Did you know that Pennsylvania offers some of the best fall foliage in the country? It’s true! Thanks to our geography, PA boasts over 130 tree species. Plus, our state offers the added benefit of various shrubs that contribute to its fall color palette. Each October, these trees and shrubs give PA residents a wonderful gift before they fade away and winter arrives.
While PA’s many local and state parks each offer their own unique fall foliage offerings and events, there’s one area of the state where the sights are truly spectacular: The Laurel Highlands.
Located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, these highlands offer visitors breathtaking views and some of the best fall foliage displays to be seen. If you’re a fan of fall foliage, then this mountainous region provides you with two wonderful driving tour options that let you experience the beauty of these changing leaves on a whole new level.
Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour – Northern Loop
Serious leaf peepers will want to take full advantage of this wonderful road trip. Approximately four hours long and covering a 125-mile loop, this scenic driving tour provides plenty of opportunities to fully indulge in fall colors.
Travelling along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, the tour begins with a bang at The Laurel Ridge. This densely forested area includes seven state parks, a 70-mile hiking trail and plenty of yellow, orange and red leaves to dazzle and delight.
The next destination on your road trip is the Conemaugh Gap. Named after the mighty river that carved this chasm in the Laurel Ridge, this unique route lets you travel along and through the ridge! Plus, you get to enjoy the added bonus of seeing the third deepest gorge in our state!
From the Conemaugh Gap, you’ll next travel to the Johnstown Inclined Plane. Now, navigating your way through the world’s steepest vehicular inclined plane may sound intimidating but it’s well worth the journey. Surveying the fall foliage and the landscape from 900 feet above the river valley is a site you won’t soon forget.
As you make your back down the inclined plane, you’ll travel to the Allegheny Plateau portion of the Highlands. Composed of various high ridges and steep valleys, portions of this area receive contrasting weather elements. One area may experience rain while the high barriers on the other side keep things dry. It’s a marvelous anomaly to experience!
Before your tour culminates at the point where you started, you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring panoramic views at Beams Rock Overlook in Forbes State Forest, hike a trail to marvel at the Spruce Flats Bog and Wildlife Area, and get a beautiful view of Linn Run Hollow at the Wolf Rocks Overlook.
Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour – Southern Loop
If you’re travelling with young children or older adults, then the Southern Loop option of the Discover fall Scenic Driving Tour may be a better choice for you!
Clocking in at an easier to manage 2½ hour timeframe and 70-mile loop, this option begins at the Laurel Ridge and then diverts to Baughman Rock to witness the wonder of the Youghiogheny River Gorge. From there, you’ll drive to Laurel Hill State Park to enjoy scenic views and fantastic exhibits. After you leave the park, you’ll pass through the Seven Springs Mountain Resort and enter The Laurel Highlands and the Allegheny Plateau to complete the loop.
Before you set out to explore the Northern or Southern Loop, you’ll want to follow these helpful tips:
- Monitor the weather forecast and dress accordingly
- Pack and refer to maps as cell phone and GPS services may be affected by the terrain and remoteness of the surrounding areas
- Check the various park website for fall events as they may result in more traffic and extended travel times
- Bring water and light snacks to hold you over until lunch or dinner
- Take everything with you and leave nothing behind
Now you’re ready to hit the road for an amazing fall foliage trip! Be safe, have fun and take plenty of pictures!