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Riding Through Autumn Hues: Virginia's Fall Train Rides (2024)

Last revised: March 12, 2024

By: Adam Burns

For many years there were no excursions at all available in Virginia.  However, that changed in recent years when short line freight carrier Buckingham Branch began hosting upscale excursions along its railroad located in central Virginia.  Among their available trips are fall foliage excursions, more information about which may be found further below.

91824283653257828639207388.jpgAn Amtrak "Northeast Regional" service is stopped at Ashland, Virginia. Loyd Lowry photo.

Other Activities

Virginia is a state that boasts of an impressive fall foliage display, with warm shades of red, yellow, and orange painting the landscapes. If you're planning to enjoy the autumn beauty in Virginia outside of a train ride, here are some of the best locations to witness the fall foliage.

Shenandoah National Park

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park offers breathtaking views of the colorful autumn foliage. You can take a leisurely drive along Skyline Drive, hike one of the many trails, or simply enjoy the panoramic views from one of the overlooks.

Blue Ridge Parkway

This scenic drive spans 469 miles from Virginia to North Carolina, offering stunning views of the changing leaves along the way. The drive is especially beautiful in the fall, with plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and picnicking.

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

With over 1.8 million acres of forested land, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are a prime location for fall foliage viewing. There are numerous hiking trails, scenic drives, and overlooks where you can take in the beauty of the changing leaves.

Virginia Creeper Trail

This 34-mile trail, which operates over the old Norfolk & Western's "Abingdon Branch," stretches from Abingdon to Whitetop, passing through forests, farmlands, and historic towns. In the fall, the trail is lined with colorful trees, making for a picturesque and memorable ride.

Lake Anna State Park

This park offers a unique way to experience fall foliage - from the water! Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and enjoy the colorful trees from the lake.

Natural Bridge State Park

Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Natural Bridge State Park is home to a 215-foot natural limestone arch and scenic Cedar Creek. In the fall, the park is ablaze with the colors of autumn, making it a popular spot for fall foliage viewing.

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

This area encompasses over 200,000 acres of forested land and includes the highest peak in Virginia. There are plenty of hiking trails and scenic drives that offer views of the colorful fall foliage.

Monticello

Located in Charlottesville, Monticello is the historic home of Thomas Jefferson. The estate sits on a hill and provides beautiful views of the surrounding landscape, especially during the fall season. Take a tour of the grounds and enjoy the changing colors of the trees.

Colonial Williamsburg

This historic town is a popular destination year-round, but it is especially beautiful in the fall. The streets are lined with trees that turn vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange. Take a walking tour of the town and enjoy the autumn beauty.

Richmond

The capital city of Virginia is another popular location for fall foliage viewing. The James River flows through the city, and the many parks and gardens provide stunning views of the changing leaves. Take a walk along the Canal Walk or visit Maymont Park to see the fall colors.

Luray Caverns

Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Luray Caverns is a popular attraction year-round. In the fall, the surrounding mountains turn brilliant shades of red and gold, creating a beautiful backdrop for the caverns.

Smith Mountain Lake

This lake is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and hiking. The surrounding trees turn warm shades of red and gold in the fall, making it a beautiful spot for fall foliage viewing.

The Virginia State Arboretum

Located in Boyce, the Virginia State Arboretum is a 172-acre park that features over 8,000 trees and plants. In the fall, the trees turn brilliant colors, creating a stunning display. Take a walk through the park and enjoy the autumn beauty.

In conclusion, Virginia is a beautiful state to visit during the fall season. From the stunning views of Shenandoah National Park to the scenic drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are plenty of opportunities to witness the beauty of the changing leaves. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to experience the magic of fall in Virginia!

Overview

Buckingham Branch Railroad

(Dillwyn): Located in Central Virginia, the Buckingham Branch offers several seasonal excursions which operate as its "Virginia Scenic Railway."

This growing freight line has been in business since 1989 and has rapidly expanded since 2004.  Today, it operates a total of 280 miles across Virginia, the longest of which links Richmond with Clifton Forge. 

During October, they host fall foliage trips taking you on a scenic ride through the Commonwealth's beautiful countryside. You can choose to sit in a climate controlled car or enjoy the views from an open air car.


Either way, you are sure to have a wonderful time on this 3.5 hour excursion through Buckingham County and over the James River. 

Your trip departs from the preserved Chesapeake & Ohio depot in Dillwyn and runs north over the old Dillywn Branch to Bremo along the James River.  If you love Appalachia in the autumn this train ride is a must; you will see rolling hills, farmland, and plenty of woods along the way.  

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