Technically, you can see fall colors from just about anywhere—out the car window, while sitting on the porch of a vacation rental—but truthfully, there’s no better way to witness the season than on foot. When the forests turn orange and yellow (peak is typically mid-October in western Pennsylvania), immerse yourself in the show by hiking beneath and through it. Whether you’re looking for an epic weekend or a short family hike, you’ll find the perfect outing on one of these four trails.
Pleasant Valley Park
With roughly seven miles of multi-use trail (Pleasent Valley Park), including a smattering of old farm roads, this unassuming little gem east of Pittsburgh packs an impressive visual punch. From open fields full of goldenrod and iron weed to hardwood forest of maple and oak to conifer stands, this former farmland has been, in many ways, returned to nature. For a mellow outing, follow the creek to the right at the bottom of Red Oak Trail. This well-trodden path crosses the little run a handful of times before meeting up with a disused farm road leading to White Oak Trail.
Wolf Rocks Loop Trail
Located in Laurel Summit State Park (part of the larger Forbes State Forest), this well-marked trail leads through second-growth hardwood forest, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and prehistoric looking ferns. The canopy fluctuates from open and airy to dense and tunnel-like, with rock gardens and the occasional mossy carpet underfoot. While you could do this hike as an out and back, sticking to the main artery of Wolf Rocks Trail, we suggest taking the Wolf Rocks Loop as it splits to the left. The 2.7-mile loop is spiced with even more rocks and moss. All of this is preamble to the main event: the overlook at the far end of the trail. A natural outcropping of sandstone boulders presents visitors with a 180-degree view of the neighboring ridgeline and valley.