fall foliage that embraces it!
This beautiful West Virginia highway corridor winds through the Monongahela National Forest for nearly 50 miles. All along the way, you will experience stunning views of not only the West Virginia fall foliage but also the mountains and valleys and even some of the local wildlife.
The Town of Snowshoe
A gorgeous central West Virginia ski town best known for its winter paradise, the town of Snowshoe offers some beautiful views of the West Virginia fall foliage as well! Snowshoe is a great spot to visit if you want to take multiple days to absorb the beauty of the autumn colors in the Mountain State but don’t feel like camping.
Perfect for tourists and visitors from all over, Snowshoe offers a quaint and perfect blend of both urban and outdoor enjoyment. You can shop amidst the changing leaves, cozy up at your accommodations in the town, or take a drive or walk to view the changing foliage nearby.
Seneca State Forest
Not to be confused with Seneca Rocks, Seneca State Forest offers a whole different experience when it comes to viewing West Virginia fall foliage. As the oldest and biggest state forest in West Virginia, you can bet Seneca State Forest has some stunning old-growth trees that really come alive at this time of year.
You can hike the popular trails here to see the fall foliage up close. Grab a campsite or stay in a rustic cabin right in the state forest to extend your enjoyment of autumn in the beating heart of the Mountain State.
Best Places to See Southern West Virginia Fall Foliage
Plum Orchard Lake Wildlife Management Area
If it’s peace you want when viewing the breathtaking West Virginia fall foliage, there’s no need to look further than the Plum Orchard Lake Wildlife Management Area. This popular fishing spot is also spectacular for fall foliage viewing.
There are plenty of places to enjoy the splash of autumn colors reflected on the lake itself or arrayed across the many trees that fill the nearly 3,000 acres of this wildlife management area. Walking the paths, you can see these vivid, changing hues up close.
If you really embrace quiet and pick the right time to visit Plum Orchard Lake, you may also see some of the animals that call this spot home.
Pipestem Resort State Park
With its vistas overlooking the Bluestone Gorge and its lovely lodging accommodations, Pipestem Resort State Park is a great place to view West Virginia fall foliage multiple days in a row.
Between the stunning sights of the great outdoors and the various amenities this state park offers, you may find you never want to head home.
New River Gorge
Looking to view the West Virginia fall foliage closer to the end of the season? Then you should set your sights on a visit to New River Gorge! Typically, this area sees its peak foliage times a bit later than its contemporary parks and other viewing areas.
This is great news for folks who don’t anticipate getting out to see the West Virginia fall foliage until October. This corridor of the state still offers gorgeous autumn views into the middle of October, so you won’t have to miss out on the Mountain State’s beauty if you make the trek to New River Gorge a bit later into the season.
Wrapping up the Ultimate Guide to West Virginia Fall Foliage
Excited to view the splendor of some unforgettable West Virginia fall foliage? Trail hiking is another fantastic way to enjoy all the beauty that West Virginia has to offer in the fall! Check out our roundup of the 17 best trails for hiking in West Virginia and start planning your hiking adventure today.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of all things nature, gardening and the big outdoors.
A Midwest girl who’s been in the garden since she could first hold a hand trowel, Renee’s love of growing things has bloomed into a passion for healthy living, holistic lifestyle, and knowing where our food comes from.
Now a mother and maturing gardener herself, Renee is passionate about channeling everything she knows and continues to learn about gardening into lessons for her son and others. Her excitement for sharing this knowledge is only superseded by her excitement about being able to finally grow her own citrus plants in pots.
Renee can be reached at email@example.com