Mother Nature’s transition from summer to fall presents us with one of the grandest and most colorful displays in the natural world. From late September to November, your family can enjoy miles of breathtaking colors – deep reds, burnt oranges and crisp yellows – that transform the district and its surrounding landscape into a vibrant watercolor come to life. The season’s peak foliage can shift year to year (it all depends on how dry the summer has been and how much rain we get at summer’s end), but experts predict D.C. should see its peak of fall colors around mid-October. Read on for our top five picks for finding fantastic fall foliage near D.C. this season, all of which are free for your family to enjoy.
Rock Creek Park – D.C.
Did you know that Rock Creek Park was a favorite hiking spot for President Theodore Roosevelt? It’s also one of our top recommendations for a fantastic fall foliage excursion. With over 1,800 acres and 32 miles of trails to explore, your family can hike, bike, jog and picnic their way from D.C. to Maryland. If you’re unsure where to start, visit the nature center for information on the trails and helpful tips while you explore.
nps.gov/rocr/index | 5200 Glover Road, NW Washington, D.C. 20015
U.S. National Arboretum – D.C.
Kind of a best-kept secret for the district, the U.S. National Arboretum (a botanical garden especially for trees) is a national treasure for all nature lovers. In the fall, the brightly-colored leaves provide a stunning contrast to the epic National Capitol Columns (Corinthian columns once used for the U.S. Capitol’s East Portico) featured in the park. There is free parking on-site and visitors can walk, bike or even drive through this extraordinary “living museum” and see all of the fantastic fall foliage it has to offer.
usna.usda.gov | 3501 New York Avenue, NE Washington, D.C. 20002
Theodore Roosevelt Island – D.C.
The 26th president returns! Theodore Roosevelt Island, reachable by car or a footbridge off the G.W. Parkway, was originally Mason’s Island – overgrown and neglected farmland – until landscape architects in the 1930s transformed it into a stunning tribute to the renowned conservationist. With 90 acres to stroll along, including exceptional Potomac River views, your family will be delighted by fantastic fall foliage everywhere you look.
nps.gov/this/index | Theodore Roosevelt Island Park Washington, D.C. 20001
Seneca Creek State Park – Maryland
While only weekday visits are free to Seneca Creek State Park, we had to include it on our fantastic fall foliage list for its extraordinarily pristine natural landscape. Visitors taking in the changing fall colors are encouraged to walk, hike, bike and picnic across its 6,300 acres of park – there’s even a 90-acre lake here. Bonus points are awarded for the coolest recycled tire playground around!
dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/pages/central/seneca | 11950 Clopper Road Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Historical Park – D.C.
The historic C&O Canal follows the Potomac River from Georgetown 184 miles to Cumberland, Maryland. Now, no one is saying you need to traverse all of it for a fantastic fall foliage adventure, but you certainly would experience the best colors fall has to offer! The trailhead is especially accessible within Georgetown and visitors can walk, bike, fish, boat or even horseback ride their way through picturesque autumn views.
nps.gov/choh/index | 29th Street, NW (south of M Street) Washington, D.C. 20007