12 Best Spots to See Pennsylvania’s Fall Foliage

by Holly Riddle
Updated September 29, 2022

best fall foliage pennsylvania
Photo: Peterson Photography

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Pennsylvania’s fall foliage season is special.

You might not think of the Pennsylvania autumn as particularly vibrant or picturesque — maybe you’re more likely to imagine aspen-covered mountains in Colorado, or New England country lanes awash in vibrant hues. However, the state actually boasts one of the longest-running, most varied fall foliage seasons in the world — according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that is.

That means, for busy travelers who aren’t always able to pull themselves away from work for a quick weekend getaway, there are more opportunities to catch peak fall foliage before it’s gone for good. You have multiple weekends in Pennsylvania during which you can enjoy a full range of colors.

So where do you go to see Pennsylvania’s amazing fall foliage? Here are 12 of my favorite spots.

Related Read: Where to View the Best Fall Foliage in New England

1. The Laurel Highlands

fall colors laurel highlands penn
Photo: Darrell McCrea

Why you should go: An expansive region with multiple “official” scenic driving loops.

  • Nearest Town: Pittsburgh
  • Peak Foliage: October

While Pittsburgh isn’t technically inside the Laurel Highlands, it is the largest city near this region, which means travelers can easily book a city stay in Pittsburgh and then drive east outside of the city for all their leaf peeping.

The Laurel Highlands offers two official scenic driving loops for fall foliage viewing, as designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The four-hour Northern Loop is 125 miles on a ridge, while the 70-mile, three-hour Southern Loop travels through the region’s valleys.

Related Read: 12 Super Fun Weekend Road Trips From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2. Valley Forge National Historic Park

Valley Forge PA fall colors
Photo: Delmas Lehman

Why you should go: Add a bit of history to your leaf-peeping.

  • Nearest Town: Philadelphia
  • Peak Foliage: Mid- to late October

If you’d rather visit the eastern side of the state than the western portion, though, you can similarly book a city trip to Philadelphia, and then drive a mere half an hour to Valley Forge National Historic Park. There, you’ll enjoy rolling hills dotted with fall foliage, but also a healthy helping of history.

The park is the same that probably sounds familiar from your elementary-age history lessons; does the name ‘George Washington’ ring a bell? Stop by to not only explore the more than 3,000 acres of monuments, woods and wide-open spaces, but also to enjoy a range of educational programming.

Related Read: 10 Peaceful Cabin Rentals Near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

3. French Creek State Park

French Creek State Park PA fall foliage
Photo: Ron Zanoni

Why you should go: Explore the largest stretch of forest between D.C. and NYC.

  • Nearest Town: Elverson
  • Peak Foliage: Mid-October

French Creek State Park is notable because it is home to the largest section of contiguous forest from Washington, D.C., to New York City. As such, it’s the perfect place to go to get your outdoor fix if you’re stuck in Philly, D.C., Baltimore or even NYC.

It’s only a short drive from all four, meaning you can easily make this a weekend trip, with time to spare. Beyond the leaf peeping, park activities include hiking, camping, boating and wildlife watching. Keep your eyes peeled for deer and smaller furry friends, such as raccoons and squirrels.

Related read: 10 Luxury Cabin Rentals in the Poconos

4. Jim Thorpe

jim thorpe pennsylvania fall foliage
Photo: Khairil Azhar Junos

Why you should go: Celebrate fall with a dedicated fall foliage festival.

  • Nearest Town: Jim Thorpe
  • Peak Foliage: October

Jim Thorpe is a quaint little town  — yes, an odd name, but that’s certainly not the oddest place name you’ll find in the state) in northeast Pennsylvania. Nestled in the mountains, Jim Thorpe offers loads of fun for the family — and every other traveler — throughout the year.

During the fall, though, the town comes alive with peak fall charm, partially thanks to its annual Jim Thorpe Fall Foliage Festival. The event includes a free concert, train rides, bike tours and more, all in the historic downtown.

Related Read: 11 Luxury Cabin Rentals in Pennsylvania for a Pampered Vacation

5. Centre County

centre county pennsylvania autumn foliage
Photo: Flickr

Why you should go: Near-endless outdoor adventure with autumn vibes.

  • Nearest Town: State College
  • Peak Foliage: Late October

Nicknamed Happy Valley, State College and the surrounding county sit right in the middle of the state and offer a bevy of outdoor adventure, so, no matter how you enjoy seeing your fall foliage, you have plenty of options.

Prefer to kayak or canoe? Take the views in from Black Moshannon State Park. Want to hike (or bike) your way to perfect views? Make tracks for Mount Nittany. Just want to take things in while you kick back and relax in a favorite hotel? Try the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park.

