Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures
If the reports are to be believed, we are in for a doozy of a winter, surpassing the fury and frostbite of this previous year, which counts among the worst I have personally experienced. If these reports are true, we should all make sure to get out and enjoy the great outdoors while we can. It doesn’t hurt that Mother Nature has provided us with a free show that beats anything on television these days.
So this Saturday, jump in the car and go for a drive on one of these wonderful leafspotting trips (don’t worry, Penn State has a bye week, so you won’t miss the game). Every trip is an easy, comfortable day trip from Central PA, and just in time for peak colors.
One of Central PA’s best-kept secrets, the Kishacoquillas Valley, known to the locals as Big Valley, is a gem of agricultural scenery. Wide, undeveloped expanses of farmland serve as a foreground to the two giant mountains that enclose the valley to the north and the south. Covered in trees, these mountains burst with a color palate Michelangelo could only dream of using.
If you approach Big Valley from Reedsville (off 322), you can stop at Brookmere Winery just before you reach the town of Belleville, then hang a right on PA 305 or stay straight on 655 to end up on either the north or south end of our next drive. No matter what you do, watch out for the Amish buggies.
Anyone who has ever visited Raystown Lake will agree, the trip to get there is sometimes as pretty as the scenery at the lake itself. Occupying the mountains between Huntingdon and State College, a jaunt through Rothrock will put you right in the middle of the colorful leaf action. If you follow Route 655 trough Allensville and down to meet U.S. 22, head north and pick up PA 26 north to drive through Rothrock State Forest on your way to our next route.
Just because the Nittany Lions aren’t playing doesn’t mean you can’t visit Happy Valley anyway. In fact, a non-game day in the fall might be the perfect time to visit State College and see all the sites that are too crowded otherwise. Have a cone at the Creamery, visit the Lion and walk through campus. When your day is nearly done, hop on U.S. 322 and head back toward home. No one ever said the trip home had to be less pretty than the trip out. As any local knows, Route 322 can put on a show of its own.
Adams County has enough of these leafspotting trails to justify an entire weekend of its own, if you have the time. Traveling through Michaux State Forest and east into the apple orchards of Adams County offers just as much to do as there is to see. We may just have missed the Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, but there are still plenty of places to pick up your fresh apple cider anyway.
The mountains to the northeast of Harrisburg are about the only thing that can turn a boring highway cruise into a worthwhile event. As you climb the side of the mountain, the views can make you feel like you are flying over the valleys of greens, reds, oranges and yellows.
If you live on the southern end of our fair valley, heading west toward Breezewood on Route 30 is practically a rite of passage. When I attended school in western PA, I traveled this route hundreds of times. Only now that I am older do I appreciate the trip back, through the mountains of Fulton and Bedford counties. Once you get to Breezewood, feel free to hop on the PA Turnpike to get home. It might cost a few dollars, but the views it provides aren’t half bad either.
No list of PA natural sightseeing would be complete without a mention of the Pine Creek Gorge, more commonly known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. If I have to explain what’s so special about this place, then you must be new to the area. Welcome! This one might be a little further away from Central PA, but you’ll go because it’s worth it. If you opt for the hiking trails, don’t forget to pack a pair of warm gloves – the hikes are long and can get a little chilly!
What are your favorite leafspotting venues in and around central PA? Share your local favorites in the comments!