Five Great Hikes to Enjoy Pennsylvania Fall Foliage

Not only have we found great places to take in autumn's glory, but also when it's the best time to go.

When my husband and I were planning to move to New England years ago, a friend recommended that we take time during our first fall for leaf peeping. I misunderstood her and thought the phrase was “leaf peeking,” and that I was meant to sneak around like a detective, peeking at trees but trying to keep myself hidden. Some kind people in New Hampshire set me straight.

Whether we’re peeping or peeking, it’s time to get out and enjoy the fall colors. I spoke with Rachael Christie, the environmental education specialist at Forbes State Forest, who recommended a few of the best places to stretch our legs and see the views.

Guided hikes: Christie is leading two fall foliage hikes this month. The first is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 on Laurel Mountain in Westmoreland County. The 4.5-mile route to Wolf Rocks Overlook includes a stop at a scenic vista halfway through the hike. Due to rocky terrain, Christie says it’s an intermediate-skill hike. Access the trail by parking in the lot at Laurel Summit State Park.

The second guided hike, to the Pine Knob Overlook in Fayette County, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. The hike highlights the autumn colors along the Chestnut Ridge, the western portion of Forbes State Forest. Start at the Lake Hollow picnic area, but be prepared for switchbacks and a more strenuous hike of 4 miles. Christie says the views are worth it; you’ll overlook Uniontown and see the changing colors from above.

To sign up for hikes, contact Christie at rachristie@pa.gov.

Gentle hikes: If you seek a trek that’s a little easier, check out the Beam Rocks Trail, a 1-mile out-and-back hike on Laurel Mountain. This route covers relatively flat terrain, but halfway through the hike, you’ll see the vistas from a sandstone outcropping. Access the trail from a parking lot off Laurel Summit Road.

Another option is the Spruce Flats Bog, a half-mile walk that features a viewing platform. The cotton grass will turn the bog a golden color, and the larch trees, a type of evergreen species, will have yellow needles. The bog trail also is accessible from Laurel Summit Road.

Peeping from your car: Visit Mount Davis in Somerset County — the highest point in Pennsylvania — for good views of the fall foliage earlier in the month. You can drive right to the top and climb an observation deck to see a view of the treetops. If you want to add on a hike, park at the Mount Davis picnic area, where you can find a 2-mile round-trip trail.

Click here for access trail maps for Forbes State Forest. 
 

What to eat now: spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is hitting its peak mid-fall — grab one and use it as a low-calorie alternative to traditional pasta noodles, says Melinda Wolterman, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist.

Low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, potassium and Vitamin C, a cup of the cooked squash contains about 50 calories.

To prepare your “pasta,” wash and slice the squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, saving them for a snack, Wolterman says. Lightly season the squash to your taste. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Keep things simple by adding pasta sauce directly to the squash boat before eating.

To prepare the seeds, separate them from the strings and soak them in a bowl of water with a few teaspoons of salt for 24 hours. Lay them on a towel to dry. Coat them in oil and seasoning, and roast at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. 
 

 

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