Autumn in the Alleghenies
By Linda Devlin
Autumn is in when Mother Nature puts on her show of the year. It is when frosty temperatures change the lush green hillsides of the Allegheny National Forest into a forest covered in a coat of many colors–ruby red, golden yellow, and brilliant orange. Long, slow, leisurely drives take you along two-lane highways, where every turn brings a new delight. Farm markets and local restaurants, along with wineries, breweries, and distilleries, offer you a chance to taste the bounty of the season. So, pack your bag, bring your camera, and set off into the beauty of Autumn in the Alleghenies.
The most celebrated site from which to admire fall foliage is the Kinzua Sky Walk. It is considered “One of the top 10 most scenic skywalks in the world” by the Culture Trip. U.K. The skywalk extends 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge at a height of 225 feet. It features a partial glass floor which offers amazing 360-degree views of the Kinzua Gorge decked out in fall colors.
As one of the highest elevations in McKean County, at 2,136 feet above sea level, the colors usually change early at the park. The last week of September, and the first two weeks of October, are considered prime leaf peeping time. The skywalk is open from 8 am to dusk daily.
The Kinzua Visitors Center, located at the park, offers two floors of interactive exhibits, it is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily. The park is very family friendly. It offers picnic tables, a train-themed children’s playground, a park pavilion, and three developed trail systems.
A wonderful way to view the fall colors is while hiking or biking the trails. Kinzua Creek Trail is the most challenging as it goes down the side of the gorge, definitely not a trail to be hiked in flip-flops. The Knox & Kane, an 8-mile linear trail, is an easy hiking or biking trail.
Admission to the park, skywalk and center are all free. Weekends will be the busiest. If you wish to avoid crowds arrive before 10 am or visit mid-week. Dogs are welcome at the park, but not within the visitor center, and they must be kept on a short leash. A food truck, Little Sister’s Big Rig, is on-site. Lodging and restaurants are available nearby in Mt. Jewett, Lantz Corners, Kane, and Smethport.
The Longhouse National Scenic Byway is the premier scenic drive in Pennsylvania. Starting from Kane, Pennsylvania, it is a 27-mile loop around the Allegheny Reservoir. From Kane, travel east on Route 6, then head north on Rt. 321. As you enter the Allegheny National Forest, now traveling on the byway, look to the left to view Osprey nests high above the water.
Further north is Red Bridge Campground which offers full-service cabins, campsites, and a fishing dock. For fall reservations, reserve early by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at www.recreation.gov. Other attractions along this section of byway include a trail head for the North Country Trail, the Old Powerhouse Museum, and the Bradford Ranger Station. At the intersection of Rt. 321 and Rt. 59, turn west.
Rt. 59 will take you past Morrison Trail, one of the most scenic trails in the Forest. Next are three developed overlooks–Rimrock Overlook, Kinzua Point, and Jakes Rocks. Rimrock Overlook offers picnic areas, a short hiking trail to the massive rock overlook from where you can view the lovely colors of the fall forest as they meet the shoreline of the Allegheny Reservoir. Jakes Rocks also has a trailhead for the best mountain biking trails in the ANF.
After enjoying the amazing views, drive south along the byway past Dewdrop and Kiasutha campgrounds, before returning to Rt. 321. At Route 321, turn south to return to downtown Kane.
Kane features a fresh farmers market at Bell’s Market, shopping for local artisan wares at Artwork at the Summit, plus an excellent selection of locally owned restaurants. Table 105 is farm to table, Texas Hot Lunch/4 Sons offers a local favorite, their Texas Hot Dog. Nearby you can sample wines or spirits at Bear Creek Winery, Flickerwood Wine Cellars & Cocktail Lounge, CJ Spirits and Wilds Sonshine Factory.
Two distinctive historic properties, the Kane Manor Inn and Olmsted Manor, offer unique lodging experiences. Other lodging choices in Kane, or nearby Kane, include Kane Tourist Home & Motor Inn, Flat on Fraley, the Spoonwood Inn and Lantz Corners Getaway.
This is just a sampling of sights to see. PA Route 6 makes a delightful drive for fall foliage viewing, as does the History Trail Highlands of the Alleghenies, a three-day, 2-night suggested itinerary of sites to visit.
Fall foliage viewing is extremely popular; be sure to make your lodging reservations in advance to avoid disappointment. For more information go to www.visitANF.com/lodging then download the Adventure Guide & Maps or call 800-473-9370 to request a free print copy.
Autumn in the Alleghenies