Washington, DC offers some of the best leaf-peeping spots in the United States! Use this article to find the best fall foliage in the Washington, DC area.
Washington, DC’s monuments and nearby mountains, rivers, and lakes provide a spectacular back-drop for fall foliage.
Peak foliage in the DC area tends to happen in late October/early November. However, areas with higher elevations (like Shenandoah) tend to peak one to two weeks earlier.
This fall foliage map can help you plan the best times to see fall foliage in the DC area (as well as the rest of the United States!).
Once you’ve planned when to go, the list below will help you find the best fall foliage in the Washington, DC area.
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1. National Arboretum
The National Arboretum is a great place to visit year-round but it is especially beautiful in the fall.
In addition to the gorgeous fall foliage, the National Capitol Columns (which once graced the US Capitol but weren’t strong enough to support the Capitol dome) add great visual interest to the background.
It gets plenty crowded at the National Arboretum, especially on nice days. Get there early to avoid the crowds.
2. Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the Washington, DC area.
It’s over twice the size of Central Park in NYC and offers *tons* of incredible fall foliage.
One of the most popular destinations in the park is Boulder Bridge. GPS will absolutely lead you astray if you just enter “Boulder Bridge” as the destination.
Instead, enter “Rock Creek Park Grove #2”. This destination will take you to the closest parking lot by Boulder Bridge. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the parking lot to Boulder Bridge.
3. US Capitol
The US Capitol may not be the first place you think of when considering top fall foliage spots in Washington, DC.
But there are many beautiful trees surrounding the US Capitol that put on a colorful show in the fall.
In addition, the US Capitol provides great views for both sunset and sunrise. It’s one of my favorite places to photograph in the DC area.
4. Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a living tribute to the 26th president of the United States.
Interestingly, the island has both a forest side and a swamp side.
On the forest side, you’ll find plenty of fall colors in the trees. But I especially love the fall colors on the swamp side. Unexpected reds and yellows in the low-level plants follow you along the path.
It’s a great place to take unique fall photos.
5. National Mall
The National Mall provides amazing images year-round of monuments, museums, and memorials.
Add some fall foliage to those images? Absolutely stunning.
My favorite spots for fall foliage on the National Mall are at Constitution Gardens and the walkways between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
6. Mount Vernon
Anyone who ventures down to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate during the fall is in for a treat!
The estate has spectacular trees, some of which are from the 1700s!
But wait, there’s more! Walk around to the east side of the mansion, where you’ll see breath-taking views of fall foliage along both sides of the Potomac River.
Check out this video for a preview of fall foliage at Mount Vernon!
In addition to the beautiful row houses, the trees in Georgetown love to put on a show during fall!
Venture north of M Street, NW to find the residential portion of Georgetown. This is where you’ll find the best fall foliage.
If you’d like to add a little spookiness to your fall tour, stop by the Exorcist Steps. See a video of them here – if you dare! (Honestly, even I’m a little unnerved by this video – and I made it!)
8. Old Town Alexandria
Old Town Alexandria provides amazing fall foliage, plus you’ll find some of the best Halloween decor in the DC area.
To get the full fall and Halloween experience, I highly recommend you go on a ghost tour. If you have the option, ask for the north side ghost tour. It’s a little more hair-raising than the south side ghost tour!
9. Great Falls
Great Falls is known for its fantastic waterfalls. But the surrounding forest provides amazing fall foliage.
The fall colors can sometimes peak earlier here than the rest of the Washington, DC area. So don’t wait too late in the season to visit.
Before your visit, be sure to listen to the tips in this video.
10. Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin is typically known for its spring cherry blossoms. But don’t forget to check it out in the fall!
Those same cherry blossom trees turn lovely russet colors in the fall.
And the Tidal Basin is always a beautiful place for a walk.
11. George Washington Memorial Parkway
Hop on the George Washington Memorial Parkway for some stunning fall foliage.
While the drive south to Mount Vernon is beautiful, the best fall colors are found in the stretch between Arlington and McLean.
Be sure to bring a driving companion so you can ooh and aah at the colors while someone else drives!
Shenandoah National Park is about an hour and a half drive from Washington, DC.
The sloping mountains provide a great view of fall foliage.
Just don’t wait until the leaves start to change color in DC before you trek out to Shenandoah. Because of the higher elevation, the fall colors peak about two weeks earlier than DC.
For more tips on visiting Shenandoah in the fall, check out this video.
Fall is a beautiful time in the DC area. I hope these tips help you to find the best places for fall foliage in the Washington, DC area!