Fall Drives & Activities
Enjoy the Beautiful Fall Foliage in the Laurel Highlands
Laurel Highlands Fall Fun
- Looking for exciting, family-friendly fall activities?
- View a full list of not-to-miss fall special events & festivals.
- Relax & rejuvenate this season at our spas and salons.
- Experience a thrill with water sports, zip lining, and more at Ohiopyle.
- Need help planning a breathtaking fall drive? We've got you covered!
The Laurel Highlands is the perfect destination for a getaway during the cool crisp days of autumn. You will find some pretty spectacular fall foliage in this part of the state which boasts the commonwealth’s highest mountain elevation and thousands of acres of unspoiled state forests, parks and game lands. Enjoy driving under a canopy of color on the region’s scenic byways and historic routes which lead to our signature cultural and historic sites, covered bridges and special fall festivals.
With our mountain vistas, historic highways, fertile farmlands and state parks the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania is a beautiful place to visit any time of year. But in the fall the region turns into a breathtaking spectacular paint box of red, orange, yellow, russet and bronze colors.
Beginning in October the ridges and valleys come alive with color. The "Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour" provides driving routes through the Laurel Highlands that highlight state parks and forests, scenic byways, picturesque overlooks and quaint communities. View a pdf of Discover Fall-Northern Loop and Discover Fall-Southern Loop.
When do the leaves change color?
This is the most frequently asked question by dedicated “leaf peepers” who are anxious to take their first fall drive of the season. Autumn color is not always predictable but usually the mountain elevations will color up in late September to early October with the valleys bursting with bright color in mid-October. Enjoy the vibrant change of season as you drive through covered bridges, shopping at scenic wineries and farm markets bursting with nature’s bounty along the way.
Ten Fun Ways to see Spectacular Fall Foliage
in the Laurel Highlands
For many of us, fall is our favorite season of the year. We eagerly seek new ideas for enjoying the glorious fall foliage. Here are ten unique ways to see the leaves as they change color in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Laurel Highlands.
1. The Wright Way - Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®
The natural setting of the Laurel Highlands was the inspiration for the house which is cantilevered over a waterfall, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®. This is one of the busiest months to tour one of the most famous homes of all time. Reservations are recommended. Don’t miss another Wright masterpiece, Kentuck Knob just six miles from Fallingwater®. The view from Kentuck overlooking the Youghiogheny River Gorge is one of the region’s most panoramic and scenic.
2. Hallowboo at Idlewild & SoakZone
Your favorite amusement park is open weekends in October for Hallowboo at Idlewild & SoakZone. Youngsters love trick-or-treating through Story Book Forest and the whole family will enjoy taking a train ride through the park’s forest as the leaves are blazing with color. In addition to Story Book Forest, Jumpin’ Jungle, Hootin’ Holler, Olde Idlewild and Raccoon Lagoon are open.
3. Fall into the Laurel Highlands at one of our many Fall Festivals.
The first weekend in September kicks off the fall festival season in the Laurel Highlands with a round of unique festivals that celebrate the region’s heritage. There’s no question that you’ll find delicious food, quality crafts, musical entertainment and good old-fashioned fun from watching tractor pulls to crafter demonstrations to sheep herding.
4. Great Allegheny Passage
Over 150 miles of this spectacularly scenic non-motorized trail cuts through the Laurel Highlands. From the trail you will not only see dramatic foliage, but crystal clear streams, rock formations, wildlife, stone arches and bridges and raging rivers. Hikers and bikers may access the trail at any of the region’s trail towns including West Newton, Connellsville, Ohiopyle, Confluence, Rockwood and Meyersdale.
5. Overlook on the Historic National Road
Travelers using U.S. Route 40 (Historic National Road) will want to pull off the highway – into the parking lot of the Historic Summit Inn and walk up on to one of the grand old porches to see the sweeping views of the Chestnut Ridges.
