14 Places in Pennsylvania to See the Best Fall Foliage
Near and far, experience the beauty of Appalachian autumn at these locations around the state.
It’s that time of year again — pumpkin spice lattes, apple-scented candles, festive gourds aplenty and, of course, leaves. Autumn in Appalachia is a sight to behold, and if you’re wondering where exactly to go, you’re in luck. From Pittsburgh’s own green spaces to the hidden gems throughout the Keystone State, we’ve got you covered, including when the leaves will be at their peak.
The Gateway Clipper Fleet’s Autumn Serenade Luncheon Cruise promises a 2.5-hour sailing adventure celebrating the beauty of autumn. Boaters can experience the lush scenery of Pittsburgh’s shores from the top deck, enjoy an autumn harvest luncheon and then view an on-board show called “The Autumn Harvest Serenade.” The ship’s captain narrates the sights, and a full-service bar features beer, liquor, wine, soda and specialty cocktails. The cruise currently has open seats for Oct. 9, Oct. 15 and Oct. 16.
All of Pittsburgh’s city parks are great places for leaf peepers and autumn aficionados to visit. South Side Riverfront Park and Trail is one of the city’s first riverfront parks and could easily be called the birthplace of the regional Three Rivers Heritage Trail system. It extends beneath the Birmingham Bridge along the Mon River with a boat launch, a canoe launch, a bike trail, a dog park and picnic spaces. Lush trees engulf the trail, making it a perfect spot to see the beauty of autumn on full display without ever leaving the city.
Schenley Park, roughly 456 acres around, has a scenic overlook accessible by car via Overlook Drive. Not only does it offer a sprawling hilltop view of the park’s greenery (or fall colors-ery), but visitors can also appreciate a commanding view of the city’s skyline. The park also boasts a range of trails in Panther Hollow for hikers of all skill levels.
Frick Park, spanning 644 acres, is the largest in Pittsburgh, and has quite a few trails sure to satisfy leaf-peepers with a variety of skill levels. Visitors can opt for a quick hike, or take an almost-5-mile excursion around the whole park via its Loop Trail. The walk feels almost forest-like, with an assortment of tulip, ash and red maple trees all changing colors at different rates and in subtly different ways.
DAY TRIPS FROM PITTSBURGH
Moraine State Park, about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh, is home to a 3,200-acre Lake Arthur and a protected green space around it. Through the park’s 16,725 acres, visitors can walk along the lake on the south shore’s Sunken Garden Trail, pedal along the north shore’s bike trail or paddleboard with SurfSUP Adventures. The diverse landscape features rolling hills, lush forests and idyllic waters, offering different ways to see the colors of fall.
McConnells Mill, only 15 minutes from Moraine State Park, is home to a red-covered bridge and a historic gristmill. Encompassing 2,546 acres of the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, a National Natural Landmark, the park’s multiple scenic overlooks and waterfalls make it a picturesque location for all seasons.
Pennsylvania Route 6 is a good place for leaf-peeping travelers looking for a day or weekend trip to start. The highway spans 403 miles across the northern part of the state, lined at times by sprawling forests and at others, by small towns.
The Oil Heritage region in Crawford County encompasses various sites that feature oil artifacts, industrial landscapes and scenic communities, and is often dubbed “The Valley that Changed the World.” This area witnessed the birthplace of the oil industry, and while that may sound contrary to the beauty of the natural world, tourists can take the Titusville Railroad through 13 1/2 miles of the scenic Oil Creek valley, observing a vast expanse of fall foliage.
The parks and trails surrounding Lake Erie are filled with breathtaking autumn views, especially the tree-lined trails of Presque Isle, its 3,200-acre peninsula state park. The woodlands of the park and Presque Isle Bay are well-known for the swath of fall-colored foliage, and locals recommend the paved Multi-Purpose Trail for some of the best looks at changing leaves. The Sidewalk Trail is another easy fall choice, starting directly across the main road from the Presque Isle Lighthouse and running all the way across the park to Misery Bay. October is peak leaf-peeper season in Presque Isle, but it’s the off-season for everyone else, so travelers can enjoy fewer crowds.
The Kinzua Sky Walk in Mt. Jewett was once the tallest and longest railroad viaduct in the world. But now, the remains of the bridge, restored after being ravaged by a tornado in 2003, offer a breathtaking 225-foot high perch overlooking the valley below. It extends 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge, and a walkway with a set of railroad tracks leading to the end of the overlook with a partial glass floor. Between the valley and the panoramic views of the surrounding woods, it’s an ideal spot for leaf peepers to peep some leaves. The prime viewing window is the last week of September and the first three weeks of October.
Mount Davis in Somerset boasts the highest point in Pennsylvania, sitting at 3,213 feet above sea level. The mountain is part of the Forbes State Forest and is home to some stunning views of the surrounding Laurel Highlands. Overlooks and observation towers can be found around the mountain, making it an idyllic locale to see some fall beauty across the Highlands. Comment end
The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, officially called Pine Creek Gorge, offers one of the most beautiful autumn views in the commonwealth. On either side of the 47-mile gorge are two state parks, Leonard Harrison State Park and Colton Point State Park, which both offer lookouts and trails down into the gorge. The whole area is surrounded by about 165,000 acres of the Tioga State Forest. The leaves of the area’s ample deciduous hardwoods take on shades of yellow, orange, red and purple during the fall, making late September through mid-October an ideal time to take in the view.
The Marie Antoinette Lookout, located just off of Route 6 near Wyalusing, offers a view of the Susquehanna River, surrounding farmland and French Azilum, a French refugee settlement built sometime in the late 1700s or early 1800s and believed to have been a safe haven for Marie Antionette. The lookout is not exceptionally well-maintained, and the turn-off can be a little tricky to find. A yellow sign advertising food and drink mark the turn that visitors must take to reach it.
For an autumn trek along the Lackawaxen River in northeastern Pennsylvania, look no farther than The Stourbridge Line in Honesdale. Even though this locale marks the farthest from the city on our list, it’s a must for seasoned leaf-peepers with some free time and a willingness to travel. The vintage railroad ambles through the foliage-filled Pocono Mountains, offering a range of trains and trips from President’s Day through the holiday season. It’s best known, though, for its autumn excursions. The Pocono Foliage Express, a 1.5-hour round-trip, claims to be “one of the best ways to take in the natural beauty of the Northern Pocono Mountains during the peak season while the leaves are changing from a beautiful green, to all kinds of reds and oranges.” And Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 9 through Oct. 31, travelers can climb aboard for a trip to the pumpkin patch, basking in the colors of fall along the way.
WHEN TO GO
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources will post weekly fall foliage reports to its website. Updated every Thursday, the reports will be “offering tips and resources to help residents and visitors experience a colorful autumn in a variety of ways across the commonwealth,” according to the press release. Leaf peepers can also check the Penn’s Woods Fall Foliage story map and the Pennsylvania Tourism Office website for suggestions about the best spots to see fall foliage.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original publication in Sept. of 2021.