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Trips and Tips for Fall Foliage Viewing in PA

October 04, 2017 01:00 PM

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​Changing leaves. Brisk air. Tranquil trails. Migrating birds of prey.

Fall can be an ideal time to get outdoors across Pennsylvania because our natural places know how to put on a show!

What is fall foliage?

Autumn leaf color is a natural process, one that occurs when night length increases during autumn. Because of less sunlight, chlorophyll production slows, then stops, and eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed.

Carotenoids (which produce yellow, orange, and brown colors in corn, carrots, etc.) and anthocyanins (which give color to such fruits as cranberries, red apples, etc.) present in certain leaves are then unmasked and are able show their bright colors.

This is a vibrant, aesthetically-pleasing process that attracts travelers from all over the state, the country, and the world.

Why is fall foliage so grand in PA?

Kinzua Bridge State Park Fall Foliage Image.jpg
In Pennsylvania, fall foliage is an occasion worth celebrating, and many of our state parks and forests do so with planned events and recreation activities.

Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation -- or anywhere in the world.

Only three regions of the world support deciduous forests that display fall autumn color:

  • Eastern North America
  • The British Isles and parts of northwestern Europe
  • Northeastern China and northern Japan

Forests in other regions are either tropical or dominated by conifers.

Pennsylvania’s location and its varied topography supports 134 species of trees and many more shrubs and vines that contribute to the display of autumn color.

The state also is the meeting ground of northern trees that flourish only on mountain tops farther south and southern species that are at the northern limits of their range.

Pennsylvania provides the opportunity for vibrant color, as well as places for us to enjoy it.

Where and when to go leaf peeping

DCNR put together a list and map of some of the prime natural locations to witness the brilliant fall colors.

There are many more places to go to enjoy the season. Your nearby state parks and state forests offer maps with trail information that can help you explore somewhere new.

You also can check out what our Conservation Landscapes have to offer, such as fall auto tours.

The Laurel Highlands offers a Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour, which links state forest and state park lands, small town community events, and programs, with scenic drives featuring fall color. Check out the tour’s northern loop (PDF) and southern loop (PDF).

Another option is to visit the Pennsylvania Wilds region, which offers scenic drives, including the Elk Scenic Drive and Scenic Route 6, with changing leaves and the opportunity to see wildlife.

Fall Foliage Trail Forest Image.jpg

Fall Foliage Reports

If you’re trying to decide on the best time to go on your leaf-peeping adventure, check out DCNR’s popular Fall Foliage Reports!

DCNR foresters contribute to these reports on a weekly basis during the fall season. They share:

  • The leaf-turn percentage for different regions
  • The estimated date range for peak foliage in different regions
  • Observations about what’s occurring/changing in regions and specific state forests

Learn more

Learn more about the fall foliage process and what’s in store for the season by tuning in to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office’s Happy Chats Facebook Live on Tuesday, October 17, at noon, at the stunning Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park.

During this time, you’ll be able to hear from and ask questions of our Bureau of Forestry fall foliage expert, Ryan Reed.

However you enjoy the epic fall show -- via scenic drive, hike, fall event, or in your own backyard -- it’s important to remember that these transforming trees are worthy not just of our attention, but more importantly, our protection.

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