Alexandria is nationally known for its historic houses and museums, but a lesser known claim-to-fame has been hiding in the shadows and streets of these buildings for centuries: some of the biggest trees in the country and commonwealth of Virginia. Our city is home to over 100 champion or notable trees. With foliage expected to peak in Virginia over the next few weeks, we’ve compiled an introductory guide to larger-than-life leaf peeping in Alexandria. Whether you’re looking for an all-out “tree-o-caching” adventure or a simple scenic drive along the Potomac, there are extraordinary options for everyone to enjoy the fall foliage.
Image Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
Tree-O-Caching in Alexandria’s Parks
Those looking to make a day of leaf peeping are in luck, with several parks conveniently dispersed throughout the city, each one full of unique and multicolored trees ideal for fall foliage. Bring the dog and a picnic, just don’t forget the camera!
Fort Ward Park
Image Credit: Christopher Connell, flickr user cvconnell
West Enders will find Fort Ward Park full of almost a dozen notable trees, including at least six “State Champions”, or the biggest tree of their species in all of Virginia. Visitors to Fort Ward Park will discover a notable black tupelo tree, ideal for fall foliage given its deep red and purple hues.
Image Credit: Mehul Antani, flickr user mehul.antani
Folks in the Del Ray neighborhood can find the largest witch-hazel in the city nearby at Monticello Park. It’s hard to miss witch-hazel once it turns colors, as its leaves transform into a vibrant, sun-like yellow each fall. Monticello Park is a small, quiet space ideal for bird-watching among the hues of fall.
Jones Point Park
Image Credit: Reed Wiedower, flickr user rwiedower
Waterfront leaf-peeping is optimal at Jones Point Park, home to the largest silver maple in the city. Maple trees are perhaps the most famous of fall, transforming into a kaleidoscope of fiery orange-yellow. Other highlights at Jones Point Park include a notable sycamore tree and two other “city champions”.
Alexandria National Cemetery
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
Near Old Town, fall enthusiasts will find the largest dwarf hackberry tree in the entire country at Alexandria National Cemetery. In addition to this national champion, the cemetery is also home to several state champions and a notable sweetgum, whose star-shaped leaves pop into a deep orange come autumn.
Fall Foliage On-The-Go: Driving, Biking and Walking
Scenic Fall Drive
Image Credit: flickr user Tim Evanson
If you prefer to cover more ground and enjoy the colors of fall from the car, look no further than the George Washington Memorial Parkway, named an “All-American Road in the National Scenic Byways Program” by the US Department of Transportation. The parkway is easily accessed from downtown Alexandria and winds along the Potomac under canopies of beautiful trees all the way to Mount Vernon. Stop at one of many viewpoints on the parkway and enjoy a picnic, or explore one of almost 30 sites dedicated to George Washington’s life along the way.
Stroll Under the Foliage
Image Credit: Jenn Wurzbacher, flickr user MozzingtonDC
Active leaf-peepers in Alexandria won’t be able to resist the award-winning Mount Vernon Trail. Dotted with spectacular trees and shrubs, the Mount Vernon Trail is a must-do activity for locals and visitors alike. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to bike or walk the trail and take in the fresh air and foliage. Along your way, stop for stunning photo ops of the leafy landscape and see if you recognize any tree species from our Alexandria leaf peeping infographic above.
No matter how, or where, you enjoy the foliage this weekend, post a picture of your favorite tree using #ExtraordinaryALX
For more information on fall in Alexandria, click here.
Header image credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria