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September 28, 2012

Roundup: Fall 2012 Guide To Gorgeous Foliage In The Philadelphia Region

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the major artery running down Center City from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to City Hall, is having a moment. Lined on either side by renowned art institutions plus the current installation of Open Air, the Parkway is also a magical spot to stroll beneath colorful fall foliage. (Photo by J. Smith for GPTMC)

Despite the mild temperatures of late, the fiery colors of fall will be full blown before we know it.

Whether you most enjoy the colorful fall of the Philadelphia region on four wheels, two wheels, on foot or peddling, this list will help you navigate your autumnal outdoor adventures.

We’ve compiled this extensive list (divided by county) of parks, trails, off-the-beaten-path roads, wineries, museums and more so that you can discover new territories offering the best views of the famous Pennsylvania foliage.

Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Parkway: Even right in Center City, you can get great views of vibrant fall foliage. One best bet is the straight shot down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, whose trees form a canopy of red, orange and yellow over your head in the autumn months. It’s a great walk from the Art Museum down to City Hall, with stops along the way for some of the world’s most renowned museums.

Franklin Square: Franklin Square park in Old City is a great place to take in some fresh fall foliage. The 7.5-acre green is one of five original squares that William Penn laid out in his original plan of the city in 1682.

Franklin Square, given its convenient location and gorgeous landscaping, is a fall foliage hidden gem right in Old City. (Photo by G. Widman for GPTMC)

Wissahickon Valley Park in Fairmount Park: Not only does Wissahickon have the only covered bridge in any major city, the picturesque river gorge offers incredible views of the skyline while it surrounds you in the colors of the fall.

Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon Gorge : Covered bridges, lush forest engulfing the trails and all the best of PA charm adorn Forbidden Drive’s gorgeous riverside trail available for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.

Morris Arboretum: What better place can we suggest than one that specializes in trees and horticulture? The Morris Arboretum takes you up into the trees on its unique winding walkways that are cool for the kids and adults, too.

From Valley Forge National Historical Park and lush Longwood Gardens to historic covered bridges and bucolic riverside trails, Philadelphia and its countryside are literally teeming with gorgeous fall foliage everywhere you look. (Left photo by B. Krist for GPTMC, right courtesy Longwood Gardens)

Schuylkill River Trail: Stay close to downtown but still get a breath taking experience of the fall colors while taking in the famous sights of Philadelphia — The Schuylkill River, the lighted bridges, the skyline and more.

More foliage picks, below.

University of Pennsylvania Campus: The University of Pennsylvania campus in West Philadelphia is framed and subdivided by canopy trees, lawns and meadows. Locust Walk in particular, the main thoroughfare across the campus, is beautiful in the fall. The stately architecture throughout the property adds to the visual display.

St. Joseph’s University: St. Joe’s in northwest Philadelphia is scenic, with lush trees (“real” trees, not “city” trees) bordering the walks and plenty of shaded lawn place to hang out with a picnic.

Mill Creek Road-Old Gulph Road in Ardmore: This tree-lined road off of Montgomery Avenue is full of creeks, forest, mansions, gentle bending curves and not much else. It is the perfect route for a sunny day fall foliage ride outside the city.

Stroll along the many paths at Longwood Gardens in Chester County through acres of exquisitely maintained grounds featuring 11,000 different types of plants and trees for one great fall foliage outing. (Photo courtesy Longwood Gardens)

Pastorious Park, Chestnut Hill: Pastorious Park offers 16 acres of thriving forestland, adorable garden spaces and sparkling ponds that reflect the luscious burnt oranges and reds.

Bucks County

Bowman’s Hill: The drive along Route 32 from Washington Crossing to New Hope is an excellent day trip that takes you to Bowman’s Hill Tower, from the top of which you get a magnificent vista of stunning fall foliage in every direction. Don’t miss the gazebo nestled among the tall trees of Penn’s Woods arboretum and remember the moonlit walk, which is open to kids as well as adults.

