The state of Pennsylvania is a diverse East Coast destination, with a combination of magnificent natural beauty as well as bustling urban hubs. While driving around the state, you’ll find mountainous regions, wine trails, amusement parks, historical landmarks, and white water rafting. In Pennsylvania, the larger cities are located in the southern ends, with Philadelphia situated on the southeastern side and Pittsburgh on the southwest. But no matter where you drive or visit, both places are great starting points for a variety of fun road trips around the state.
Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon
Yes, there is a really a grand canyon in Pennsylvania, though the official name is Pine Creek Gorge. This ancient canyon and surrounding trails offer plenty of incredible lookout points with jaw-dropping panoramic views. Choose the most picturesque drive (along routes 44 and 414) as these roads run along the Pine Creek Rail Tail’s southern side. You can drive around the area in three or four hours, and you can picnic along the way, but it’s best to spend at least one night to appreciate this natural wonder. (The town of Williamsport has the most lodging options). You’ll find other attractions in Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, including hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and several museums.
Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail
With over 300 wineries in the state, Pennsylvania has no shortage of wine trails for road trippers (there are ten to choose from). One centrally-located wine trail is the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail. It’s situated near State College, PA, just north of Harrisburg and passes by 16 different wineries with great riesling, chardonnay, and pinot noir varietals. You can visit several wineries that offer tasting rooms and tours, including Spyglass Ridge and Shade Mountain, in two to three hours. While exploring the area’s wineries, you can also visit Shikellamy State Park for a scenic hike and go antiquing in Selinsgrove, one of the oldest towns in the state.
Philadelphia to Hershey
Driving from Philadelphia to Hershey, Pennsylvania is an interesting ride, as the busy, urban highway 76 slowly transforms into country roads, winding along farmlands and charming towns. In Hershey, you can tour the town and learn about its fascinating history before spending a day at Hershey Park or ZooAmerica. Straight through the drive takes around two hours, but before you reach Hershey, be sure to stop in Lancaster, the home of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. There, you can tour the Amish Country, learn about the Underground Railroad, and visit the Dutch Wonderland amusement park.
Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, the beautiful Lehigh Gorge State Park is about a 1.5-hour drive from Philadelphia and encompasses over 5,000 acres in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne and Carbon counties. Known for great whitewater rafting, this area features stone cliffs, sprawling wooded areas, waterfalls, and stunning overlooks. Be sure to stop and explore the quaint town of Jim Thorpe and learn about the Native American Olympic winner that the town honors. You can also ride the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to get a view of the scenery from a different angle.
New Hope, PA
Driving through the charming town of New Hope, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area is truly delightful. Situated about 40 miles north of Philadelphia (about a one-hour drive on I-95), New Hope is a quaint area with antique shops, cool boutiques, a variety of restaurants and bars, as well as historical sites, such as the Delaware State canal that runs through town. Nearby, you can visit the Children’s Museum of Bucks County, Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, and plenty of wineries and breweries. Just across the river in New Jersey is the equally adorable town of Lambertville and getting there is an easy walk across a bridge.
Pittsburgh to Falling Water (Frank Lloyd Wright House)
In southwestern Pennsylvania, the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, called Falling Water is about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh. Driving here takes about 90 minutes and the drive goes through a scenic area of the state—through Fayette county's Bear Run Natural Reserve. You can enjoy some beautiful vistas along the way, as there are several jaw-dropping lookout points. The Falling Water home is situated among waterfalls and dense woods, as it’s known as an architectural wonder. Be sure to plan in advance to visit this incredible home, as reservations are required and you can only visit with a guided tour.
Ghost Town Trail
The state of Pennsylvania is home to a number of abandoned towns with fascinating histories. If you wish to explore these quiet, low-key destinations, it’s about a 46-mile drive around Indiana and Cambria Counties in Western Pennsylvania. It’s best to start out early in the morning to make the most of the sites. Called the Ghost Town Trail, this scenic drive is a designated National United States Recreation Trail and attracts over 80,000 visitors each year and passes through a number of former coal-mining towns, covered bridges, state parks with fabulous views in three sections that include Blacklick, Dilltown, and Nanty Glo.
Bushkill Falls, PA
Considered the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls is located in the pristine Pocono Mountains along route 209 that offers plenty of breathtaking views. Situated about 100 miles from Philadelphia, Bushkill Falls is an ideal destination for a road trip and best to start out early in the morning, as Bushkill opens at 9 a.m. Once at Bushkill, you can see eight dramatic waterfalls, hike scenic (but easy, marked) trails, go fishing and enjoy paddle boating and natural scenery. Nearby, you can explore another waterfall, Resica Falls, as well as the Pocono Indian Museum, Millbrook Village, and Sugar Mountain Stable for horseback riding.
As the site of the famous Battle of Gettysburg (a turning point in the U.S. Civil War), a road trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is relatively easy and almost mid-point from Philadelphia (about 140 miles) and Pittsburgh (approximately 185 miles). There’s an incredible number of sites to enjoy in this town, including guided battlefield tours, living history programs, hiking, and an array of outdoor activities. Close by is the Adams County Gettysburg Scenic Valley Tour, along with wineries, breweries, and antique shopping. It’s best to avoid visiting in summer when Gettysburg is the most crowded.
Allegheny National Forest
The Keystone state's only national forest is Allegheny National Forest and it’s located in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Situated about 100 miles north of Pittsburgh, it’s close enough for a quick day trip but overall, it’s a fantastic destination if you wish to stay a few days and admire the wonders of nature within 500,000 expansive acres. With more than 100 miles of hiking trails (and elevations that ascend to nearly 2,300 feet above sea level), this national forest offers birdwatching, mountain biking trails, camping, boating along the river, and ATV riding as well. Two places that are particularly picturesque in this region are Hearts Content and Tionesta National Scenic areas.