Pennsylvania Grand Canyon
The Pine Creek Gorge, almost 50 miles long and more than 1,000 feet deep, is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It offers spectacular panoramas, abundant wildlife, and beautiful hardwoods that promise a brilliant fall display of deep reds, yellows, and purples in early October. Be sure to stop in the Victorian town of Wellsboro, where you'll see gas-lit streets and mansions dating back to the early 1800s.
STARTS IN: Wellsboro
ENDS IN: Wellsboro
DISTANCE: 20 Miles
DIRECTIONS: Route 660 West from Wellsboro to Leonard Harrison State Park. Follow Route 660 East to 362 West to Route 6 East back to Wellsboro.
Columbia County Covered Bridges Tour: Loop Swings North from Interstate 80 at Bloomsburg (Bloomsburg, PA)
This drive makes a 51.7-mile, open-ended loop that can be extended by half a dozen side trips that range between 200 feet and 11.5 miles round trip for a tally of 11 covered bridges. An ideal complement to the drive is a visit to Ricketts Glen State Park, which boasts 500-year-old trees and more than 20 waterfalls. This drive explores the quiet highways and backroads of northern Columbia County to round up 11 covered bridges that date to the nineteenth century. East out of Forks, you will find the nation’s only twin covered bridges— East and West Paden—at Twin Bridges County Park. Columbia County has the third richest concentration of covered bridges in Pennsylvania, with 20 of the classic structures spanning its waters. Special attractions: Nineteenth-century covered bridges; ribbony creeks; a fish hatchery; Ricketts Glen State Park; the Covered Bridge and Arts Festival (held in October).
Link to tours:
Purple Heart Highway
A trip along the Purple Heart Highway, Route 45, is like a journey back in time. Native Americans blazed the original course. Eventually, horse-drawn wagons widened the trail, and early Americans constructed toll booths along the route to profit from pioneers moving west. The Road Taken by Joan Morse Gordon delves further into the history of this well-traveled road. As historic as it is scenic, Route 45 stretches for one hundred miles from Water Street, Huntingdon County, to Mooresburg. Be sure to linger long enough in State College to catch football fever in the hometown of Penn State's Nittany Lions.
Zone: Southern and Central
Starts In: Water Street
Ends In: Route 642, near Danville
Distance: approximately 100 miles
As you're traveling from the Penn State University town of State College and winding your way through the colorful autumn countryside, you'll drive over Pine Grove Mountain, which has a stunning scenic overlook called Jo Hays Vista. Plan a picnic at the Stone Valley Recreation Area, where you can enjoy the changing leaves while you're canoeing.
STARTS IN: State College
ENDS IN: Huntingdon
DISTANCE: 32 Miles
DIRECTIONS: Route 26 from State College to Huntingdon.
Visit the Buggy Museum in Mifflinburg and tour the original 19th-century Heiss Carriage Works, where the buggies were built at the turn of the century. This tour lies in the Valleys of the Susquehanna, a region known for its countless inns, bed and breakfasts, museums, and antique shops. Dense woodlands surround much of this area, making it home to some of Pennsylvania's most beautiful old-growth forests.
STARTS IN: Mifflinburg
ENDS IN: McAlisterville
DISTANCE: 32 Miles
DIRECTIONS: Route 104 in Mifflinburg to Mount Pleasant Mills. Take Route 35 to McAlisterville.
Route 15 traces the hills that surround this portion of the Western Susquehanna River. Vibrant autumn leaves drape overhead; sweeping river views are down and to the left. After passing several small towns, you'll come to an island where the north and west branches of the Susquehanna meet. On that island you'll find the mature hardwood forests of the Shikellamy State Park. There are two 360-foot overlooks at Blue Hill where you can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the surrounding area.
STARTS IN: Montgomery
ENDS IN: Elysburg
DISTANCE: 41 Miles
DIRECTIONS: South on Route 15 in Montgomery. To Route 61 East to Elysburg.
On this dazzling autumn tour you'll wind through mountains and drive through the river valley as you cross the Susquehanna. Vibrant green Christmas tree farms dot the landscape, providing a stunning contrast to the reds, oranges, and yellows of the maples, birches, ashes, and poplars. Small farms abound, many of them Amish. Don't be surprised if you find yourself slowing down for an Amish buggy crossing a covered bridge. Columbia and Montour Counties have 24 covered bridges, all but one built before 1900.
STARTS IN: Eagles Mere
ENDS IN: Mount Carmel
DISTANCE: 57 Miles
DIRECTIONS: Route 42 from Eagles Mere. Through Bloomsburg to Mount Carmel.
Great Pennsylvania Rides nearby
Starting from Pennsylvania's capital, Route 443 parallels the Appalachian Trail (a few miles away at most points) and takes you through a charming agricultural valley peppered with yellows, reds, and oranges from plentiful maple, oak, aspen, and birch. Farms and old country barns dot the countryside as you pass Blue Mountain on your right side. A lovely place to stop for a stretch is the late 18th-century town of Pine Grove.
STARTS IN: Harrisburg
ENDS IN: Bowmanstown
DISTANCE: 82 Miles
DIRECTIONS: Route 443 from Fort Hunter in Harrisburg. Through Pine Grove. To Rt. 895 to Bowmanstown.
As you travel down this lovely highway, pull off at the scenic overlook on Sky Top Mountain. You'll see spectacular autumn landscapes. Penn's Cave, just a few miles north on Route 144 and east on Route 192, shouldn't be missed. This guided boat trip on the mile-long underground river is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Stalactites decorate grotto ceilings, and hues of blue, green, red, and yellow bathe formations in the Colored Lights Room.
STARTS IN: Clearfield
ENDS IN: Potters Mills
DISTANCE: 55 Miles
DIRECTIONS: Route 322 from Clearfield to Potters Mills.
Pennsylvania--Amish Country Drive
The Amish Drive is a trip from Gap to Marietta on Route 772. The 35-mile drive runs through the heart of Amish country in Lancaster County. The Amish religion began in Switzerland in the 16th Century. They use horses instead of tractors to plow their fields, which gives the land a distinguishing look. Head west out of Gap toward Intercourse. Here you can see the shops and galleries at People's Place.
After shopping in Intercourse, you come to the town of Litiz. On your way you'll pass many farm stands with fresh fruit, vegetables, cider, cheeses, and butter. Litiz is home to the Moravian Church, built in 1746. This little town has several interesting local sites, including Linden Hall, the oldest girls' boarding school in the country; the Litiz Historical Society; the Sturgis Pretzel House, the oldest pretzel bakery in the country; and the Candy Americana Museum and Wilbur's Chocolate Factory. Route 772 crosses farm country until it dead ends on the Susquehanna River, one hour later, in the town of Marietta.
Distance of Drive:
Motorized Trail Bike Riding
The Bureau of Forestry offers two motorized trail bike (motorcycle) trails. The Seven Mountains Ramble and Shade Mountain trails are both located in portions of Mifflin, Snyder, and Union Counties in the Bald Eagle State Forest. The Seven Mountains Ramble trail is designated for dual-sport (licensed for highway use) trail bikes and the Shade Mountain trail is for non-licensed, off-highway trail bikes. If you wish to have copies of either of these maps, please contact the Bald Eagle State Forest office at 570-922-3344.