Fall is a great time to get outside for an adventure in Virginia. The temps have cooled and the leaves are ready to put on a show. Get ready to get up, get out, and savor all that’s great about fall in Virginia, whether on a bike, in a kayak, or on a sightseeing steam train. Let’s go.
1. Bike the New River Trail or Virginia Creeper Trail
It’s hard to beat a relaxing bike ride while reveling in the fiery orange and golden yellow foliage all along the trail. One to check out is the 57-mile New River Trail, a scenic crushed limestone trail that is the centerpiece of New River Trail State Park, which starts in Pulaski and ends at dual endpoints in Galax and Fries. It’s also the longest rail trail in Virginia.
Along the way, you’ll cross 32 trestle bridges and go through two historic railroad tunnels, which were once part of the Norfolk & Western Railway. This railway saw steam engines chugging along its tracks up until 1985. Bring your own bike or rent one from The Junction in Draper or New River Trail Outfitters in Galax. Another must-bike trail is the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile rail trail that runs from Whitetop Station to Abingdon.
2. Paddle The Great Dismal Swamp
Visit the 113,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Chesapeake and Suffolk for a scenic paddle at Lake Drummond, the largest natural lake in Virginia. It’s a great way to see the curious bald cypress trees that seem to sprout out of this serene 3,142-acre lake.
Bring your own boat or rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Adventure Kayak & SUP Tours, which drops off kayaks and paddleboards at Dismal Swamp Canal. Alternatively, you can book a full-day guided paddle, which is considered among the top paddling experiences in Virginia.
3. Camp on the Beach at False Cape State Park
Camping is a fantastic fall adventure, but it’s even more sensational when you can camp out right on the sandy shores, like at False Camp State Park in Virginia Beach. Enjoy gentle breezes and ocean waves, as well as relatively few bugs.
For this adventure, you’ll need to park at Little Island City Park, then pedal or backpack 1.5 miles to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. From here, it’s four miles to the False Cape Visitor Center by way of the West Dike Trail, a flat gravel trail. Snap a photo with the colorful buoy that reads “Southernmost Virginia State Park,” then continue to the campgrounds.
There are four campgrounds, including Barbour Hill Ocean and False Cape Landing Ocean, both of which are on the ocean side of the park (the other two are on the bay side). There are marked tree-covered sites to drop your gear by day, but in the evening, you can set up your tent on the beach to allow the waves to lull you to sleep.
4. Go Horseback Riding at Fort Valley Ranch
Guided horseback rides set off daily across the Shenandoah Valley at Fort Valley Ranch, allowing nature-loving guests to take in the views of slow-moving creeks, cascading waterfalls, and colorful fall foliage. Keep your eyes open for native wildlife, like white-tailed deer, raccoons, and wild turkeys. Guided horseback rides range from one hour to a full day of clip-clopping across the George Washington National Forest.
Kids as young as six years old can join the one-hour horseback ride, enabling the whole family to revel in forest views. There is also a campground on-site with cabins, RV sites, and tent sites, so it’s a cinch to make it a weekend in the woods.
5. Fly on a Zipline at Breaks Interstate Park
It’s hard to beat fall foliage of gold, crimson, and amber when flying through the trees with the greatest of ease on a thrilling zipline. At Breaks Interstate Park in Haysi, you can do just that with Canyon Rim Zip Line. What an exciting way to experience fall leaves.
Get ready to fly through Breaks Gorge, the 1,000-foot-deep gorge that was cut through Pine Mountain by the rushing Russell Fork River. Better known as the “Grand Canyon of the South,” it’s a thrill to soar across the scenic gorge on this two-hour zipline adventure, which is offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through late October.
6. Ride ATVs in St. Paul
Plan a visit to one of the ATV-friendly towns in Virginia’s Heart of Appalachia region, like St. Paul and Coeburn, which bookend the Mountain View Trail. This popular off-road trail is tops for ATVs and UTVs. It’s also part of the Spearheads Trails, a trail system that boasts more than 600 miles of mountainous and forested trails.
Choose from family-friendly green trails or go for the challenge on rugged black trails. Get ready for scenic vistas, curious wildlife, and lush forests across the rough and remote terrain. Whether you power through deep mud holes or edge around them, get down and dirty on your four-wheeling adventure. Buckle up, friends!
7. Enjoy Cabin Time in Luray
When you just want to relax, maybe with a cup of coffee on a wooden porch, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Luray, which is known as the “Cabin Capital of Virginia.” Situated in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, you’re surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area’s natural beauty, including rolling hills, verdant forests, and cascading rivers make it an ideal location to rent a rustic cabin for the weekend.
Luray is also a stone’s throw from the Thornton Gap entrance at Shenandoah National Park, allowing easy access to popular hikes, like Buck Hollow and Hazel Falls. More than 400 cabins dot Luray and Page County, offering a comfortable home away from home, and a delightfully secluded and peaceful getaway to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
8. Ride the Virginia Scenic Railway
Scenic train rides are a crowd-pleaser—or so says Pinterest, which predicted train travel was poised to be a seriously legit travel trend. In Staunton, it’s safe to say that the Virginia Scenic Railway was all in on this trend when they choo-chooed into the historic train depot in August 2022 to offer the first sightseeing train rides across surrounding farmland and forests.
Twice a day, four days a week (Thursday through Sunday), three-hour vista-laden rides set off from Staunton – west on the Allegheny Special to Goshen and east on the Blue Ridge Flyer to the hamlet of Ivy. This fall, the Shenandoah Valley Limited launches, allowing guests to board a steam locomotive in Goshen that was brought back into service for dedicated fall foliage train excursions that will run twice daily on weekends from early October to early November.
9. Get Lost in a Corn Maze
Seeking out a corn maze – and getting lost, of course – is kind of a must-do in the fall. There are lots of seriously amazing corn mazes in Virginia, including the corn maze at Liberty Mills Farm in Somerset. Spread across a whopping 34 acres, it’s considered the largest corn maze in the state, and features four different trails of varying difficulty for all ages and skill levels.
Yoder’s Farm in Rustburg is home to another wildly popular corn maze, which levels up the challenge at night when you can attempt to find your way out in the dark. The farm even has a corn maze mobile app so you can time your attempt, keep track of waypoints, and compete for a sport on the farm’s corn maze leaderboard.
10. Hike the Appalachian Trail
More than 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail cut across Virginia, including 101 miles that meander south to north across Shenandoah National Park, closely following Skyline Drive. Fall is a great time for a hike on the AT too, thanks to cool temperatures and vibrant fall colors.
There are almost too many incredible hikes that allow you to step foot on the Appalachian Trail too, including Raven Rocks in Bluemont, Angel’s Rest in Pearisburg, and McAfee Knob near Roanoke. All wow with big views. Given the popularity of the fall hiking season, plan to arrive at trailheads early and allow yourself plenty of time to soak up all the views.