Fall is the perfect time to go hiking in Pennsylvania. The weather is cool and crisp, the air is fresh rather than muggy, the sunshine is bright, and best of all, the foliage is spectacular. If you’re looking for somewhere to hit the trail this fall, check out these eight favorite hiking destinations that showcase Pennsylvania at its autumnal best.
1. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Go big or go home! The world’s longest hiking-only trail, the Appalachian Trail spans close to 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia, with 229 of those miles winding through Pennsylvania. While the trail has many access points throughout the state, one of the most beautiful sections to visit in the fall is Peter’s Mountain. Set off on the 7-mile loop trail that climbs the mountain in a series of switchbacks, and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic autumn views of the Susquehanna River and its surrounding foliage.
2. Golden Eagle Trail
If you’re in good shape and not afraid of some strenuous activity, you won’t want to miss the Golden Eagle Trail, which some hikers have dubbed the best day hike in the state. A 9-mile trail found in the southern half of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the Golden Eagle Trail features two beautiful streams, several spectacular vistas, and some unique sandstone wind sculptures. In the fall, the view from the Raven’s Horn peak is nothing short of breathtaking, as it showcases Pennsylvania’s finest scenery in gorgeous autumn colors.
3. Glen Onoko Falls
This short but rugged hike is very popular in summer, but many visitors don’t realize that Glen Onoko is even better as an autumn destination. The three beautiful waterfalls that the hike is known for are even more impressive when surrounded by beautiful foliage, and the lookout point near the top of the second waterfall offers breathtaking views of the Pocono Mountains in their fall colors. The falls are located on state game lands just north of the town of Jim Thorpe; the 3-mile trail is accessed from neighboring Lehigh Gorge State Park.
4. Longfellow Trail
Cook Forest State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania is home to one of the finest—not to mention one of the last remaining—strands of first-growth forest in the state. It’s not difficult to see why this area is known as the Forest Cathedral. It has never been logged, so some of the oldest and tallest trees in all of Pennsylvania can be found here. The 1.2-mile Longfellow Trail runs right through the area, allowing hikers the rare experience of seeing an old-growth forest in full fall colors.
5. Barbour Rock Trail
If you’re living with mobility issues but are still a fan of outdoor pursuits, be sure to check out the Barbour Rock Trail on the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon’s northwestern rim. A half-mile trail with a starting point near Colton Point State Park, the fully accessible Barbour Rock trail offers hikers of all ability levels the opportunity to enjoy magnificent views of the gorge. Viewpoints can be found all along the trail, but the best vistas are those from Barbour Rock itself, which offer uninterrupted southward views of the canyon’s beautiful forested hillsides.
6. Flat Rock Trail
The Flat Rock Trail may be short, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in stunning views and picturesque scenery. Located in Linn Run State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania, the trail meanders along next to the Linn Run stream and underneath some of the park’s most beautiful fall foliage. With old stone ruins along the way adding even more rustic charm, this compact hike is a great option for less experienced hikers or parties with young children.
7. Hawk Mountain
Another great fall hiking option for families is the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, established in 1934 as a preserve for birds of prey. Covering 2,600 acres and offering more than 8 miles of hiking trails, Hawk Mountain is more than a great place to see fall foliage and impressive views. As autumn is peak season for raptor migration, visitors can also enjoy glimpses of hawks, ospreys, peregrine falcons, and even bald and golden eagles. (Note that there is an admission fee to access the sanctuary and hiking trails.)
8. Trexler Nature Preserve
Looking for more autumn hiking options that offer the opportunity for wildlife spotting as well as leaf-peeping? The Trexler Nature Preserve is a 1,100-acre area in the Lowhill and North Whitehall townships that offers more than 20 miles of trails at various difficulty levels. Choose from options such as the accessible 1.2-mile Covered Bridge Trail, the 1.5-mile elk viewing trail (as the name suggests, this trail passes the preserve’s resident elk herd), or the Trexler Border Trail, which offers beautiful fall views of rolling hills and glimpses of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys on an 8.5-mile loop around the perimeter of the preserve.