WHERE: Humpback Rocks, Va.
WHY: A bounty of fall happenings, including a wine harvest, an apple festival and a colorful hike.
HOW FAR: About 130 miles, or 21/2 hours from Lorton.
For uber leaf-gazing, trek to Virginia's Humpback Rocks (elevation 3,080 feet). Accessible from a foot trail, the greenstone rocks are about a half-mile from Humpback Mountain's summit and provide a prime perch for experiencing fall foliage. They place hikers smack above the Rockfish and Shenandoah valleys without a guardrail in sight. Below, a landscape of trees rolls in every direction like colorful sand dunes. The view brings to mind an autumn scene by Seurat -- dots of red, yellow, orange and brown in relief against a blue sky.
(For an updated leaf report, call 800-424-5683. The second and third weeks of the month are currently projected as prime for leaf-peepers.)
To reach the trailhead, drive about six miles south from Rockfish Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Leave your car at the Humpback Rocks parking area and follow the blue blazes, marked mostly on tree trunks, through the forest. The one-mile path, steep at times, winds its way up the mountain, and fallen leaves and acorns litter the gravelly ground. At some points, you walk over clusters of stones, but there are no boulders to scale. At the fork, turn left (continuing straight will take you to the summit) and head for -- you guessed it -- the huge rocks.
Thanks to the big payoff, the sweat-inducing climb attracts locals with their dogs and out-of-towners alike. "It's a destination hike," says seasonal ranger Gary Hunt. Consider going early in the morning or in the evening to avoid crowds. The rocks are spacious, so stretch out -- perhaps with some water and a crisp apple, a seasonal snack to go with that multicolored view.
Of course, there's more to autumn than looking at leaves, and numerous events en route to Humpback will engage all your five senses. In Fredericksburg, listen for ghosts on the Hobgoblin Hike at Alum Spring Park (Oct. 21, 7-9 p.m.; ages 4-12 and parents; $5 each; reservations required). At the Arts Center in Orange, set your sights on "Visual Phrases," photography, painting and more by three Virginia artists, on exhibit through Oct. 29. Taste the 2004 vintage at Barboursville Vineyards' Annual Autumn Explosion and Barrel Tasting on Saturday and Oct. 9. Charlottesville's Ash Lawn-Highland lets you dig your hands in the historic dirt at archeology workshops scheduled for the next two Saturdays (Oct. 8 and 15 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; $20, ages 6-11 $12, reservations suggested). Down the road past Monticello, breathe in the scent of apples at the harvest festivals this weekend and next at Carter Mountain Orchard.
Road Trip maps are available online at www.washingtonpost.com/roadtrip, as are addresses and hours of operation (be sure to check before you go). Have an idea for a trip? E-mail email@example.com.