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Scenic Fall Foliage in Washington County, MD

October 8, 2021

Scenic Fall Foliage in Washington County, MD

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Click here to View the State of Maryland Fall Foliage Tracker's daily reports.

Fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy the natural beauty of Western Maryland; the air is usually crisp and dry, with sunny days and cool nights. According to weather.com, this year’s fall foliage is expected to peak around mid- to late October. Here are some of the best places throughout Washington County for leaf peepers to experience magnificent fall colors. One of the best road trips is along one of our three National Scenic Byways

Scenic Overlooks!  Washington County has no shortage of scenic overlooks and those are often the best places for wide angle views of spectacular fall foliage. Some overlooks require a short walk, while others must be hiked to, but the view is certainly worth the effort it takes to get there. Typical fall weather in Washington County is moderate, making it a great time to enjoy the outdoors. 

When driving East/West on I-68 to I-70, a stop at the Sideling Hill Welcome Center will offer up spectacular views of the Great Valley of the Appalachian foothills. In addition to seeing the glorious autumnal color, you will traverse through a geological marvel, the man made cut through Sideling Hill Mountain. This impressive piece of highway engineering eliminated a narrow, twisty an treacherous climb up and down Sideling Hill along US 40 (aka The Historic National Road Scenic Byway) was a key piece in improving and opening up access to Western Maryland to the rest of the state.The cut exposes rock formations that date to the Mississippian Period - or between 340 and 365 million years ago. 

In Boonsboro, the 34-foot-tall Washington Monument atop South Mountain is a great location to view colorful foliage. Not only are you surrounded by trees on the short hike to the monument, which includes part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, but once you reach the top you’ll enjoy a stunning view of the region. On a clear day you can easily see three states from the top of the historic monument.

There are other scenic overlooks along the Appalachian Trail that offer beautiful views of the fall foliage. The hike to Annapolis Rock is a minimum of 2.8 miles but the stunning view from the rock formation vista is nearly 180 degrees. A bit further north along the Appalachian Trail is Black Rock, also offering amazing views. High Rock is located just off the Appalachian Trail and has much easier access, unless you plan to get there from the trail, which has steep sections in this vicinity. The mountain cliff is situated on the western side of South Mountain just below its highest peak.

One of the most impressive scenic overlooks in Washington County is Maryland Heights. It is the highest mountain overlooking Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The hike there is challenging but once you arrive at the top you’ll find yourself on a 300-foot vertical cliff overlooking the Potomac River, the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad. When the fall leaves are at their peak, the view is breathtaking. Be sure to take your camera and water!

Scenic Parklands!  Washington County’s local, state and national parks are great locations to view fall foliage. These places are scenic year round but the fall foliage adds to their allure. You can enjoy places like Antietam National Battlefield from your automobile or on foot. The 60-foot-tall War Department Observation Tower at Bloody Lane provides a 360 degree view of the battlefield and surrounding area. The entire park is connected by a trail system that enables you to enjoy the fall colors that surround you. And if you’re at Antietam, be sure to check out the beautiful maple trees along Main Street in Sharpsburg. They were planted many years ago to offer shade to veterans visiting the battlefield who would come into the train station and walk through town to the National Cemetery and battlefield.

Nearby, the towpath at the C&O Canal National Historical Park is lined with trees, making it a beautiful location for a fall walk, hike or bicycle ride. A fall stroll on the Canal is a rich sensory experience with colorful leaves falling around you and a carpet of leaves crunching beneath you. Ferry Hill Plantation, on the bluffs of the Maryland side of the Potomac River, is part of the park and especially scenic in fall.

An easy paved portion that parallels the Canal is the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which begins in in Hancock, MD and goes 18 miles to Fort Frederik State Park. This recreational, paved, linear trail opened to the public for walking, running, biking, and inline skating. The trail is suited to anyone seeking a pleasant, leisurely outdoor experience. The easy grade and paved surface make this trail ideal for families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. The WMRT is wheelchair accessible. Pets are permitted on the trail.

Hagerstown’s City Park offers wooded walking trails as well as the new Hagerstown Cultural Trail. A stroll through the park, around the lake, or near the Jonathan Hager House is beautiful during fall. Washington County Park Devil’s Backbone, offers a kaleidoscope of color along the Antietam Creek as the leaves change. The dam and stone bridge are especially scenic spots and a footbridge provides for a lovely stroll in the park.

Gathland State Park, also along the Appalachian Trail, was once the elaborate mountain estate of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend. Though it doesn’t offer broad scenic overlooks like several of the other well-known points along the trail in Washington County, it’s definitely a place where you can enjoy the beauty of the colorful leaves that surround you. Like Devil’s Backbone, it’s the perfect spot for a fall stroll and a picnic lunch!

Washington County, Maryland is the ideal destination to enjoy fall foliage. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. There are also a number of fall festivals and events throughout the season. Check out our Calendar of Events to see what’s coming up!