Encompassing areas around Pittsburgh, Erie, Altoona, and Johnstown, Western Pennsylvania is home to rolling mountains covered with dense forests whose leaves change each fall. If you plan to be around Pittsburgh, Erie, Altoona, or Johnstown this September through November, grab your camera, pack a picnic basket, and hop in the car for a beautiful day of spectacular fall foliage and colors in Western Pennsylvania.
These scenic fall foliage drives and tours will take you down some of the area's most charming roads and historic byways, decorated with leaves of brilliant red, deep orange, and shimmering yellow. Whether you choose to drive yourself or take a riverboat or train fall foliage tour, fall in Pennsylvania is a beautiful experience.
Located about 30 miles from Pittsburgh, Raccoon Creek State Park is a 7,500-acre state park that runs along Raccoon Creek through Hanover and Independence townships. Drive yourself to the park and explore miles of foliage, then drive south 58 miles through the rolling hills and farmland on Pennsylvania State Road 18 to Waynesburg to truly get lost in the array of colors.
New Castle to Slippery Rock
About 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and just 18 miles away from the Ohio border, the city of New Castle is another great place to start a fall foliage drive in Western Pennsylvania. Take a 16-mile driving tour of lush fall foliage along Pennsylvania State Road 108 from historic New Castle to Slippery Rock, then top off your trip with a stop at the beautiful old grist mill at the picturesque McConnell's Mill State Park.
The Lincoln Highway was one of the first transcontinental roads constructed in the United States and was formally dedicated in 1913; however, this old highway was gradually replaced with numbered designations after the U.S. Numbered Highway System was adopted in 1926.
If you want to make a day of driving down this historic road in western Pennsylvania, start off in Irwin and take a driving tour west along a portion of U.S. Interstate 30 known as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. Stretching from Irwin in the west to Abbottstown in the east, the LHHC covers 200 miles of south-central Pennsylvania and is easily accessible from Pittsburgh.
Forts, caverns, state parks, and Old Bedford Village are interesting stops along the way, or you could continue into central Pennsylvania along the LHHC to Latrobe, where you'll find the Lincoln Highway Experience, a unique museum attraction that has a 60-page guide to sites you'll find while driving down the LHHC.
The Laurel Highlands
For the best variety of trees and foliage, head about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh to Mount Pleasant to take a driving tour through what's known as the Laurel Highlands. Encompassing Cambria, Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania, this forested region is home to some of the best displays of fall colors in the state.
For optimal foliage viewing, take Pennsylvania Route 31 East from Mount Pleasant to Somerset, passing by the Roaring Run Natural Area near Jones Mills along the way. Then, turn onto Pennsylvania Route 601 North and continue onto Pennsylvania Route 985 to Johnstown.
Alternatively, turn south onto Pennsylvania Route 1009 in Bear Rocks before you get to Somerset. Then, continue on Pennsylvania Route 381 in Normalville until you get to Mill Run, where you'll find Frank Lloyd Wright's famous residence known as Fallingwater in Mill Run. Finally, end your journey in Ohiopyle State Park, which is home to the gorgeous Youghiogheny River.
A favorite loop for many foliage fanatics, the Elk and Clinton County Scenic Loop goes right through the heart of the Pennsylvania elk herd and takes about two hours to traverse. Autumn is a particularly good time to hear the bugle call of the elk, which provides a great soundtrack for viewing the richly-colored foliage.
This 127-mile scenic route runs through Elk and Clinton counties and features 23 viewing sites along the road that offer breathtaking views of the picturesque landscape of Pennsylvania. The loop route starts at Exit 111 on I-80 along Pennsylvania Route 153 to Penfield then turns onto Pennsylvania Route 555, past the Dent's Run Elk and Hicks Run Wildlife viewing areas on the way to Driftwood. From there, you'll turn onto Pennsylvania Route 120 to Renovo, then turn south onto Pennsylvania Route 144, which runs all the way back to Interstate 80 in Snow Shoe.
One of the most scenic roads in Pennsylvania, the Longhouse National Scenic Byway was built specifically for tourists and offers stunning fall views of the Allegheny National Forest, Kinzua Bay, and the Kinzua Dam.
Circling the Kinzua Creek Arm of the Allegheny Reservoir, the Longhouse National Scenic Byway starts and ends in Kane. Head north from Kane along Pennsylvania Route 321 North, which enters the Allegheny National Forest just outside town. Continue on Route 321 past Red Bridge and the Old Powerhouse Museum until you reach the Bradford Ranger Station at the intersection of routes 321 and 59, where you'll turn left toward the Allegheny Reservoir. Once you cross the reservoir on the Morrison Bridge, turn left onto Longhouse Drive, which winds high above Kinzua Creek Arm before ending back at Route 321 just outside of Kane.
If you'd rather not drive while trying to take in the colorful scenery, you and your family can share the fun of train travel into the heart of Oil Country history on this restored train in Northwest Pennsylvania. The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad offer special fall foliage rides throughout the season that take passengers on a three-hour round-trip tour of the Oil Creek Valley. All the while, a knowledgeable tour guide explains the history of oil in the region and why the area has become known as "the valley that changed the world."
Enjoy a relaxing five-hour scenic cruise on the beautiful Allegheny River as the Captain narrates the sights and points out the beautiful fall foliage and colors. A buffet luncheon, music and games accompany the sightseeing. These fall foliage cruises depart from Station Square in Pittsburgh on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in mid-October.
The elegant paddlewheel riverboat Mississippi Queen generally makes two round-trip Fall Foliage tours from Pittsburgh each October. Make your reservations early, though, as these fall foliage riverboat tours often sell out many months in advance.