Sylvan Pennsylvania

Hiking in the Fall

With the Allegheny mountains in the west, and the Appalachian mountains in the east, Pennsylvania is blessed with some challenging hiking terrain. But there are also opportunities for people who would rather take it easy. The state's "rails to trails" program, which converts unused railway lines into hiking paths, has yielded 796 miles of wide, easy, rolling paths through the fall foliage.

Tiadaghton State Forest, on the Allegheny Plateau in north central Pennsylvania, is one excellent locale for on-foot leaf-peeping in the beginning of October. The Old Loggers Path trail, running 27 miles in a region dominated by northern hardwoods with some mixed oak, leads through the valleys of Rock Run and Pleasant Stream, as well as through the abandoned logging town of Masten. The trail, much of it on old logging roads and the grades of logging railroads, offers some gorgeous vistas of wooded valleys spread out below.

A little farther south lies another treat for fall visitors to Pennsylvania—the rugged 27-mile Mid-State Trail through the Bald Eagle State Forest. The route traverses the dramatic sandstone ridges of the state's ridge and valley region, passing through extensive densely-forested areas. Hikers on this ridge-top path get a peek at a wide variety of timber stands, from the newly regenerated to the mature and virgin—all at their color-changing best during the middle two weeks of October.

Even more populated areas, such as the southeastern part of the state near Philadelphia, offer opportunities for hikers to explore the splendor of fall scenery. The Ridley Creek, Wissahickon Gorge and the Wilderness Trails are all located within a 30-minute drive of Philadelphia, and all offer easy, mellow walks among the colorful autumn trees.

The most famous of Pennsylvania's trails, however, is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, affectionately known as the AT. The AT runs for 220 miles through Pennsylvania, passing through the southeastern part of the state, where fall colors are at their peak during the last two weeks of October. The trail enters Pennsylvania in the South Mountains, traversing the Michaux State Forest for 40 miles, crossing the Susquehanna River, then passing through 114 miles of the rugged, heavily-forested Weiser State Forest. It finally crosses into New Jersey at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Another long-distance trail, the North Country National Scenic Trail, crosses the northwestern part of Pennsylvania, passing through the stunning northern hardwoods—black cherries, maples, beeches, birches, and oaks—of Allegheny National Forest and the adjoining Cook Forest State Park/Clear Creek State Forest. These trees are at their colorful best during the middle two weeks of October.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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