Plan your fall foliage outings now close to Pittsburgh

The Farmer’s Almanac estimates that Oct. 5-21 will be peak fall foliage season across Pennsylvania. Not exactly sure how they figure that out so far in advance (and it is literally the same as last year’s date range). Here’s some spots to check out for peak fall leaf viewing this year.

Pine Creek flows through the “Grand Canyon” of Pennsylvania in Leonard Harrison State Park. Photo: Getty Images.

Pine Creek Gorge

🚘⏱ ~3 hours east of Pittsburgh

If you can’t get to the Grand Canyon, might as well go to “the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” Both the Leonard Harrison and the Colton Point state parks offer scenic overlooks — the former is more family-friendly with a playground and picnic areas, while the latter offers a 4-mile steep descent into the floor of the canyon. Choose your own adventure.

Fall colors at Mount Davis. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Mount Davis

🚘⏱ ~2 hours southeast of Pittsburgh

Mount Davis is the highest point in Pennsylvania. It’s well known with highpointers (folks who visit the highest point in each state so they can check it off their list), but don’t let that fancy term intimidate you. The Mount Davis observation tower offers a 360-degree view, but it is easily climbable. The Highpoint Trail is a 5.2-mile loop, so Mount Davis can be a short trip rather than a full day’s destination hike.

Hawn’s overlook in the mountains of Pennsylvania with a view of Raystown Lake in the fall before sunset. Photo: Getty Images.

Raystown Lake

🚘⏱ ~2.5 hours east of Pittsburgh

Raystown Lake is the largest lake entirely in Pennsylvania. It’s 30 miles long and offers the opportunity for both hiking and water adventures. The Allegrippis Trails are popular with mountain bike enthusiasts. The lake offers camping spots and cabins for rent, with many options still available for fall.

Barronvale Covered Bridge in Somerset, PA. Photo: Getty Images.

Somerset’s Covered Bridges

🚘⏱ ~1-hour drive southeast of Pittsburgh

Want something a little less strenuous than a hike? Check out some of the covered bridges in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Uncovering PA has an article that lists all 10 bridges, with some tips on how to see them all. If 10 seems to be a bit much, just choose the Packsaddle Covered Bridge. It is the only covered bridge in the state that is directly over a waterfall. While the waterfall is best viewed during times of high water (such as in the spring), the shortest bridge in Somerset County still looks impressive with fall foliage.

Kinzau Bridge Skywalk, located in the Pennsylvania State Park of the same name, created when a tornado destroyed the iron railroad bridge over the river valley. Photo: Getty Images.

Kinzua Bridge State Park Sky Walk

🚘⏱ ~3-hour drive northeast of Pittsburgh

Once the highest and longest railroad viaduct in the world, six of the Kinzua Viaduct’s remaining steel towers were transformed into the Sky Walk in 2011. It extends 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge, offering panoramic views (and thanks to some glass-bottomed sections of the sky walk’s deck, the opportunity to look straight down below).

View of hills covered with fall trees from Raven Rock overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest West Virginia. Photo: Getty Images.

Coopers Rock, West Virginia

🚘⏱ ~90-minute drive south of Pittsburgh

Want to technically leave the state so you can say you had a vacation this year? Take a short drive to the iconic views of Coopers Rock State Forest. Located 13 miles from Morgantown, this West Virginia State Park lists 20+ trails on its website; be sure to take a photo at the overlook.

Know before you go: Fine fall colors near Pittsburgh

As a reminder, overcrowding is a possible issue for these outdoor spots. Practice social distancing, wear your mask and check the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website for updates on possible spots that might turn away visitors before you leave home.

This story was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated for the 2021 fall leave peeping season. 

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