Fall colors popping from Great Falls to Richmond (PHOTOS)

October 22, 2013
Oak leaves turn red at Great Falls, October 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
Oak leaves turn red at Great Falls, October 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

My travels this past weekend took me from Richmond to Charlottesville to Winchester.  During my trip, I stopped at several spots to photograph the foliage.  When I returned home, I shot Great Falls and Fairfax.  I’ve assembled the photos here to show a regional view of how the fall color is progressing this season.

Related: Photos from Skyline Drive

In general, I’m surprised that color is already showing in the trees around Richmond and I’m a little disappointed that the color in the northern Shenandoah Valley is rather dull.  Many of the leaves in areas well west of Washington seem to be dropping as soon as they change color.

The foliage is just starting to turn color at the University of Richmond. This photo was taken Saturday, October 19. (Kevin Ambrose)
The foliage at the University of Richmond is just starting to change color. This photo was taken Saturday, October 19. (Kevin Ambrose)

I started my trip in Richmond and I photographed vibrant shades of red and yellow splashed across the landscape at the University of Richmond. The colorful trees were greatly outnumbered, however, by trees that have not yet started to change color.

Down along the James River in Richmond, the foliage was mostly green and resembled summer woods. I did find a few patches of colorful foliage along the river.  We will need to wait two or three weeks to see Richmond transition to peak color.

A few trees and patches of ivy are turning color along the James River in Richmond, Virginia. This photo was taken Sunday, October 20. (Kevin Ambrose)
Colorful foliage is hard to find along the James River in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom.  This photo was taken Sunday, October 20. (Kevin Ambrose)

As I drove west from Richmond, I noticed the hills just east of Charlottesville were turning a nice shade of gold, but as I progressed farther west to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the color of the foliage was not as vibrant as I had hoped.  That may change soon as the foliage in the mountains reaches peak color next week.

Along the way, I stopped in Charlottesville to photograph my alma mater, the University of Virginia. Charlottesville has noticeably more color in the trees than Richmond, but peak viewing is still a week or two away.  I also noticed that some of the trees were dropping leaves rather quickly.  Patches of ground around the Rotunda were covered with leaves.

There is a splash of color around the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. This photo was taken Sunday, October 20. (Kevin Ambrose)
A few trees show color around the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. This photo was taken Sunday, October 20. (Kevin Ambrose)

I continued west to the Shenandoah River, a few miles south of Winchester. When I arrived, I found that many of the trees were still green along the river banks. I had to do a little walking down the Shenandoah to find colorful foliage to photograph. Ultimately, I discovered a stretch of river lined with golden trees. The scene made for a nice photograph.

As I headed farther northwest toward Winchester, I had to search a bit to find vibrant color to shoot. Many of the trees in the Shenandoah Valley were changing color, but I found a lot of dull shades of yellow mixed with brown. As with Charlottesville, the trees were starting to drop their leaves.

Shades of gold outline the Shenandoah River near Winchester, Virginia. (Kevin Ambrose)
Golden foliage lines the banks of the Shenandoah River near Winchester, Virginia. (Kevin Ambrose)

When I arrived back home in Fairfax County, I made a couple of quick trips to photograph Great Falls and Fairfax. The foliage in Fairfax County is comparable to that of Charlottesville, but Fairfax is about a week behind the Shenandoah Valley.  We may see peak by Nov. 1 in our western suburbs.

In Washington, D.C., and in counties to the east, we’re probably two to three weeks away from peak viewing. In the hills of Northwest Washington, the foliage may peak the first week of November. Down by the Potomac River and along the National Mall, the foliage may peak the second week of November. That’s fairly consistent with previous years.

The Fairfax Courthouse, August 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
The Fairfax Courthouse with a large, colorful tree, August 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

Here’s a map from the Virginia Department of Forestry showing peak foliage dates for the region and here is a foliage report for Maryland.

Let us know how the fall color looks in your area.

The University of Richmond is starting to show its color,  Saturday, October 19. (Kevin Ambrose)
The University of Richmond is starting to show its color as light rain falls, Saturday, October 19. (Kevin Ambrose)
A blue heron at the James River in Richmond, Virginia. The river grass is turning yellow, but the trees are still green. This photo was taken October 20, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
A blue heron at the James River in Richmond, Virginia. The river grass is turning yellow but the trees are still mostly green. This photo was taken October 20, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
The Shenandoah Valley is becoming colorful near Winchester, Virginia. This photo was taken Sunday, October 20. (Kevin Ambrose)
The Shenandoah Valley is becoming colorful near Winchester, Virginia. This photo was taken Sunday, October 20. (Kevin Ambrose)
Fall foliage at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, October 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
Fall foliage is starting to look good at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, October 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
A red oak tree shows color at Great Falls, October 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
A red oak tree at Great Falls turns from green to red, October 21, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)
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