Autumn Views at Altoona's Horseshoe Curve

One of our favorite day trips from the Pittsburgh area involves going for a ride to do some train watching in the Altoona area. This specific trip last autumn was focused upon a visit to Horseshoe Curve to see autumn color. For rail nerds like myself, this is an exciting place to go. Even if you are not into trains through, it is impressive seeing these trains really chug along as they traverse this rugged mountain area. Horseshoe Curve offers a stunning scenic overlook around a stunning curve in the mountains and an engineering triumph of the old Pennsylvania Railroad. It is a great place to take a picnic lunch and spend a few hours taking in nature, scenic views, and impressive freight and passenger trains. 
We started with a quick stop at the Gallitzin Tunnels. For more information on them, check out this article. We were not really chasing any specific locomotives or special trains on this trip and most of my photos were more based upon taking in the whole scene with autumn colors and the train action. 
The inclined plane/funicular at Horseshoe Curve. We generally take the ride up to the top of the Horseshoe Curve Observation area and then climb down the stairs on the way back. They say that Horseshoe Curve is the Disneyland of train spotting, which is an apt description of this spot. They even have an incline ride to get to the top. There are loudspeakers that have the radio communications from the dispatchers to know when the next trains are coming and what is going on out on the rails. As I said earlier though, even if you are not into trains, this is an incredibly scenic spot to spend a relaxing afternoon. Take some folding chairs and a cooler with drinks and food and just take in the place. 

Even the caterpillars were giving us signs of autumn. 
 Here is a view of the chain of reservoirs that leads down the valley to Altoona.
 Here comes a train!
 The trains passing the parked historic Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive.
Horseshoe Curve is always worth a visit, but especially as the autumn colors come into view. For more information on visiting, check out this article from a prior visit.


31+ Must-See PA Autumn Destinations

An autumn view of the Lehigh Gorge from the Fireline Trail at Hickory Run State Park in the Pocono Mountains
The view from Loyalsock State Forest's High Knob Overlook at sunset
It is time to start planning some autumn adventures! Since our last fall articles, we have added a few more places that you have to check out during the fall. We have visited places all across the state during autumn, and these are some of our favorites. Whether you open your door and look outside, or if you go to your local state park, you are sure to see some beauty. The following are just a few of our absolute favorite places to check out in autumn, thanks to their exceptional beauty. 

