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Pennsylvania has a longer and more diverse fall foliage season than any other state in the nation, or anywhere in the world! The mountains will start to fill with color in late September to early October, and then the mountains and valleys will be overflowing with bright, vibrant colors by mid-October. The burnt oranges, golden yellows and rich reds are colors that we all know as the colors of autumn. These shades of color present themselves in endless variations that we all love and reminds us that crisp air, warmer sweaters and hot cocoa weather is right around the corner. As fall approaches, the warmest months of the year are coming to an end. However, there is still time to explore and enjoy Pennsylvania’s beautiful landscape as it transitions into the crisp, sweater-ready months of autumn.
Whether you are walking, biking or driving around, Mother Nature offers a beautiful display of colors this time of year that are peaceful and presents a great opportunity to travel around Pennsylvania with the whole family. Have your camera ready, here is a list of a few camera worthy fall foliage areas in Pennsylvania.
Laurel Highlands, Southwest Pennsylvania
The Laurel Highlands is the perfect destination for a family getaway during the cool, crisp days of autumn. In this part of the state you will find the commonwealth’s highest mountain elevation and thousands of acres of unspoiled state forests, parks and game lands. The Highlands are known for their historic sites, covered bridges and special fall festivities. While traveling to this breathtaking, spectacular region, enjoy driving under a canopy of color on the areas scenic byways and historic routes. At the end of September, beginning of October, the ridges and valleys come alive with color. The “Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour” guide provides driving routes through the Laurel Highlands that highlight state parks and forests, enchanting byways, picturesque overlooks and charming communities. Seven Springs Mount Resort is located in the Laurel Highlands and is Pennsylvania’s largest ski and four seasons resort. They offer a highly-interactive and unique way to see the breathtaking fall foliage. A zip-line is constructed to fit into the natural landscape; the canopy tour will provide riders with a heart-racing, pulse-pounding adventure.
Philadelphia, Southeast Pennsylvania
All across the Philadelphia region, the leaves turn from summer greens to vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. Philadelphia offers many areas for you to bring the family to enjoy the colors of this wonderful season; even pack a picnic to enjoy lunch amongst the colors! Midst all the tall buildings and busy streets lies Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This parkway is the most artistic and colorful mile you will find in all of Philadelphia. The parkway is lined with trees forming red, orange and yellow canopies over your head as you stroll through town. If you don’t want to be in the hustle and bustle of the city, The Wissahickon Gorge and Bucks County offer a more relaxed scene. Forbidden Drive runs seven miles parallel to Wissahickon Creek in the heart of Fairmount Park, and shows off a beautiful pallet of the fall colors we all know and love. Bucks County offers a number of different ways to enjoy the changing of the leaves. One way in particular, that offers a different perspective to view the reds, yellows and oranges of fall is by hot air balloon rides. The U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team offers hot air balloon rides that depart each morning and afternoon.
Pocono Mountains, Northeast Pennsylvania
The Pocono Mountains is home to 127 indigenous species of trees, plants and shrubs that illuminate the region when autumn comes around. This is the region’s most popular time of the year; many festivals, activities and special offers are all inspired by this wonderful season. They have a fall foliage train excursion where you can experience the canopy of colors and excitement all from a rail car ride. Also, you can do walking and driving tours around the area on their scenic stretches of roads and trails. On these trails you can see unmatched views of autumn foliage and discover the rich history of the region as you stroll beneath the falling leaves. If seeing the magnificent colors from the ground isn’t enough for you, they offer a bird’s eye view of the brilliant autumn scenery during a fall foliage air tour. In addition, you can float along the pristine waters of the Pocono Mountains or relax fishing and enjoy the unique views of the changing mountain landscape.
Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania
One of the many awards of living near Pittsburgh is the ability to experience the beauty of fall foliage every year. The cooler temperatures and changing of the leaves encourages us to get out and enjoy the outdoors. The hilly topography of Pittsburgh means we can enjoy the fall foliage in different ways. Grandview Park and Riverview Park are two of the city’s parks that provide amazing panoramas. Grandview Park is on Mount Washington, which provides a sweeping view of the city and the hills around it. Riverview Park is on the North Side of Pittsburgh and provides views of the stars and offers wooded trails and hillsides that overlooks the city; this view can’t be beat! A relaxing way to experience fall foliage near Pittsburgh is to take a bike trip along one of the many trails in the region. Whether you want to go for an hour or three days, the wooded paths offer a chance to experience the stunning fall foliage. One place that has spectacular scenery is Dead Man’s Hollow and the Big Savage Tunnel just north of the Maryland boarder. These places provide a stunning view of three states and their fall foliage.
Cumberland Valley, Central Pennsylvania
The best time for rich reds, golden yellows and burnt oranges to be seen in the Cumberland Valley area is mid-to late-October. Just north of Carlisle is Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch. This is a 20-acre hawk watching site and one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the United States. It is the best place to see golden eagles, one of the best spots in Pennsylvania to watch hawk migration in the fall and offers breathtaking views of the Valley. Colonel Denning State Park is another great place to experience fall foliage, but also a great place for sightseers and nature photographers. The 273-acre wooded park has a 3.5-acre scenic lake and excellent hiking trails. A strenuous 2.5-mile hike to Flat Rock offers a beautiful outlook of the Cumberland Valley. Another park in Cumberland Valley that is known for its views of fall foliage is Kings Gap. As you climb the winding mountain to Kings Gap, stop at the pull offs for fantastic views of the Valley along the way. This is Cumberland Valley’s largest park, has an Italian villa-style mansion and offers beautiful views of the Valley on its many hiking trails. One more park in the Valley that offers fantastic views is Michaux State Forest and Pine Grove Furnace State Park. This is a scenic drive through the South Mountain Region of Pennsylvania and a place to enjoy the Appalachian Trail and Pole Steeple Overlook. This is a great opportunity to sightsee and capture the beauty of the reds, yellows and oranges reflecting along the two lakes.
Erie, Northwest Pennsylvania
In Northwestern Pennsylvania is a 16 mile stretch of road with gorgeous canopies of fall foliage from historic New Castle to Slippery Rock, PA. This drive offers breathtaking displays of shimmering yellows, brilliant reds and burnt oranges. Just outside of Slippery Rock is a must see site, McConnell’s Mill State Park. There is a beautiful old grist mill, scenic walking and hiking trails and a charming covered bridge. Moraine State Park is also well worth a visit. The peaceful roads are lined with numerous trees decked out in their fall best and this park creates a great opportunity for families to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic together observing the magnificent colors of fall. Another favorite area in Northwestern Pa for many foliage fanatics is right through the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk herd. This loop includes Bucktail State Park, Lock Haven, Renovo and the mountains of Emporium along the west branch of the Susquehanna River and the Sinnemahoning Creek. The fall color canopies over the road are breathtaking and many drive miles to attend the Flaming Foliage Festival at the Renovo in October. Another great area to see fall foliage in this region is the Longhouse National Scenic Byway. This is one of the most scenic roads in Pennsylvania and is a 55-mile loop through the heart of the Allegheny National Forest with plenty of breathtaking overlooks for great fall photos. Two great picnic and stunning fall foliage areas that you will pass by and are a “must see” are Jakes Rock Overlook and Kiasutha Recreation Area.
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