Go west, young leaf-peepers. The colors of fall are already sprinkling the mountains that cradle the Pennsylvania Turnpike from the Susquehanna River to the Ohio Gateway. The Catoctin, Kittatinny and Allegheny ranges in the western half of Pennsylvania are seeing autumn-like nights while warm days still allow for shorts, golf shirts and even bathing suits. Ski and golf resorts in these mountain settings provide the ideal launch pads for exploring the surrounding hills and attractions. Here’s what you’ll find at a pair of my perennial favorites. – Jay Lloyd
The championship golf course here is literally at the base of a mountain that will shortly be showing a palette of fall colors. Mark the calendar for Liberty’s Fall Fest on October 18th and 19th. There will be fall colors galore, scenic chairlift rides into the autumn blaze on the mountain, music and a ski swap and sale — just to get you in the mood for winter.
The dynamic mountain views from nearly every hole on this 71 par course can be a pleasant distraction, but the rushing stream that meanders across a half-dozen fairways keeps you focused. The course provides both challenge and versatility with a stimulating blend of par 3, 4 and 5 holes. The resort hotel is steps from the clubhouse and the first tee. Packages this fall that include an overnight stay, two rounds of golf, dinner and breakfast clock in at $213. Check all the package rates here.
Liberty Mountain is about 15 miles from the historic Gettysburg Battlefield and dramatic vistas of Civil War sites amid the changing foliage of autumn.
Take I-76 W (Pennsylvania Turnpike) to exit 236 for US-15 toward Gettysburg/Harrisburg. Merge onto US-15 S and continue over the Maryland border. Turn right onto US-15 Alt S. Turn left onto US-15 Alt N/N Seton Ave. At traffic light in town, turn right onto Route 140 West. At PA line, Route 140 West becomes Route 16. Turn right on Route 116. Liberty Mountain Resort is 3 miles on the right.
Heading further west along the Turnpike, ears start popping as the roadway climbs to the heights of the Allegheny Mountains. In the pristine Laurel Highlands, you’ll find a major ski and snowboard mountain that puts out the welcome mat for anyone craving the colors of autumn.
I just returned home from a long weekend at Seven Springs, the sprawling western Pennsylvania resort that boasts a dozen eateries and bars, a top notch golf course, horseback riding along mountain trails ablaze with color, trout fishing, shooting sports, zip-lines and, for the entire month of October, Fall Festivals.
Each weekend in October the curtain opens on a celebration of fall that spreads across the mountain and combines music, food, arts, crafts and fall foliage chairlift rides to the peak. Here, there are two ways of getting back down. You can ride the chair back to the base after snacking and observing the stunning views from the summit’s Lake Tahoe lodge. Or you can enjoy the thrills of steering a dry-land luge along a winding mountain track back to the base that’s called the Alpine Slide. Try just one ride and you’ll be hooked.
After a morning on the mountain, a great spot here to stop for lunch and a brew is the veranda at the Bavarian Lounge overlooking the slopes. If you think Philly makes a great pretzel, you ain’t seen nothin’ until you get a look at the humungous Bavarian pretzel that’s delivered to your table hanging on a hook and surrounded by dark beer mustard. It takes a least two to finish one.
A global entourage of visitors comes to this corner of Pennsylvania specifically to see the famous Frank Lloyd Wright creation, Falling Water. This visually unique home that appears to have a waterfall cascading from floor to floor is set on a rushing stream deep in the Laurel Highlands forest and against a backdrop of rugged boulders that merge with the structure. Touring the home is a must-do experience on the western Pennsylvania fall foliage trail.
While you’re at Seven Springs, you can also visit Shanksville, PA and the memorial to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Get off the Turnpike at exit 110 (Somerset). Hang a right off the exit ramp at the second light. Go 3 traffic lights and turn right onto Route 31 West. Go 7 miles and turn left at Pioneer Park. Go 4 miles to the first stop sign. Turn right and Seven Springs will be 5 miles ahead on the left.
Bring a camera and enjoy!