For some bonus places, be sure to check out all of the places on our massive guide to some the state's many spectacular scenic overlooks and vistas. 
1) Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA, Fayette County
Fallingwater: One of the most famous houses in the world
This world renowned Frank Lloyd Wright architectural wonder is absolutely stunning to see in autumn. The stark beauty of Fallingwater and the falls that it was built over are highlighted with the spectacular colors of the fall trees. We highly recommend going on a tour of the grounds and the building. For more information on visiting, check out their website at www.fallingwater.org
2) Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, PA, Northumberland and Columbia County
Knoebels is always our favorite place to visit within the state. The fantastic coasters, classic rides, and overall atmosphere of the park are heightened by the crisp autumn air and vivid fall colors. The park, along with Columbia and Montour Counties, also holds a Covered Bridge Festival on October 3rd, 4th 5th, and 6th, where the local covered bridges are celebrated, including the ones located within the amusement park. The park also has Phoenix Phall Phunfest on October 7th as a kickoff to the Halloween season, with craft vendors, celebrations, a bonfire in their campground, and more.  This kicks off the park's Hallo-Fun Weekends, October 11 – 13, 18 – 20, 25 – 27. We highly recommend taking in America's largest free admission, traditional amusement park as a part of your fall activities. For more information about visiting the park, check out our article and also visit www.knoebels.com
There is something so special about being at or above the height of a flying eagle, hawk, osprey, or other majestic bird. At a height of 2780 feet on the Allegheny Front Escarpment, you will see raptors, other birds, dragonflies, monarchs, and other creatures make spectacular sliding and swooping maneuvers both above you and below you as they sweep into the valley below during their spring and fall migrations. The Allegheny Front serves as a prime migration spot, where single-day counts of hawks can measure into the hundreds, or even thousands, Bald and Golden Eagles into the dozens, and countless vultures, and other creatures. For more information about the spot, check out our article on it. Unfortunately, due to these difficult times, the hawk watch will not be open to the public this year. 
4) Big Pocono State Park, Tannersville, PA, Monroe County
The view from Big Pocono State Park, at the top of Camelback Mountain Ski Area and Resort
There are a ton of fun sightseeing opportunities and activities going on in the Pocono region of the state. One of my favorite places to check out is Big Pocono State Park, high atop Camelback Mountain Ski Area and Resort. This overlook gives you a wide expanse of view over the Poconos, and to as far out as New Jersey and New York. There are also a ton of different activities to do at Camelback, including an alpine roller coaster, zip lining, and more. There are also a plethora of different places to see throughout the Poconos
Our fourth stop takes us to Hickory Run State Park, one of the finest of PA's State Parks. The reds and yellows on the trees are fiery, and the contrast of them with the park's spectacular boulder field, especially in the midst of some morning fog, is nothing short of breathtaking. Terrific autumn views can be had throughout the park, especially the boulder field, and up on the Fireline Trail, looking down upon beautiful Lehigh Gorge. Last fall was not our first visit to the state park, but it was our first visit in the Autumn, and it was well worth the four hour drive from Pittsburgh. For more information on some of the many places to see at this huge state park, check out our article about it here

Heading south from Hickory Run, along the Lehigh River, you will see many tremendous views of the Lehigh Gorge. Once you enter Jim Thorpe, you see the spectacular landscape, joined with beautiful Victorian architecture. Hop onto an excursion train ride along the gorge, or head on a hike up the gorge at Glen Onoko Falls or one of the other many amazing hikes in the area. We were amazed with our visit to the Lehigh Gorge and Pocono Mountains area last fall. For more information, check out this article. 

Whether you are lakeside, or checking out the awesome vistas from higher up in the gorge of the Allegheny River, you are sure to see some amazing autumn views at the Allegheny Reservoir. One of the most stunning spots to visit is the Rimrock Overlook, a rock outcropping complete with a large stone stairway that takes you out to a perch high above the Allegheny Reservoir.
8) Strasburg Railroad, Strasburg, PA, Lancaster County
One of the four pristine early 20th century steam locomotives of  the Strasburg Railroad.
Hard work ethic is what makes Pennsylvania what it is. At no place is this more evident in the state than riding through Amish Country on the Strasburg Railroad in the fall. Amish farmers are tending to harvesting the crops they have worked so hard to tend to throughout the year. Around the area, you will find freshly baked goods and harvested crops. 
The ride through Amish Country
The railroad itself is also the result of very hard work. The Strasburg Railroad is part of a collaborative effort to preserve a historic short line railroad and to fully restore equipment from the golden age of railroading. Thanks to these efforts, there is a fine fleet of pristine locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses, and more, that are restored with full accuracy to their original specifications. My parents brought me here when I was little and visiting the railroad brings about great family memories that I've held on to ever since. Going back, I appreciate more and more how amazing this railroad is. This is an awesome place to visit at any time of the year, but especially during the autumn months. For more information on visiting, check out www.strasburgrailroad.com
A pumpkin patch next to the railroad.
If the call of the wild beckons, Elk Country in the PA Great Outdoors Region in Benezette, PA is where you want to go. Autumn is the time of the rut, when the Elk practice their mating rituals. You will see male suitors duke it out, grunt, stomp, and lock antlers and compete while their potential mate watches. It is a spectacular sight. Couple that with the fall colors, especially at the nearby Marion Brooks Reserve with its amazing grove of birches, and the rest of the attractions in the PA Great Outdoors Region, and you have a terrific place to go in the fall, in addition to the nearby Kinzua Bridge. This region is perfect. Nearby Clarion also holds an Autumn Leaf Festival, complete with amusement rides, vendors, and more.
10) and 11) Worlds End State Park and Loyalsock State Forest, Sullivan County
The views afforded at Worlds End State Park and the Loyalsock State Forest in the autumn are nothing short of incredible. The colors make the trees almost appear as if they are on fire. It is incredible to see. Loyalsock Canyon Vista in Worlds End State Park and the High Knob Overlook in the adjacent Loyalsock State Forest, are stunning places to take in these fall views.
View from High Knob Overlook at sunset
View from the Loyalsock Canyon Vista at Worlds End State Park
The views at these vistas in their autumn splendor are absolutely breathtaking.

