As summer’s green gives way to honeyed autumn hues, bring a warm jacket and discover an entirely new side to the Allegheny National Forest, located in northwestern Pennsylvania. The striking colors and textures of fall make us all want to do just one thing — step back and look at the view. Here are the Top 5 trails to hike in the Allegheny National Forest:
■ Marilla Bridges Trail is a 1-mile loop trail with brilliant fall foliage and water vistas and is rated easy.
Highlights of this trail include the wooden Erik Benjamin Covered Bridge, which spans the spillway of the Marilla Reservoir, three rustic wooden trestle bridges crossing mountain streams, and a delightful gazebo located in its southwest corner.
This trail is picture perfect for fall photos, and is for non-motorized use only. The trail head is located along Route 346, 5 miles west of the city of Bradford.
■ The Kinzua Sky Walk takes you over the Kinzua Gorge in Kinzua Bridge State Park.
High in the sky, you experience amazing 360-degree views of the fall foliage from the skywalks’ partial glass overlook. The Kinzua Sky Walk was built on the historic towers of the Kinzua Viaduct, so tracks run up the middle. It extends 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge, at a height of 224 feet.
It’s free to hike on the skywalk, and admission to the park is free, too.
■ The Kinzua Creek Trail is a 0.4-mile , one-way trail down the side of the gorge and is rated difficult.
The trail switchbacks along the side of the gorge. At the bottom, you can view the skywalk from below, and have a close-up view of the huge fallen towers that still lie where tornado winds tossed them.
The Kinzua Bridge State Park is located at 296 Viaduct Road, Mount Jewett.
■ The Kinzua Valley Trail is a 7-mile hiking and biking trail perfect for viewing the autumn golds, brilliant reds, deep oranges, and rich yellows bursting forth during fall in the forestlands of the Alleghenies.
The trail, for a time, winds along the banks of the picturesque Kinzua Creek and is rated moderate in its difficulty. It’s surface is crushed limestone, and it is family-friendly, with easy access to the trailheads at Westline or Red Bridge Campground.
To reach the Westline trailhead, follow state Route 219 N from the intersection of Routes 6 and 219 at Lantz Corners. To reach the trailhead at the Red Bridge Campground, travel north from Kane on Route 321 to the campground located along the edge of the Allegheny Reservoir.
Lodging is available at the Westline Inn, and cabins and campsites at Red Bridge Campground may be reserved at recreation.gov.
■ The North Country Trail is the longest, most colorful trail in the Allegheny National Forest and spans 96.3 miles. It is well marked with blue diamonds.
The trail is one of three designated National Scenic Trails in Pennsylvania and provides vistas of the Allegheny Reservoir as it passes through rock outcroppings, open hardwoods, old growth forests and stands of hemlock.
The trail is a wonderful back-packing experience during the fall, but hikers should allow two to three days, as this trail is rated difficult.
A large trailhead, with a parking area, is located along state Route 346, west of Bradford.
■ A favorite trail and scenic overlook, Rimrock Overlook and Trail is located along the Longhouse National Scenic Byway in the Allegheny National Forest and is rated moderately difficult.
Considered by many as one of the most scenic fall vistas in the forest, the views from the overlook extend miles across the Allegheny Reservoir. Hikers see all the fall colors reflected in the shimmering surface of the waters of the reservoir. From the overlook, the short, 1.3-mile trail features carved stone steps that wind down the mountainous rocks, ending up on the colorful shoreline of the Allegheny Reservoir.
To drive to this destination from Bradford, travel west on state Route 59, make a left-hand turn onto Forest Road 454, and drive 2.7 miles to the parking and picnic area.
Find your own trail
Free downloadable maps are available at visitanf.com/download-maps-guides. Topographical maps of the trails within the Allegheny National Forest may be purchased at the Bradford Ranger District Office, 29 Forest Drive in Bradford.
For more information
Allegheny National Forest Tourism: visitanf.com