Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the spectacular colors of fall as the leaves change to ruby red, blazing orange, and brilliant gold. The Allegheny National Forest Region, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, offers tree lined, two lane highways, where one car in front of you is considered heavy traffic. Prime color is usually the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October.
Joshua Hanson, District Silviculturist from the Allegheny National Forest-Bradford Ranger Station explains local fall color: “There are over 80 species of trees on the ANF. The upland hardwood type includes red maple, black cherry, black birch, yellow poplar, white ash, basswood, and/or cucumber tree. The Allegheny hardwood type includes a similar mix of species, but black cherry, white ash and yellow poplar are more abundant. The oak types include several oak species, e.g., Northern red oak, white oak, chestnut oak, black oak. The northern hardwoods include sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch, and hemlock.
“Timing and quality of fall color varies by species. Maples reach peak color earlier in the season and are more vibrant than oaks. Folks can expect to see more color, and earlier color as they travel away from the Allegheny Reservoir and the major river corridors.”
KINZUA SKY WALK - KINZUA BRIDGE STATE PARK
Absolutely Stunning! Wow! The Kinzua Sky Walk - “One of the top 10 most scenic skywalks in the world” - extends 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge at a height of 225 feet. The forested hillsides of the Kinzua Gorge are a patchwork quilt of many colors, courtesy of Mother Nature.
There are two hiking trails at the park: Kinzua Creek Trail winds down the steep side of the gorge. The General Kane Trail is a shorter, more family friendly trail. The park offers picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, and a pavilion which may be rented for special occasions. More than one marriage proposal has happened on the Kinzua Sky Walk.
The Kinzua Bridge Visitors Center, on premise at the park, is a 11,000 sq. ft. building with two floors of interactive exhibits. The exhibits showcase the “can do spirit” of the men who built the first Kinzua Viaduct in 1882. A newly expanded gift shop - the PA Wilds Conservation Shop -features artisan works and handcrafted items from along the PA Wilds and the PA Route 6 Artisan Trails. Here you will find photography books on the Pennsylvania Wilds, the “Great Kinzua Bridge” book, handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and a variety of locally sourced food items. The Kinzua Center and gift shop is open daily from 8am-6pm.
The Kinzua Bridge State Park, Kinzua Sky Walk, and Kinzua Bridge Visitors Center are located at 296 Viaduct Road in Mt. Jewett, Pennsylvania. The park is open daily from 8am to dusk. Admission is free.
SMETHPORT - A VICTORIAN VILLAGE
Driving east or west on scenic Route 6 will take you through forestlands, farmlands and charming villages. Turning east from the park, travel Route 6 to the charming Victorian village of Smethport.
Located in a valley surrounded by hillsides painted in bright fall colors, Smethport’s tree lined streetscapes, magnificent Victorian architecture, and Hamlin Lake are a colorful fall destination.
Hamlin Lake is a refreshing location for relaxing. Cast a line, launch your kayak, or just bring a blanket and enjoy the view. The Goosechaser Trail, a ¾-mile trail around the banks of Marvin Creek and Hamlin Lake, is named for the Canadian geese which frequent the lake. The trail skirts the habitats of many wetland creatures, including waterfowl. Bring your binoculars … American bald eagles are often sighted at the lake.
The self-guided walking tour of the Smethport Mansion District showcases a piece of Americana. Stroll past the architectural gems constructed by the Lumber Barons during the 1800s and early 1900s. Five of the mansions are “wedding mansions,” gifted to the bride and groom upon their marriage. The Smethport Mansion District Walking Tour Brochure is available at the kiosk in front of the McKean County Courthouse at 500 West Main Street.
Two of the mansions are now open as B&B’s - the Blackberry Inn and the Mansion District Inn. The PA Wilds Vacation Suites are the Hamlin Lake Haus, with views of Hamlin Lake, and the historic Sheriff Sartwell Mansion. Both offer one night, or extended stay options, with kitchens, a dining area and a living room.
McKean County’s Old Jail Museum captures the history of the mustering at the courthouse steps by General Thomas Kane. This regiment became the storied group of sharpshooters “the Bucktails,” in the American Civil War. Displays on railroad history and local wildlife provide knowledge of the pioneer days of the county. Be sure to ask about the Dungeon - stories abound about it being haunted.
Dine at the Corner Bistro, 437 W. Main Street. Their menu offers multiple styles of pizza, along with delicious steak and seafood. The bar will be glad to mix a signature cocktail or serve a draft.
PENNSYLVANIA SCENIC ROUTE 6
Driving Route 6 offers a glimpse into authentic America. Small towns, family owned shops and restaurants, and natural scenic beauty add to the lore of an area described by National Geographic as “one of the most scenic drives in America.”
Traveling west on Route 6, plan a stop at the Mt. Jewett Tastee Freeze. They are known far and wide for their massive ice-cream cones (a small is usually all I can handle). The Swedish history of this town is prevalent. Kafe Sol serves many Swedish breads and home-baked items. Their cinnamon buns are just like the ones my grandmother used to make. Open for lunch and breakfast, the restaurant is a local favorite.