12) Ricketts Glen State Park 
Ricketts Glen State Park is a stunning place to visit in any season, but especially towards the end of autumn and the cusp of winter. The freshly fallen leaves cover the ground and the banks along the creeks and waterfalls at the park. Safety is highly recommended, with a good pair of boots, some drinks, and some snacks as the 7.2 mile loop of the main falls is rigorous and slick at times. You also need to keep up on updates from the park in regards to weather and trail conditions, for the trails close for regular hiking without proper ice hiking equipment in mid November. 
13) Steamtown: Scranton, PA
Heading out on an excursion train ride at Steamtown National Historic site in Scranton is a wonderful thing to do. Nay Aug Gorge, which is traversed on many of these excursions, is stunning to see with some fall color. For more information on visiting, check out our article on this awesome place.

14) and 15) Marie Antoinette Overlook and Wyalusing Rocks, Route 6 in Bradford County
Similar to the last two, these overlooks are within a few miles of each other. It is also easy to make a beeline 45 minutes northeast from Worlds End to hit these two overlooks. The history at both of these spots is extremely fascinating, and well worth checking out. 
The Marie Antoinette Overlook looks out over a stunning bend in the Susquehanna River. French Azilum, a place that was rumored to be an exile point for the ill-fated French Queen. In the fall, the colors in this area are extraordinary.
Just a little bit east of Marie Antoinette Overlook, is the Wyalusing Rocks Overlook, looking over an even tighter bend in the Susquehanna River. This place has been a historic spot for many generations of history in North America and is well worth checking out.  
16) Brady's Bend: Clarion County

This scenic overlook is beautiful in every season, but it is especially stunning the fall. For information on the location, check out our article.
17) Kennerdell Overlook: Venango County
 18) Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, Allegheny County
If you live in Pittsburgh, a great place to go spend a weeknight or afternoon is at Schenley Park. 
Serpentine Drive in Schenley Park
As one of our nation's largest urban wooded areas, you are bound to find beautiful colors at every corner of the park and throughout the CCC, Great Depression era, infrastructure throughout the park. 
 19) Route 40 Overlook, Hopwood, PA, Laurel Highlands, Fayette County
The Route 40 Overlook in Hopwood, deep in the Laurel Highlands and near Ohiopyle State Park, Fallingwater, and Laurel Caverns. This overlook looks over a deep crevasse and Uniontown. The colors are especially vivid at this spot, in addition to Ohiopyle State Park
 20) Wine Country, North East, PA, Erie County
Fresh grapes? Need I say more? Between the cool colors, the smell of harvested grapes lingering through the air, and the always awesome views of Lake Erie, North East, PA is an awesome place to sit and relax. Be sure to check out the dozens of wineries and vineyards up and down the shores of Lake Erie.
There is nothing like fresh grapes!
21) Horseshoe Curve and Gallitzin Tunnels on the border of Blair and Cambria Counties
 Heading up the incline to Horseshoe Curve
 Even without trains within this shot, you can see just how beautiful
Trains heading by the historic Pennsylvania Railroad Locomotive on display.

