Want to be dazzled by Mother Nature’s fall foliage display? Just hop in the car.
Full of winding roads and scenic byways, the Allegheny National Forest Region in northwestern Pennsylvania offers scenic vistas around every turn. Here, one car in front of you at a stop sign is considered heavy traffic. Prime leaf season in this “neck” of the woods is late September and early October. Enjoy warm sun soaked days and crisp starlit nights. Plan a fall hike, take a nature photography course, or enjoy a scenic drive to view the colorful fall foliage.
LONGHOUSE NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY
Selected by USA Today as one of the top scenic byways in the United States, 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.
Follow Route 219 to Route 59 west to enter the Forest. Located along Route 59 is Timberdoodle Flats Interpretive Trail. Timberdoodle is the nickname of the American woodcock, one of the many birds you might get a glimpse of along the trail. The Woodcock Loop is marked with a yellow woodcock insignia and features 12 interpretive stops. The shorter Bluebird Trail is suitable for wheelchairs or walking assistance equipment and features six interpretive stops. Perfect for casual hikers, parents with children, or first-time birders, the trail is rated easy.
Continue west on Route 59 to the Bradford Ranger Station. Located at the intersection of Route 321 and Route 59, you can find virtually any information about the Allegheny National Forest at the ranger station, including topo maps for trail enthusiasts.
Continue on Route 59 towards the Allegheny Reservoir. Along this stretch of the loop you pass the trailhead for Morrison Trail. The trail 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 to the shore of the Allegheny Reservoir.
About a mile past the Morrison Trailhead is the entrance to Rimrock, a magnificent rock outcrop and overlook above the Kinzua Creek Arm of the Allegany Reservoir. Highlights of the overlook include the massive rock formations and the scenic fall vistas of the brightly colored hillsides surrounding the Allegheny Reservoir. This area also offers forest shaded picnic areas and hiking trails. The Rimrock Overlook Trail is a 1.3-mile pedestrian trail, rated easy to moderate, which connects the overlook to the Kinzua Beach area.
As you travel on Route 59, you will see the Kinzua/Wolf Run Marina on your right, just before crossing the Allegheny Reservoir on the Morrison Bridge. Immediately past the bridge, turn onto Longhouse Drive. The access road to Jakes Rocks is about a mile up Longhouse Drive. This impressive rock outcrop offers a spectacular vista over the Allegheny Reservoir.
Longhouse Drive continues a winding course high above the Kinzua Creek Arm, passing the Dewdrop Recreation Area, Elijah Run Boat launch and Kiasutha Recreation Area before reaching Route 321.
Turn right onto Route 321 south to visit the village of Kane to enjoy shopping and dining. Laughing Owl Press, Artworks at the Depot, Flickerwood Wine Cellars and CJ Spirits Craft Distillery are all Pennsylvania Wilds Artisan Sites. Foodies will also enjoy shopping at Bell’s Market for fresh seasonal produce from local farms along with their famous spices, rubs and farm-to-table food items. For those with a sweet tooth, The Sweet Shoppe offers homemade chocolates, cupcakes, cream horns, pies, cookies and cakes along with homemade ice cream in seasonal flavors. Texas Hot Lunch 4 Sons is a local favorite for lunch or dinner; they have been a family owned restaurant since 1914.
Return to Route 321 north to continue the loop, and you will re-enter the Allegheny National Forest just outside of Kane. Continue on Route 321 past Red Bridge. This is the head of the Kinzua Creek Arm. A campground and bank-fishing area are to the left.
Route 321 follows the reservoir for a short distance. It then begins to rise into the highlands through a beautiful forest of hardwoods and hemlock. Nearing the top of the plateau, you pass the Old Powerhouse Museum, an original timepiece from the glory days of oil in this region.
At the intersection of Route 321 and Route 59 you return to the Bradford Ranger Station; turn right onto Route 59 to return to Route 219 north.
EASTERN CONTINENTAL DIVIDE LOOP
A loop driving tour, the Eastern Continental Divide loop goes from the Victorian Village of Smethport, through Emporium, Sizerville and Port Allegany. It passes through some of the most rugged terrain in the Allegheny Highlands and the Pennsylvania elk range.
Start and complete this loop in Smethport. This charming Victorian village located along Route 6 is nestled among the hillsides around picturesque Hamlin Lake. Here you will find hiking and water trails, shopping, dining and a choice of overnight accommodations. The Mansion District Inn, built in 1891, is a stunning example of Victorian Queen Anne architecture. It was voted the number one B&B in Pennsylvania on TripAdvisor in 2015.