Related Read: Fall Foliage 101: Why Do Leaves Change Colors in the Fall?

6. Bedford

bedford pennsylvania autumn
Photo: Jerry Buseck

Why you should go: Small-town charm plus fall foliage.

  • Nearest Town: Bedford
  • Peak Foliage: Early to mid-October

Much like Jim Thorpe, the town of Bedford also hosts its own fall foliage festival. The Bedford Fall Foliage Festival takes place each year in early October and has been named one of the top festivals in the country.

With a street fair, antique car parade and more, it’s a fun opportunity to enjoy the fall foliage of the surrounding mountains, but in a small-town setting. If you’re looking for a great place to stay during your visit, try the luxurious and historic Omni Bedford Springs Resort.

Related Read: 11 Dreamy Pennsylvania Glamping Spots To Book Now

7. The Thousand Steps Standing Stone Trail

1000 steps pennsylvania fall foilage
Photo: Brian Yarvin

Why you should go: An easy hike to reach spectacular views.

  • Nearest Town: Huntingdon
  • Peak Foliage: Mid- to late October

The Thousand Steps Standing Stone Trail does require, yes, a thousand steps — and they’re all up a natural stone staircase. However, if your thighs can handle the burn, you’ll find that this hike isn’t all too difficult and it comes with some stellar views at the top.

You definitely won’t regret adding this short hike to your itinerary, whether you’re staying in nearby State College or driving in from somewhere further away.

8. The Kinzua Sky Walk

Kinzua Sky Walk Pennsylvania Autumn
Photo: Jim Vallee

Why you should go: See the leaves from a birds-eye perspective.

  • Nearest Town: Mt. Jewett
  • Peak Foliage: Late September to mid-October

The Kinzua Sky Walk is a repurposed railroad bridge. In its heyday, the bridge was the tallest and longest railroad viaduct in the world. Now, it offers visitors an unparalleled viewpoint at 225 feet, as you walk out more than 600 feet over the gorge.

If you’re not afraid of heights, you’ll find yourself treated to lovely fall views and some perfect photo ops. If you are afraid of heights…well, you should maybe try one of the other options on our list.

Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See New York’s Fall Foliage

9. Gettysburg National Military Park

gettysburg fall colors pennsylvania
Photo: Kate Short

Why you should go: Add some spooks to your sightseeing.

  • Nearest Town: Gettysburg
  • Peak Foliage: Mid- to late October

Fall is spooky season. It’s just a given. And one of the most haunted spots in Pennsylvania? Gettysburg National Military Park. This historic Civil War battlefield is beautiful all times of year, but it really takes the cake in the fall, when the fields are dotted with fall foliage.

Grab some of the local cider and set out on your explorations. You’ll find plenty of spooky spots to get in your thrills and chills, whether you take a haunted tour, stay in a haunted inn or just visit some of the purported most haunted spots on the battlefield.

10. The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

pennsylvania grand canyon in fall
Photo: MH Anderson

Why you should go: Gorgeous views from mountain top to valley.

  • Nearest town: Wellsboro
  • Peak Foliage: October

The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, also known technically as Pine Creek Gorge, is flanked by Leonard Harrison State Park, where you can find hikes that lead you directly from the canyon rim all the way down to the very bottom, where you’ll find a babbling brook.

The hike itself is relatively easy, even if it does require a lot of steps, but the views — from any angle — are worth it. If, though, you’ve had your fill of hiking recently, you can still catch some pretty spectacular photo ops from the overlooks that sit just steps away from the parking area.

Related Read: 9 Amazing Places to See Fall Colors in Michigan

11. Big Pocono State Park

pennsylvanua delaware water gap autumn
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A view with altitude, no hiking required.

  • Nearest Town: Tannersville
  • Peak Foliage: Mid-October

Along those same lines, if you’re looking for the best views with the least amount of work possible, try Big Pocono State Park. You can drive very nearly up to the summit of Camelback Mountain, for views of the Delaware Water Gap.

Be sure to check the surrounding region and scope things out if you’re a skier — the area is prime ski country in the winter months.

12. Lake Erie

erie pennsylvania fall colors
Photo: Flickr

Why you should go: Views from the water — or from terra firma for the landlubbers.

  • Nearest Town: Erie
  • Peak Foliage: Mid-October

See Pennsylvania’s fall foliage from the water when you visit the town of Erie and Presque Isle State Park. There, you can book a boat tour aboard the Lady Kate, for scenic rides on Lake Erie. The tour includes historic lighthouses, the Gull Point Nature Preserve, Presque Isle and the Erie skyline.

If, though, you’re feeling a little seasick, you can still find great views at Presque Isle State Park for a mixture of sandy shoreline and fall foliage, all from solid ground.

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