Fall weekends bring two things: gorgeous fall foliage and large crowds. As the weather begins to cool and the trees exchange their leaves of green for reds, oranges, and yellows, visitors come from all over to experience all that Shenandoah National Park has to offer.
The typical fall season in Shenandoah National Park encompasses late September, October, and November with average daytime temperatures ranging from 49°F to 60°F. Similar to spring, however, temperatures can swing drastically from colder nights to warmer days, so it's important to check the weather forecast before coming to the Park. And remember to layer!
Tips For Visiting
You can buy your entrance pass online before coming to the Park. To help with wait times, special lanes will be available at entrance stations for those with pre-purchased passes.
Be aware that campgrounds and lodges are usually fully booked for all weekends in September/October several months in advance. There are some first-come, first-served sites at campgrounds, but those fill quickly — usually by Thursday evening.
Please park responsibly! Be sure all 4 wheels are off the pavement and don't block roads, gates, or other vehicles. Improperly parked vehicles will be towed.
There are numerous gated service roads at the park's boundary. The public cannot enter the park via these routes. If you employ a GPS or internet-based mapping service, make sure that it is directing you to one of the four entrances.
How to Avoid the Crowds
At the trailhead: fall is typically our busiest time of year. For the best chance of avoiding crowded trails and full parking lots, try to visit Shenandoah during the week. If a parking area is full, it's time to move on to another trail. We're having some challenges with improperly parked vehicles, so be sure all four wheels are off the pavement, and don't block roads, gates, or others. And think SAFETY! Use this busy time of year to look for the hidden gems that are less traveled!
At entrance stations: the two most northern entrances, Front Royal and Thornton Gap, are the busiest and have the longest waits. Try a nice circuit trip south through the lowlands on Route 29 to the east or on Route 340 to the west to Swift Run (Route 33) or Rockfish (Route 64) entrance stations, and then return via the Skyline Drive.
At campgrounds: fall weekends are usually fully booked! Can you plan a weekday adventure? There are first-come, first-served sites at all campgrounds but, it's important to know: You cannot reserve a first-come, first-served site by calling the Park directly; you must be at the campground in person. These sites fill quickly — usually by Thursday evening. Be sure to know which sites are first-come, first-served sites (There are signs!) if you want to stay more than one night. If you choose a reservable site, you will have to vacate Friday morning.
Tracking Fall Color
Wondering what's up with the color in Shenandoah? We've devised several ways to keep you posted, but remember: the Park is over 100 miles long and spans a wide elevation range. Fall color conditions can vary dramatically from area to area, and weather affects the color from hour-to-hour. Because of this, it's impossible to predict a peak time for fall color. Heres what we're doing to keep you up-to-date on current leaf conditions in the Park:
You may also want to check out the Smoky Mountains fall color prediction map, the Virginia Department of Forestry fall foliage report, or see fall broadcasts and fall photos from past years in Shenandoah.
Last updated: November 3, 2023