6 Places to View Fall Foliage in Hampton Roads
October is the month when the last wisps of summer finally succumb to gaudy lawn ornaments, nippy north winds, and pumpkin-spiced anything. And yes, a favorite for one and all, the trees begin their long-anticipated change. Serious leaf peepers sometimes head for the hills of western Virginia this time of year, but why go to such effort when all that’s required for spectacular fall colors is hardwood forests and wide-open spaces? Coastal Virginia abounds with these spots. Here are six places in our region where busy foliage enthusiasts can chase their fancy, all without the need for a weekend road trip.
On the Peninsula:
The two lakes at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton were once borrow pits where road builders mined sand and dirt, but ever since City of Hampton officials let nature flourish there and created trails, nature offers stunning snapshots each fall in return.
If you prefer a Sunday drive to get a foliage fix, the Colonial Parkway linking Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown is the best route. Most of the 23-mile road is kept natural and undeveloped by the National Park Service, buffered by trees that come to life this time of year.
As the largest municipal park east of the Mississippi River, Newport News Park is a forested expanse laced with miles of trails. The city reservoir that occupies much of the park creates ample shorelines that explode with color come fall.
On the Southside:
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk was long ago an impenetrable thicket of cypress trees, although hardwoods took over after loggers took off, and the foot and water trails left from those operations offer ample opportunities to take in the foliage by foot, bicycle or boat.
Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve is a gem tucked deep in a residential corner of Portsmouth, and the sanctuary’s centerpiece, the 35-acre Lake Ballard, is not only surrounded by more than 100 acres of forest, but also by a trail that allows hikers to appreciate this foliage from every possible angle.
First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach makes the short list of regional fall destinations, not just for the miles of trails that snake through the broad swath of forests and wetlands, but also for the sea grasses and other dune foliage that surrender subtle colors come autumn.