When it comes to fall leaf-peeping, Pennsylvania’s colorful seasonal display is the longest and most varied in the entire country. The Pocono Mountains region, in particular, is home to over 120 different varieties of trees, plants, and shrubs—including birches, maples, oaks, aspens—making it one of the best places in the state to admire the seasonal transition.
And with more than 260 miles of trails, two national parks, and nine state parks, there are plenty of ways to revel in the stunning seasonal spectacle. Here are five of the best places for leaf peepers in the Poconos.
Celebrated as one of the most scenic drives in the country, nearly 50 miles of Scenic Route 6 meander through the Pocono Mountains showcasing the area’s charming towns and natural wonders. The picturesque route passes the northeastern corner of massive Lake Wallenpaupack, runs into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and rambles through pit-stop worthy towns like Hawley, Honesdale, and Milford along the way.
During the autumn season, take a fall foliage train tour on The Stourbridge Line. There are routes from both Honesdale and Hawley, including the Pocono Foliage Express between Honesdale and Hawley and the Lackawaxen Foliage Express between Hawley and Lackawaxen.
2. Jim Thorpe
Cradled by the stunning Lehigh Gorge, Jim Thorpe is a scenic stop for travelers visiting the Poconos. The historic hamlet features a downtown brimming with shops, galleries restaurants, and historic sites.
The town also hosts the Jim Thorpe Fall Foliage Festival, an annual celebration of all things autumn, held the first three weekends in October. Along with the colorful seasonal backdrop, the celebration includes live music, artisans and craft vendors, plus plenty of food trucks. There are also kid-friendly attractions, including hayrides, ghost walks, and even a scarecrow contest.
3. Lake Wallenpaupack
One of the largest bodies of water in Pennsylvania, Lake Wallenpaupack is stunning at any time of year. But during autumn, when the season’s colorful display lights up the area, the 5,700-acre lake is one of the region’s top spots for leaf peepers. Part of the draw is undoubtedly the sheer number of options for exploring the area.
For starters, there are 52 miles of lake shoreline to explore in search of the ultimate seasonal photograph and visitors can also spend some time on the water in a canoe from Rubber Duckie Boat Rentals that offers rentals through late October. Hit the road along scenic Route 507, which traces the eastern edge of the massive lake, or get a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling lake and the multi-hued seasonal transition on an aerial tour of the Poconos with Moyer Aviation. Along with trips showcasing Lake Wallenpaupack, Moyer Aviation also offers year-around aerial tours of Mount Pocono, Lake Harmony, and the Delaware Water Gap, as well as custom trips.
4. Shawnee Mountain
Featuring 23 trails, two terrain parks, and a snow tubing park, Shawnee Mountain Ski Area draws skiers of all skill levels throughout the winter. But there’s more to the resort than perfectly groomed slopes. Throughout the summer and fall, Shawnee Mountain also hosts some of the region’s most popular festivals. Some of the location’s fall highlights include the Shawnee Celtic Festival (late September), the Autumn Timber Festival (mid-October), and the Pocono Food Truck & Art Festival (late-October), complete with chairlift rides perfect for gaping at the seasonal foliage display.
5. Pocono Environmental Education Center
A nonprofit educational partner of the National Park Service located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) offers nature camps, workshops, and other educational programs for the public throughout the year.
The beautiful campus is also a spectacular place to soak up the fall colors in the Poconos. PEEC has 12 miles of family-friendly trails with footpaths that showcase vast oak-hickory woodlands, hemlock-studded ravines, secluded waterfalls, and provide expansive views of the Kittatinny Mountains which stretch into neighboring New Jersey.
Beyond the PEEC campus, the surrounding 70,000 acres of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area also offer plenty of ways to scope out the colorful seasonal showcase, including more than 100 miles of trails. You can take the 1.2-mile Red Dot Trail for expansive views from the top of Mount Tammany, ride the 32-mile McDade Recreational Trail along the Delaware River, or plan a trip on the 26-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail that winds its way through the vast recreation area.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha.