Top Five Nearby Sites to Witness Autumn’s Splendor
By Leah Lancione
If the end of Summer brings on feelings of melancholy or gloom, it’s time to take on a new perspective: Give autumn a chance. What a spectacular time of year. Everybody knows the Northeast is known for its spectacular Fall foliage, but do you have the time and budget to travel all the way to New England? If not, there are a number of places closer to home that provide major scenic value during the autumn season.
Belleplain State Forest
Condé Nast Traveler magazine recommends New Jersey’s Belleplain State Forest. Here visitors will find the 26-acre Lake Nummy adorned by colorful oak, cranberry, sweet gum, red and black gum trees intermingled with evergreens. Also of note, according to Abbie Tang-Smith of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, “Belleplain’s proximity to the Bay and ocean also helps moderate the temperature, providing a longer leaf season.”
Shenandoah National Park
If you want to stay even closer to home, there are a number of distinct locations in the mid-Atlantic where you can enjoy the Fall leaves. For one, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, just 75 miles from the D.C. area, is famous for its dazzling autumn foliage and 105-mile Skyline Drive that winds through the majestic region. Along with 500 miles of trails, the park boasts panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The National Park Service invites visitors to experience the 200 acres of “cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet, wooded hollows” or to “take a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or have a picnic with the family.” To make it a weekend adventure, lodging close by includes the Big Meadows Lodge and the Skyland Resort, or if you want a more rustic stay, there are the Lewis Mountain and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Cabins. Visitors can purchase entrance permits for one or up to seven days. For more information, call the park’s information line at 540.999.3500 or visit the “Things To Know Before You Come” page at www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/things2know.htm
Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, or Pennsylvania Dutch Country, is also a great option for viewing Fall foliage either by foot or mountain bike as the area claims to have some of the best hiking and biking trails in the state. And it’s only a bit over a two-hour drive from D.C. This place is home to miles of Amish farmlands and boasts 29 covered bridges that will instantly captivate your attention and make you feel as if you are in a living landscape painting. If taking a hike or pedaling is not your thing, there are opportunities to witness the area by horse and buggy or even by hot air balloon.
For more information, visit the Lancaster County website at www.padutchcountry.com/activities/lancaster-biking-and-hiking.asp Visitors can also experience the sights with a personal tour guide in your car or in a mini-coach. First, stop by the Lancaster County Visitors Center for information on lodging and dining, maps, brochures and coupons for some of the local attractions and activities. Or you can call toll free at 800.723-8824. To plot out what you want to do on your Fall getaway to PA Dutch Country, visit www.padutchcountry.com While there, consider taking in some of the local farmers markets, wineries and breweries and one-of-a-kind antiques and furniture shops. “Fall in Lancaster County is also harvest time — the best time to get local produce and seasonal baked goods, homemade crafts and wares at roadside stands and farmers markets.”
The Poconos is not just home to the NASCAR, but a region of northeastern Pennsylvania that encompasses 2,400 square miles of beautiful terrain overlooking the Delaware Water Gap as well as various lakes, valleys and Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
The Poconos provide the opportunity to take in waterfalls, lush terrain, historic buildings and majestic wildlife. If you want to switch it up a little bit, you can ditch your hiking boots and take a local tour by car, air, boat or train. This hot spot also presents some of the best Fall activities and festivals, including the Autumn Timber Festival (www.shawneemt.com/s_press_autumntimberfestival.html) and Fall Foliage Days (www.jimthorpe.org/fallfoliage.htm). Consider the Poconos for a romantic getaway, a fun girlfriends’ weekend or a family outing this Fall. To view the foliage at its peak of color (September through the end of October) consult the Fall Foliage Hotline at 570.421.5565. In addition to the opportunities to view stunning, colorful foliage, you can carve out a little time to go horseback riding, on a hayride, or to visit local wineries or breweries, quaint local towns for shopping or a local arts and crafts fair.
Visit or call one of the area’s three Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau centers to get information about lodging, attractions, dining and potential itineraries. For the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center, call 570.226.2141, for the Tannersville Visitors Center call 570.629.1703, and for Jim Thorpe, call 570.325.3673.
Deep Creek Lake
This last pick is right here in Maryland—Garrett County to be exact—just three hours from the Baltimore/D.C. Area. This eye-catching and fun-filled site hosts a variety of hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts, cabins and rental homes. Spend your days exploring the area’s many forest trails and take in Fall scenery either by foot or bike. Other options include renting a boat or kayak to view the brightly-hued trees and wildlife from one of the lakes.
All Earth Eco Tours offer kayaking on a lake as well as “mild to wild” hikes that are appropriate for the whole family or a group of friends. Visit www.allearthecotours.com for more information. To celebrate the season with gusto, make plans to visit during the annual “Autumn Glory Festival” Oct. 8-12. The festival will include parades, concerts, art exhibits, antique and craft shows, music and more. For more information, or to plan your trip, check out the official website at visitdeepcreek.com
Now, for some Fall foliage road trip tunes to listen to while traveling to your destination, try downloading the following autumn appreciation tunes to your MP3 or mobile device before you depart: Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” “Autumn Leaves” by Ed Sheeran, “September Song” by Willie Nelson, “Autumn Leaves” by Eva Cassidy and “Autumn Leaves” either performed by Nat King Cole or Dianna Krall. They’ll get you in the mood for some serious leaf-peeping and add to the delight of your Fall foliage road trip