The Smethport Mansion District Walking Tour is a self-guided walking tour offering a short history of over 30 architectural gems constructed during the 1800s. A variety of quaint shops and locally owned restaurants are fun to explore. The Old Jail Museum offers insights into the history of McKean County. Compton’s Mom & Pop Shop is a trip down memory lane as you choose from hundreds of old-fashioned cane syrup-based soda “pops” and an old-fashioned candy counter. Prices start at a nickel!
Begin your driving loop by heading east from Smethport on Route 6. Turn south onto Route 46 in East Smethport. For the first few miles, the 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 Land 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.
Turn left onto Route 120 east into Emporium, and at the east side of Emporium, turn left again onto Route 155 North. In this area, you are on the edge of the Pennsylvania elk range.
Plan a side trip to the Elk Country Visitors Center by taking Route 120 past Route 155, then west on Route 555 at Driftwood to Benezette. The elk center offers interpretive displays and an outdoor wildlife observation area.
Heading north on Route 155, you pass Sizerville State Park about seven miles from Emporium. This is an excellent area for viewing fall foliage. Majestic white pines in the park were planted during the 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps to replace trees cut during the logging boom. There are four hiking trails in the park, one which climbs a 1,900-foot slope.
The East Branch of Crowley Run, which flows through the park, was the site of the first reintroduction of beavers into Pennsylvania after they were eliminated by the early settlers. Route 155 continues north over the Eastern Continental Divide to Port Allegany. The Serenity Glass Park along Route 6 as you come into town is under construction; when completed it will be a tribute to the rich glass making history of Port Allegany. Diners, restaurants and overnight accommodations are available in Port Allegany if you wish to add an overnight of relaxation along your scenic drive. The Inn on Maple Street is a Victorian home with high ceilings, double split staircase, stain glass windows and oak trim, which is now operated as a family and pet friendly B&B.
In Port Allegheny, turn left onto Route 6. Lynn Hall, located at 21656 Route 6, Port Allegany, is located on your left. Before there was Fallingwaters there was Lynn Hall. Tour this architectural treasure to learn the storied history of Walter Hall, contractor and builder of the Frank Lloyd Wright building - Fallingwaters in Pittsburgh. Now undergoing restoration, the building is open for tours. After your tour, return to Route 6 and head west to Smethport.
SEVEN SCENIC DRIVING TOURS AVAILABLE
These are just two of the seven scenic driving tours available in a brochure from the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau (see map on page 27).Other tours include: Southwest Gateway, Tracy Ridge Loop, Eldred-Rock City Loop, Southeast Gateway and Scenic Route 6. You will want to plan ahead by bringing a GPS unit or map, as many areas are remote forestlands, and cell phone service is not always available. It is more fun if you stay over, but to avoid disappointment during the prime “leaf peeping” weeks it is better to make advance reservations for overnight accommodations. A full list of overnight options is available at www.visitANF.com/lodging
The driving tours are available in a downloadable PDF format from www.visitANF.com
. Perfect for touring by car, motorbike or RV, you’ll want to make your plans now to enjoy the beauty of the fall foliage season in the Allegheny National Forest Region of Pennsylvania.
FALL FOLIAGE PHOTO TREK: INTO THE FOREST
Another way to enjoy the beauty of fall foliage is to sign up to participate in the Fall Foliage Photo Trek. Held annually in October, you will join master photographer Ed Bernik on a one-day photo excursion into the Allegheny National Forest Region on October 10, 2015 from 10am-8pm. The cost is only $89.
During this course - scheduled at the peak of fall foliage - Ed will guide you on how to capture Mother Nature’s beauty on film. The course includes photography instruction, box lunch, dinner and a full day of photography, including photo critiques. Bring comfortable walking shoes and clothing, rain gear, Digital SLR camera and a tripod. To register for this exciting hands-on learning experience, call 800-872-1787 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
PLAN YOUR ADVENTURE
A free Scenic Driving Tour Brochure, Dining Guide, or ANF Visitors Bureau Travel Guide & Map with detailed information on hotels, lodging, camping, attractions and restaurants is available by calling 800-473-9370 or at visitANF.com. For personalized assistance please visit the ANF Visitors Bureau Welcome Center located at 80 E. Corydon Street, Bradford, PA. Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.