Seeing dramatic fall colors coupled with trains traversing the mountainous terrain of Central PA is something that is awesome, even if you do not consider yourself to be a train watcher. This is an absolutely awesome place to pack up a cooler and take a picnic lunch to, especially on a pretty autumn day.

 22) Tunnelview Park, New Alexandria, PA, Westmoreland County
Tunnelview Park, Indiana County
Tunnelview Park is home to multiple generations of canal and rail history, with three transportation related tunnels, and accompanying bridges. This is a spectacular and often overlooked spot, deep in the Loyalhanna Gorge. Read more about this awesome place from this article about an autumn visit and one from a winter visit. 
 23) Mingo Creek Park, Finleyville, PA, Washington County
Mingo Creek Park in Washington County is a place that takes its covered bridges seriously. They have two beautiful covered bridges, including one that was moved and saved from demolition. The autumn colors are especially vibrant in this location. For more information on visiting, check out our article on this awesome place. 
 24Renziehausen Park Rose Garden and Arboretum, McKeesport, PA, Allegheny County

The Renzie Park Rose Garden in McKeesport is the result of decades of hard work by community members through the Garden Club of McKeesport. The fall roses, coupled with the colors of the trees of the arboretum, make this an exceptional site to take in the sights of autumn.

The wooded nature of Pittsburgh lends itself to having awesome autumn views, and fall colors tend to hit the city much later than most of the state, meaning that the colors don't often appear until well into October. The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is specifically awesome during this time of the year, thanks to the annual Polish and Slovak Festivals, and Pitt Homecoming, when they shoot fireworks off of the venerable skyscraper.
  26) Nockamixon State Park, Near Quakertown, PA, Bucks County
There is nothing quite like the feeling of crisp autumn air when you are out on the water. Lake Nockamixon at Nockamixon State Park is an awesome place to go during the fall months for these reasons. Additionally, the leaves seem to get exceptionally colorful in this location. Horseback riding, hiking, boating, sail boating, and more await visitors to this awesome state park. Nearby, you can also check out the funky Ringing Rocks County Park, home to an exceptional geologic wonder. For more information on visiting, check out our article on Nockamixon. 
27) Raystown Lake

While Raystown Lake is beautiful to visit at any time of the year, the Proud Mary Showboat offers special autumn cruises to see the colors on the lake. Be sure to check this out!

28) Forbes State Forest and Linn Run State Park, Westmoreland and Somerset Counties
This area has some incredible hikes and views. It is well worth checking out in the autumn. Here is a guide of the area around Linn Run State Park. 
29) Mt. Davis Natural Area
Pennsylvania's tallest point is a beautiful place to go in the fall. 
It trends a little bit earlier with color than the rest of Southwestern PA, thanks to its higher elevation and slightly cooler temperatures.

30) Go to your local orchard and get some fresh apples, pumpkins, and apple cider

Pennsylvania has so many great orchards and farm stands to get the freshest and most delicious apples and apple products. It is one of the state's best crops and having fresh apples, cider, pies, and more is one of the many blissful aspects of life in Pennsylvania in the fall. Brown's Orchard in Washington County is our favorite place to go in the Pittsburgh area for cider and apples, but there are so many great places across the state. In the eastern part of the state, we absolutely love Bobwhite Acres/Wata Farm, which is located in Lehigh County and is a full service orchard and farm, with a full Christmas Tree Farm where they sell apples and cider through the New Year and Pappy's Orchard and Lisa's Kitchen in Lehigh County, which features fantastic apples and more, coupled with tremendous baked goods. 

31) Right outside your door! 
Autumn is stunning in PA, so get out there and appreciate it!

This list is far from all encompassing, but these are places you should plan to see at least once during the fall months. Have a great time! For further suggestions on places to check out, be sure to explore our Vistas and Scenic Overlooks guide at the following link, all of which are sure to look great in the fall months.

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