In Autumn, nature puts on the show of the year. Hillsides are blanketed in shades of crimson, gold and brilliant orange. Two-lane highways meander through the forest under a canopy of fall color. The Longhouse National Scenic Byway, the Kinzua Bridge Byway and scenic Route 6 provide excellent opportunities to take the road less-traveled while discovering the heart and soul of America.
Fall foliage peeks early in the Allegheny National Forest Region; prime “leaf-peeping” is late September and the first two weeks of October. To assist you in planning your fall road trip, seven scenic drives are highlighted below for your enjoyment. Use the color-coded map to the right to help plan your fall getaway.
SCENIC ROUTE 6
Pennsylvania Route 6 zigzags through the rural northern counties - stretching east to west - a total of 400 miles. Touring the Allegheny Highlands along Route 6 will take you through gentle rolling farmlands and rugged hillsides. The Allegheny Highlands have elevations of more than 2,040 feet above sea level and pass through some of the world’s finest hardwoods. Sites along the way include Wildcat Park, two wineries where you can stop, sample and shop (Allegheny Cellars Winery and Flickerwood Wine Cellars), and the villages of Ludlow, Kane, Lantz Corners, Mt. Jewett, Smethport and Port Allegany. Smethport features a self-guided walking tour of the Smethport Mansion District. From Mt. Jewett, turn onto the Kinzua Byway, on a side trip to visit the famous Kinzua Sky Walk located at the Kinzua Bridge State Park.
A must see attraction, the Kinzua Sky Walk projects out 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge. Visitors can walk out onto the skywalk and thrill to the wind whipping through their hair as they enjoy the panoramic view of the fall foliage covering the hillsides. Picnic areas and hiking trails are available at the park. The park, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, is open dusk to dawn daily. Admission is free to both the park and the skywalk. The park’s annual Fall Festival will be held Sept. 21-22 and includes a photo walk with famed photographer Ed Bernik, Saturday, Sept. 21 at 10am and a Big Foot Calling Contest at 3pm.
Travel from Interstate 80 onto Route 153 North and enter into the Pennsylvania Wilds. In Ridgway, along Route 219, at Country Squirrel Outfitting you can rent a kayak or canoe to enjoy paddling on the Clarion River or bicycles to ride the nearby trail. Continue north on Route 219 to Westline, to enjoy fishing along Kinzua Creek and hiking or biking the Kinzua Valley Trail. Complete your day with a gourmet dinner served in a casual atmosphere at the Westline Inn. At the Penn Brad Oil Museum in Custer City, visitors can tour a 35-foot tall Standard Rig. Farther north, in the City of Bradford, PA, two American icons are manufactured - the Zippo lighter and the Case knife. Plan to tour the Zippo/Case Museum, which is a snapshot of Americana, and enjoy shopping at their company store located at 1932 Zippo Drive.
Approach the forest from the west on I-80, take Route 66 north and travel into the forests of the Allegheny National Forest Region. The Gateway Lodge, 14870 Route 36 in Cooksburg, is a great stop for dining or an overnight stay. Traveling north on Route 66 you will enter the Allegheny National Forest. Here the trees stretch across the road and you will be surrounded in fall color. The remainder of the journey takes you to the village of Kane. At the Kane Depot, the artisan co-op, ArtWorks at the Depot, features locally hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind items that are both beautiful and useful. Texas Hot-4 Sons Restaurant and Bell’s Market are must stops for foodies. The Kane Manor, built by the family of General Thomas Kane, a famous Civil War general, is now a bed & breakfast offering nearby hiking trails along with your glimpse into America’s history.
LONGHOUSE NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY
This 27-mile driving loop within the Allegheny National Forest was selected by USA Today as one of the top 50 scenic driving routes in the United States. From Kane, turn onto Route 321 north which rises in elevation as you circle north; at the intersection with Route 59 is the Bradford Ranger Station where you can find virtually any information about the Allegheny National Forest, including helpful topo maps for hikers. Sites to see along the drive include Rimrock Overlook, which has majestic rock formations and a hiking trail down to the reservoir along with family picnic areas. Other recommended stops to view fall foliage along the drive are Jakes Rocks and Kinzua Point.
EASTERN CONTINENTAL DIVIDE LOOP
This loop circles through the forest to Smethport, Emporium, Sizerville and Port Allegany, passing through some of the most rugged terrain in the Allegheny Highlands. Starting in Smethport on Route 6, turn south onto Route 46 in East Smethport. This road follows Potato Creek, which flows northward into the Allegheny River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Close to the McKean County/Cameron County border, in State Game Lands No. 30, you crest the Eastern Continental Divide. You can see the land dropping very steeply ahead. Past here, streams flow southward and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. A side trip will provide elk viewing opportunities at the Elk Country Visitor Center, 134 Homestead Drive in Benezette, PA.
TRACY RIDGE LOOP
This 39.5-mile driving loop travels along New York Interstate I-86, Pennsylvania’s Route 219, Route 321 and Route 346, circling through the highest and most remote lands in the Allegheny National Forest. From I-86, take exit 23 onto Route 219 south into Bradford. In Bradford we suggest you pick up a picnic lunch of Amish cheeses, deli-style sandwiches and snacks from the Grocery Stretcher, 32 Main Street, Bradford. Turn onto Route 346 west, about six miles from Bradford, you pass the Marilla Reservoir. This pretty little spot features a wooden covered bridge, hiking trails, and a charming gazebo along the trail - the perfect woodland site where you will be surrounded by fall colors when you stop to enjoy the picnic lunch you brought along. Remember, please be kind to the environment, pack in and pack out when using the forest trails.
ELDRED-ROCK CITY LOOP
This 48-mile loop takes you to a World War II Museum,a new kind of shopping experience, and a spectacular rock formation.Starting in downtown Bradford, take Route 346 east, then set your GPS for the Olde Schoolhouse Village Shop, 109 Indian Creek Road. This artisan/antique shop is located in a restored schoolhouse brimming with fall decorations and quality furniture. Next stop is theEldred WWII Museum, 201 Main Street in Eldred, PA. Allow at least two hours to tour the museum. Hours are: Tuesday through Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 1-4pm, closed Mondays.
After visiting the WWII museum, turn back into Route 446 and head north. Plan a stop at the CUTCO KA-BAR Visitors Center, 1040 East State Street in Olean, NY to view the displays, which include antique kitchen cutlery, military and pocket knives along with historical photographs. CUTCO and KA-BAR products can be purchased. In downtown Olean, turn left onto Route 16, which makes a steep climb to Rock City Park. An admission fee at the park will give you access to an amazing vista and a trail which winds through gigantic boulders formed over 320 million years ago. Rock City Park is open 9am-6pm every day from May 1 through Oct. 31. The fall foliage views are impressive from the rock overlooks.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Complete driving directions may be downloaded from www.visitANF.com
. For additional information on where to stay or to order the Scenic Driving Tour Brochure and Map, call 800-473-9370 or e-mail info@ visitANF.com.