Climb Pennsylvania’s Highest Point Nothing quite takes your breath away than the magnificent view from the highest point in Pennsylvania. Head to southern Somerset County where you’ll find Mt. Davis at 3,213 feet above sea level. Don’t think that you have to scale the summit – you can, but there is also a Forbes State Forest Road that takes you very close to the top.
7. Christian W. Klay Winery
You will love the view from the highest mountaintop vineyard east of the Rockies. After hiking up to the vineyards, stop in the 1800’s bank barn converted into a winery for a tasting of their award-winning wine.
8. Zipping through the Laurel Highlands
Seven Springs Mountain Resort – Pennsylvania’s largest ski and four seasons resort offers Laurel Ridgeline Canopy Tours, a highly-interactive and unique way to see the Laurel Highlands’ breathtaking fall foliage. Constructed to fit into the natural landscape in perfect harmony with Mother Nature, the canopy tour will provide riders with a heart-racing, pulse-pounding adventure and an educational experience as they soar up to 150-feet in the air at maximum speeds of 50 miles per hour.
9. Covered Bridges of Somerset County
Take a self-driving tour through Somerset County’s pastoral farm lands and deep forests to see 10 historic covered bridges and some of the region’s best fall colors. Along the way, you’ll discover a charming piece of Americana. A great map, driving directions and descriptions of all 10 covered bridges is available.
10. Plan a Fall Getaway and stay at a Cozy Accommodation.
Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway
The Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway (US Routes 711 & 381) is a spectacular 68-mile fall drive that takes you across picturesque farmland blazing with vibrant colors, deep into thick forests, past architectural wonders and through charming towns.
At the northern end of the route (at the intersection of Routes 30 & 711) is historic Ligonier where you can enjoy over 60 specialty shops and restaurants. Not to miss is Fort Ligonier, a full-scale, on-site restoration/reconstruction of the 1758 – 1766 original, situated on a commanding hilltop with a sweeping view of the Laurel Highlands.
Route 711 & Route 381
Heading up Route 711 South to Donegal, then turning left onto Route 31 East you’ll discover Out of the Fire Café, one of the Laurel Highlands’ most popular dining spots. Relax and take in the changing colors by dining al fresco on the outside deck with its incredible mountain views. A few doors down Route 31, you’ll find the kitschy Old General Store filled with gourmet treats, primitive folk art and fun things for kids.
Hang a right out of the parking lot, drop down over the hill and turn right onto Route 381 South. The Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway directly passes the entrance to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece Fallingwater®. Reservations are strongly encouraged as fall is one of the most popular times of year to tour the home. Just 2 miles off the scenic byway is another Frank Lloyd Wright gem - Kentuck Knob. Not only is this a wonderful house to tour but the view from the property overlooking the Youghiogheny River Gorge is breathtaking.
Ohiopyle State Park
The byway traveler should plan some time to leave their motor vehicle and get a closer look at the region’s stunning natural beauty. Travelers have plenty of opportunities to journey by foot, bicycle, and raft or zip line. The scenic byway meanders through the heart of Ohiopyle State Park where experienced outfitters are on hand with any gear and guides that you would need for a fantastic fall excursion. If you’ve worked up an appetite, stop at the Firefly Grill for a heaping pile of their famous French fries or wraps.
Park you car at the Ohiopyle trail head and bike or hike the Great Allegheny Passage – the longest rail-trail in the east and see some of the Laurel Highlands most colorful fall foliage. This scenic rail-trail landed on National Geographic’s Best Fall Trips for 2012!
Rest & Relaxation
Charming bed and breakfasts, cottages and cabins are located along the byway with several great resorts and inns just a short distance off the route. If you’re looking for your own cozy cabin, look to Ohiopyle Vacation Rentals for a great list of charming and comfortable options. Check out the Orndorff Cabin, a real log cabin with great views of Sugarloaf Mountain. Take a look at all of the terrific lodging options in the Laurel Highlands.