Hikers will enjoy exploring the newly opened Knox & Kane Rail Trail. This trail is a 3.8-mile, non-motorized trail which connects Mt. Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge State Park. Fall colors are excellent along this hiking/biking trail. Restaurants and lodging, traveling further west along Route 6, include Barrelhouse Restaurant & Tavern and Lantz Corners Getaway in Lantz Corners, and the Spoonwood Inn between Lantz Corners and Kane. Both hotels have been recently remodeled, and they offer plenty of free parking for those who bring trailers full of big boy toys - motorcycles, ATVs or UTVs.
Myers Motorsports, located at 3176 Route 219 just north of Lantz Corners, rents ATVs and UTVs and will trailer them to local year-round riding areas. Find more info at myersmotorsports.info.
KANE: A STAR IN THE FOREST
Kane, “A Star in the Forest” is the doorway to the Allegheny National Forest and the Longhouse National Scenic Byway. This town features family-owned, non-chain shops and restaurants. Rich in local history, this is the town designed by General Thomas Kane, the builder of the first Kinzua Bridge in 1882, and a very famous General during the American Civil War. Folks interested in General Kane may stay at the Kane Manor - which was his family home - but now is a B&B open to travelers.
The McCleery Discovery Center at the Historic Kane Depot digs into the history of the Lobo Wolves. Dr. McCleery, the father of the endangered species movement, started one of the first sites in America dedicated to preserving an endangered species - the Great Plains Buffalo Wolves. Here you will find the largest collection of Buffalo Wolves artifacts in the world. Many artifacts of the cultural history of Kane are displayed; photographs and documents relating to the founding family, Thomas and Elizabeth Kane, local industry, businesses, and the railroad. Station Shop, located in this restored 1871 Kane RR station, offers PA Wilds arts & crafts, PA made wooden toys, local maple syrup, Kinzua Bridge handrail clocks, jewelry, and many other treasures.
Artworks at the Summit, 54 North Fraley Street, is a local artisan co-op brimming with fine paintings, hand-crafted wooden bowls, jewelry and custom dyed scarves. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Feeling parched and hungry? Flickerwood Wine Cellars (“the Wine that Rocks”), Twisted Vine Beverage, and CJ Spirts (a craft distillery), offer tasting and touring. A few dining options include Texas Hot Lunch/4 Sons, a local family business since 1914. Serving the always popular Souvlaki Dinner with Greek salad, Pita Pleasers and Gyros or the famous Texas Hot – with a recipe that dates to 1914 – a plump, juicy hot dog with a squirt of mustard, sprinkled with onions, and smothered with their famous sauce. Newly opened is Table 105, a steak and seafood restaurant offering fresh and delicious options created from sustainable resources by Chef Coby Butler.
LONGHOUSE NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY
Drive the Longhouse National Scenic Byway from Kane via Rt. 321 heading north. This byway takes you along the eastern shoreline of the Allegheny Reservoir in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). At the intersection of Rt. 321 and Rt. 59 you will find the Bradford Ranger Station, a great resource for information and maps. Developed overlooks along the byway include Rimrock Overlook and Kinzua Point along Rt. 59; return to the Ranger station, and head east to connect with Rt.219 north.
BRADFORD’S NATIONAL HISTORIC DISTRICT
Driving north you will pass the Penn Brad Oil Museum which tells the storied history of the local independent oil producers and the Bradford Sands - the first million-dollar oil field in the world.
Bradford is the largest community in McKean County. Start your visit with a stop at the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau Welcome Center, 80 E. Corydon Street, for maps and local information on trails and things to see and do. Pick up a free copy of Bradford’s National Historic District - a self-guided walking tour showcasing the eclectic architecture built by the Oil Barons during the late 1800s and the early 1900s.
Main Street Movie House has a noteworthy marquee. The movie house is in the Hooker Fulton building, one of two major examples of Art Deco architecture on Main Street. Bookending Main Street is the second major Art Deco style building - Marilyn Horne Hall the site of the Marilyn Horne Museum.
Bradford has a wide variety of restaurants, from casual (A Taste of the 80’s), to dining at Beefeaters Restaurant, once a Carnegie Library which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The Zippo lighter was invented in Bradford; the Zippo/Case Museum showcases this history and includes a gift shop. At the Bromeley Family Theater, the Bradford Creative and Performing Arts and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford present a series of professional theater performances.
Leave time to explore the extensive, 40-mile trail system. Trails vary from a scenic 1-mile hike at Marilla Reservoir which features a wooden covered bridge, a loop trail along Tunugwant Creek at Crook Farm, and a 3-day/2-night backpacking trail - Bullis Hollow Trail which connects to the ANF.
Overnight accommodations in Bradford include the Mountain Laurel Inn B&B, and the Best Western Plus Bradford Inn, the Holiday Inn Express, and the Comfort Inn.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
For additional information on attractions, restaurants, lodging and trails please call 800-473-9370 or visitANF.com.