Autumn is easily my favorite season to be outdoors in Coastal Virginia. A much-needed reprieve from brutal humidity combined with not-too-cold-yet temperatures and trees ablaze in bright hues makes me giddier than a quad-shot pumpkin spice latte.
Our region is made for folks like me who love fall and also enjoy an active lifestyle, with several trails perfect for a seasonal trek through trees showcasing their signature stunning colors. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, prime time for fall foliage in our area begins in late October and extends through the first few weeks of November.
Lace up and check out some of our favorite places to leaf peep.
Stumpy Lake Loop
Stroll Specs: Stumpy Lake Natural Area sits on the southern border of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. The area boasts 1,422 acres, with a lake surrounded by cypress and two easy loops at 1.8 miles each. Pack a set of binoculars to spot plenty of birds like shorebirds and egrets.
Leaf Lowdown: The woodlands that surround the trails include pine, oak and sweetgum trees. Shades of yellow, orange and auburn reflect on the water, making them particularly attractive.
4797 Indian River Road, Virginia Beach. VBGov.com/Parks
Sandy Bottom Nature Park
Stroll Specs: It’s hard to believe this Hampton park once housed garbage dumps and pits for construction workers to mine sand. Thankfully, nature has since reclaimed this 456-acre space. Today, 12 miles of trails meander through wetland marshes, wildflowers, hardwood forest or the lake edge. Enhance your hike with a stop at the nature center that overlooks Sandy Bottom Lake and features environmental and animal exhibits.
Leaf Lowdown: Look for a variety of trees like northern red oak, tulip poplars, sweet gums, hickories and maples. Green, yellow, orange and red all bloom boldly for your viewing pleasure.
1255 Big Bethel Road, Hampton. Hampton.gov/Parks
Oak Grove Lake Park
Stroll Specs: You may be surprised to discover this 65-acre treasure off busy Volvo Parkway, but when you do, it won’t be your only visit. Enjoy a simple yet beautiful 1.5-mile circular loop around the lake bordered by hardwood forest and wetlands.
Leaf Lowdown: Resplendent trees in every shade of yellow and gold imaginable look most astounding at sunset.
409 Byron St., Chesapeake. CityOfChesapeake.net/Parks
Newport News Park
Stroll Specs: An impressive 7,500-plus acres creates municipal park magic on the Peninsula. Take your pick of 30 miles of trails, many that line the city reservoir and create a shoreline of forest bursting with autumn ambiance. If you bring a furry walking buddy, take a break at Fido Field Dog Park and let your pup run around an acre of open space.
Leaf Lowdown: About 50 different types of trees, including several species of oak, red maple, yellow poplar and plenty more produce red galore as well as yellow, orange, rust and purple.
13560 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. NNVA.gov/Parks
Chippokes Plantation State Park
Stroll Specs: If you love a side of history with your traipse, head to this charming plantation across the James River. We recommend taking the Jamestown Ferry for extra adventure and foliage sighting opportunities. Ten miles of trails around farm fields are mostly grass-covered with alluring curves. The popular, 1.2-mile College Run Trail runs from the visitor center along the James River to the historic area. Off the path, add to your step count at the antebellum mansion and outbuildings, formal gardens or the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum.
Leaf Lowdown: Loads of vibrant orange and yellow leaves live on huge, mature trees.
695 Chippokes Park Road, Surry. Chippokes.com