There are many reasons to love living in the Greater Pittsburgh area, and this time of year is one of the best because it’s fall foliage time! Pennsylvania has some of the most colorful leaves around. According to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), thanks to PA’s location, there are over 134 varieties of trees, ensuring one of the longest and most colorful leaf seasons in the world. PA is also where the tree line of northern species of trees meets the southern tree line, adding to the wealth of colors and tones. Add in the scrubs, vines and other plants, and PA has an unsurpassed fall leaf watching show.
Within easy driving distance of the Greater Pittsburgh region, there are several places to take in the fall colors.
The Laurel Highlands region is the perfect place to start a leaf viewing tour. According to Eric Knopsnyder, Director of Public Relations and Community Outreach for the Laurel Highlands region, “It’s not just the colorful leaves that make the region such a hot spot when the weather turns cooler. The many ridges that crisscross the Laurel Highlands provide excellent vantage points from which to see vibrant colors in the valleys below—or on another hilltop in the distance.”
A few top spots to see fall foliage that Knopsnyder recommends include Keystone State Park, honored as a USA Today 10 Best Nominee for Best Fall Foliage Destination; Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania; Baughman Rock Overlook, an easily accessible area; Beam Rocks, located within Forbes State Forest near Laurel Mountain Ski Resort, the overlook requiring a half-mile walk on an easy trail; and Packsaddle/Doc Miller Covered Bridge, a combination of a waterfall, a covered bridge and fall foliage for the “ultimate Instagram-worthy picture” at Brush Creek near Fairhope.
“Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is a favorite destination no matter what time of year, but the architectural masterpiece—which was recently ranked as America’s favorite building—is especially popular when framed by colorful leaves,” Knopsnyder said.
There are a variety of accommodations for overnight stays including Oak Lodge Luxury Cabins, which Knopsynder said provides couples amazing bed-and-breakfast options near Stahlstown with rustic décor, modern touches and spa packages. For larger groups, he suggested Highlands Cabins which includes Bass Rock Cabin. The three-bedroom cabin is located just a mile from Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Forest Creek Lodge offers convenient access to Ohiopyle and sleeps ten.
Head in the opposite direction and take in the sights at several locations, including Moraine State Park, Pymatuning State Park and one of the most breathtaking views at Brady’s Bend, located five miles from East Brady, on Rt. 68. The overlook takes in a 1,500-foot panoramic view of the eight-mile bend in the Allegheny River, allowing a stunning view of the foliage.
Continue north to Presque Isle and Erie. “Erie offers stunning fall foliage with its picturesque landscapes, vibrant colors and enchanting shores, providing a perfect setting for a memorable autumn getaway,” according to Christine Temple, Director of Communications, VisitErie. Before driving out onto Presque Isle, stop at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and climb the 75-foot observation tower to take in the views. Next, venture out onto Presque Isle, where according to Temple, the 13 miles of woodland surrounded by Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay make for spectacular fall sights.
Temple also suggests a drive along Route 5, also known as the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, in Erie County through Lake Erie Wine Country. The Great Lakes Seaway Trail passes by numerous wineries, making it a perfect route to stop and enjoy fall leaves, while tasting some PA wines. The 518-mile National Scenic Byway extends from the Ohio border to Sacket Harbor, New York.
For a bit to eat, Temple said to try Oliver’s Rooftop Restaurant on the 8th floor of the Hampton Inn & Suites Erie Bayfront. “There are spectacular fall views of Presque Isle Bay and Erie’s Bayfront District. I would recommend the Hampton as well for a place to stay. It’s Erie’s newest hotel,” she said.
A few other places Temple suggested include The Cork 1794 with a creative menu that changes seasonally; The Bayhouse Oyster Bar & Restaurant, and Pier 6 Rooftop Restaurant, both located in the Courtyard by Marriott Bayfront’s parking garage. “The Courtyard by Marriott Erie Bayfront Hotel would be another recommended place to stay. It’s on the waterfront as well and has its own restaurant, the Shoreline Bar & Grille,” Temple said.
Allegheny National Forest is one of the best-known areas for viewing leaves, hiking, biking and exploring. Visit PA suggests taking the 36-mile Longhouse National Scenic Byway, a scenic route through the heart of Allegheny. The Kinzua Sky Walk, known as “Walk the Tracks Across the Sky,” is a great stop to view eight miles of forest and trees. The walkway was constructed one the restored towers of the historic Kinzua Viaduct, which was one the longest and highest railroad viaducts in the world. Located in Kinzua Bridge State Park, this 600-foot walkway extends out onto the Kinzua Gorge, complete with an octogon shaped overlook and a partial glass floor. The staff at the park also offers programming and walks.
The PA Great Outdoors region offers miles and miles of scenic highway and fall views with suggested fall routes on their Visitor Bureau’s website, https://visitpago.com/autumn/. One of the most popular fall destinations in the Great Outdoor region is “Elk Country” where the largest free roaming elk herd in the Northeastern U.S. lives. Start at the Elk Country Visitor Center, where there are numerous educational displays and walking paths for elk viewing, or follow the Elk Scenic Drive to catch glimpses of some of the 1,400 elk who live in this region. Fall is rutting season, so you may even catch bull elks battling for breeding rights.
The Pine Creek Gorge, known as the PA Grand Canyon, in Tioga State Forest, Wellsboro, is over 45 miles long and nearly 1,500 feet deep with plenty of opportunity for leaf viewing. The Rail Trail is 62 miles long for the more adventurous with several great places to stop for photos and taking in the leaves.
Short on time? The Greater Pittsburgh area has several places for great leaf viewing, including along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, a 33-mile nonlinear trail along the riverfronts. And of course, there is always a ride on one of the inclines on Mt. Washington for a view of Point State Park, the three rivers and Pittsburgh.
For the latest fall foliage reports in PA, visit https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx.