Take the Less-Traveled Roads to Enjoy Dazzling Fall Foliage
Nestled into the ridges and valleys of the Allegheny Plateau in beautiful northwestern Pennsylvania, the Allegheny National Forest region offers low-traffic, two-lane scenic byways with plenty of opportunities to view fall foliage and to explore charming small towns, local restaurants and unusual shops brimming with collectibles and rare treasures.
Fall really is bigger here with over 513,000 acres of hardwood forests brushed with the colors of scarlet, sunshine yellow and brilliant orange. At elevations of over 2,000 feet, the fall foliage usually peeks early, with prime “leaf peeping” normally the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October.
Three suggested “must see” scenic drives are: the Longhouse National Scenic Byway, the Eldred-Rock City History Loop and the Scenic Kinzua-Route 6 Loop.
Longhouse National Scenic Byway
The Longhouse National Scenic Byway circles the Kinzua Creek arm of the Allegheny Reservoir through some of the most beautiful scenery on the Allegheny National Forest. It is a 27-mile loop around the reservoir and was selected by USA Today as one of the top 50 scenic drives in America. Leave Bradford on Rt. 219 south to head west onto Rt. 59. As you enter the forest you will pass Timberdoodle Flats, a short interpretive birding trail. Continuing west, you will pass the Bradford Ranger Station; you are now officially entering the scenic byway. For those interested in leaving the car for a hike in the woods, Morrison Trail, located along Rt. 59, has two loops: the 5.3-mile Morrison Trail Loop which passes boulder fields and forgotten homesteads, and the 8.3-mile Rimrock Trail Loop, which drops down to the shoreline of the Allegheny Reservoir.
Watch for the signs along the byway for Rimrock Overlook and Jakes Rocks. These scenic overlooks offer stunning vistas of the Allegheny Reservoir from atop impressive rock formations. Longhouse Drive, along the western shoreline, loops around the reservoir, high above the Kinzua Creek Arm, passing Dewdrop Recreation Area before ending back at Route 321.
From this point, turn right at the intersection and drive approximately nine miles south on Rt. 321 into Kane for dining, shopping and wine tasting! The Colonial Inn, Texas Red Hots/4 Sons and Szymanski’s Restaurant are all family owned eateries located in Kane. The Kane Depot, a restored train station, located at the intersection of Rt. 6 and Rt. 66 is the home of Artworks at the Depot. This artisan run co-op offers quality watercolor, pen & ink, local books, jewelry, hand-turned wooden bowls and other collectible handcrafted items and is open weekends or by appointment. Edgewood Herbs, 89 School Street, East Kane is located just a few minutes out of town. This enchanting shop offers gift items from and for the garden along with wonderful vinegars, homemade soaps, jewelry and cooking herbs fresh from Kay’s herb garden. Just a few minutes away, Flickerwood Wine Cellars is known as the “Winery that Rocks” because of their great variety of wines and the musical entertainment offered in the wine lounge. The wine lounge is open seven days a week and here you can sample a wide variety of award-winning wines including the new “Kinzua Journey,” a sparkling white wine that has a refreshing grapefruit aftertaste.
Leaving Kane, return to Rt. 321 to finish your drive among the colors of fall as you circle the eastern shoreline of the Allegheny Reservoir through the dense forest. At the intersection of Rt. 321 and Rt. 59, turn east to return to Rt. 219, then north to return to Bradford.
Eldred-Rock City History Loop
The Eldred-Rock City History Loop begins in Bradford. Travel north on Rt. 219 to exit at Foster Brook. Then head east on Rt. 346, which weaves and curls around the hillsides as it passes through the forest. Before you reach the village of Eldred, watch for the sign for Indian Creek Road.
Turn onto Indian Creek Road to visit “The Old School House Shoppe.” Located in an old-fashioned school house, the former classrooms are now storefronts, with the hallway a walkable Main Street connecting to more than 20 theme shops. Stores within this 6,000 square foot space include the Old Paths Country Store, Shabby Chic Shoppe, Vintage Kitchen Shoppe, Northwood Rustic Cabin Shoppe, the American Civil War & WWII Shoppe, the Victorian & All Year Christmas Shoppe along with antiques, reclaimed treasures and many handcrafted items. Their Grand Opening is planned for Sept. 14-15 from 10am-5pm.
Return to Rt. 346, travel east till it ends in a “T” intersection with Rt. 446 and turn right into Eldred. The Eldred WWII Museum is on the right. This museum dedicated to preserving the history of World War II was once the site of the National Munitions Company which employed 1,500 people. Allow at least two hours to tour the museum. It is open 10am-4pm Tuesday through Saturday, 1-4pm on Sunday, and other hours by appointment.
After visiting the museum, turn back onto Rt. 446, heading north into Olean, New York. The highway designation changes to Rt. 305. As you pass through Portville, NY, look for the dykes to your left. These hold back the floodwaters of the Allegheny River.
Sprague’s Maple Farm Restaurant, 1048 Portville-Obi Road in Portville, NY, is a great side-trip and offers a family-friendly menu. A short hike up the hill to the “sugar shack” is always fun. From Sprague’s return to Rt. 305 and travel to the opposite side of town, and then go straight onto Rt. 417 into Olean. Along the way is the Cutco Ka-Bar Visitors Center. They are open Mon-Friday, 9am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-4pm. In downtown Olean, turn onto Rt. 16, which makes a steep climb in elevation before it reaches Rock City Park.
At Rock City Park there are amazing views and a hiking trail that loops through a field of unusual boulders which were formed during the Pennsylvania Period, about 320 million years ago. Allow 30 to 45 minutes to walk the trail. Rock City Park is open 9am-6pm every day from May 1 through Oct. 31. Continue along Rt. 16; the road designation changes to Rt. 646, then goes into a steep drop to Rt. 346.
Turn right at the intersection and follow Rt. 346 back to East Main Street in Bradford. This is Bradford’s restaurant row. A few local favorites are Turn & Burn for their burgers and Hershey ice cream treats, the Farm Family Restaurant for their hearty appetite pleasing bucket of chicken, Togi’s Sub Station for their wide variety of subs, and Chu Lee Garden Restaurant for their Chinese dishes, a popular favorite being their cashew chicken.
Scenic Kinzua-Route 6 Loop
Begin your tour from Ellicottville traveling south on Rt. 219 until you reach the intersection with Rt. 6 and Rt. 219 at Lantz Corners. Turn left at this intersection to travel east along Pennsylvania’s Route 6, chosen by National Geographic as one of America’s top scenic drives. Follow this road to Mount Jewett.
First settled by Swedish immigrants, this village’s history is honored throughout the town. The Mount Jewett Heritage Mural provides the perfect photo opportunity as you stand in front of the 3-story tall mural that visually tells the history of this part of Pennsylvania. Kaffe Sol, a café and coffee shop, across the road from the mural offers delicious homemade Swedish breads along with other mouth-watering breakfast and lunch selections in the Viking Room.
From Mt. Jewett, continue east on Rt. 6, watching for the brown sign that says Kinzua Bridge State Park; turn left at the sign. You are now entering the Kinzua Bridge Scenic Byway which leads to the Kinzua Sky Walk at the Kinzua Bridge State Park. This byway is a shared use road for cars and bicycles so please slow down to enjoy the scenery as it winds through state game lands, forest conservation areas, and wet lands. You have a very good chance of spotting wild turkeys, deer and other wildlife along this byway.
The Kinzua Bridge State Park offers lovely tree shaded picnic areas, the 1-mile General Kane hiking trail and spectacular views of the Kinzua Gorge, especially during fall foliage season. The Kinzua Sky Walk extends over 600 feet out into the gorge and provides a stunning viewing area through its partial glass floor of the treetops below and an 8-mile vista of the gorge from this scenic overlook. (Read more about the Kinzua Bridge State Park and Kinzua Sky Walk on page 18.)
From the park, return to Rt. 3011 and drive northeast to the intersection with Rt. 59, turn right and head east to Smethport. The Old Jail Museum, located one block from Main Street, is the county historic museum and offers a glimpse of the pioneers that went on to become the lumber and oil barons of America during the 1800s and 1900s. Built by the lumber barons, over 30 historic and Victorian Mansions can be viewed along the self-guided walking tour of the Smethport Mansion District.
From Smethport travel Rt. 6 to Port Allegany, turning right onto Rt. 155 south. From here you will travel along the high ridges and low valleys of the Allegheny Plateau through dense forests that will surround your car with color.
Continue on Rt. 155 to Emporium, turning onto Rt. 120 heading south to Benezette. From Rt. 120, turn onto Rt. 555 to travel to the Elk County Visitors Center, 950 Winslow Hill Road in Benezette. This impressive nature center offers a chance to learn about the elk that live in Pennsylvania and a chance to see and hear the elk “bugle” during the fall. The center is open seven days a week from 8am-8pm during September and October.
From Benezette, travel Rt. 255 to Penfield, turn right onto Rt. 153 and return to Rt. 219 north. Travel Rt. 219 north to Ridgway. The Specialty Shop of Ridgway, located at 213 Main Street, offers many collectibles and handcrafted gift items from the region. From Ridgway head north on Rt. 219 to Bradford or other points north.
Plan time to get out of the car and hike within the forest and explore the state parks and natural sites you will be visiting. Pack a camera, and if going out into the state parks it is suggested you stop at a local restaurant or store to pack a lunch or snacks to take with you as most sites within the forest do not provide food or refreshments. Complete travel information on the region including accommodations and fall travel packages are available by clicking on www.visitANF.com. A free scenic driving brochure may be requested by calling 800-473-9370.