Tyler State Park: Why not rent a canoe and experience fall out on the water? You can do that and more at Tyler State Park, located off the Newtown Bypass. Or go for a stroll and find the old covered bridge — just follow the signs along the path.

Peace Valley Park: If the name isn’t already a dead giveaway, at Peace Valley Park you truly will find peace in the valley — fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking and all the best outdoor activities to take on while enjoying the colors of fall.

Tohickon Valley Park‎: Meaning “Deer Bone Creek” in Lenape, Tohickon Creek in Tohickon Valley Park is one of the cleanest in the state and is great for fishing and rafting. Enjoy fall foliage on the water or on land. Also be sure to check out High Rock where 200 feet of shale rise above the creek to offer a gorgeous scenic lookout — great for rock climbers, too.

Delaware Canal State Park: Featuring 11 river islands and tons of river shoreline hiking surrounded by forest, the Delaware Canal State Park is fall foliage mecca. Stop by New Hope and take a boat ride down river on the Isabelle Justice if hiking and cycling aren’t quite your style.

Drive along Route 32: Passing through Washington Crossing State Park, Yadley and New Hope while running adjacent to the Delaware River, Route 32 is a gorgeous road for fall foliage viewing.

Washington Crossing Historic Park: The historic site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey on Christmas night in 1776, Washington Crossing is filled with history, but also prime for outdoor sight seeing.

Delaware County

Ridley Creek State Park: The creek is stocked for trout fishing and the trails are perfect for fall foraging at Ridley Creek State Park. Waterfalls, epic views and vibrant fall colors anyone?

Brandywine River Museum: Not only is the Brandwine River Museum an art institution you must see, but the wildflower gardens that surround the building are as well. They’re designed to highlight the best of fall foliage and teeming with the vibrantly-colored Tupelo trees, stunning sunflowers and so many more.

Chaddsford Winery: Located in the absolutely adorable Peddler’s Village, Chaddsford Winery is a great place to get some foliage action while tasting the harvest.

Tyler Arboretum: Foliage is the specialty at Tyler Arboretum. Featuring 20 miles of carefully constructed trails, this is a full-on fall sanctuary.

Chester County

Hibernia County Park: Take in the sights of the Brandywine Creek, Chambers Lake, the Hibernia Mansion, scenic overlooks and more at Hibernia County Park. Make a fall foliage weekend out of it and reserve a spot at the campground.

French Creek State Park: Hopewell Lake at French Creek State Park is famous for fall scenery, but the 40 miles of trails make it the perfect fall getaway for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

Jenkins Arboretum: More than a mile of paved walkways run through the woods of this majestic botanical garden, making it the perfect fall foliage spot for all ages. For those looking to get a little more exercise, Jenkins Arboretum also offers free self-guided tours with maps throughout the property and the nearby conservation woodlands.

Longwood Gardens: Everyone’s favorite local botanical garden, Longwood Gardens features more than 1,000 acres of gardens and a four-acre conservatory, making it the ideal setting to simply take in the foliage. Check for special events and exhibits like the Ikebana and Bonsai show, November 3-4.

Marsh Creek State Park: Enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, fall foliage and killer sunsets on the scenic Marsh Creek Lake.

Montgomery County

Evansburg State Park: Take your pick of meadows, forests, farmland or fields for your fall foliage adventure at Evansburg State Park. Heads up to golf enthusiasts: check out the 18-hole Skippack Golf Club located within the park.

Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary at Mill Grove: Check out the museum or simply take a stroll in the sanctuary grounds at the John James Audubon Center. The five miles of trails run throughout the grove where a staggering 175 species of birds and over 400 species of plants have been identified.

Valley Forge National Historical Park: You can’t say that you’ve experienced historic Philadelphia until you visit Valley Forge National Park. The location of the winter encampment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War remains preserved for historic tours but, with its miles and miles of rolling hills and meadows strewn with forest land, it also serves as a great location for fall foliage.

How to Experience the Foliage

In addition to driving along scenic routes, or planning a walk around foliage photo opps, we’ve got a few suggestions for how to experience the pretty Philadelphia fall foliage.

Covered Bridge Tour: Bucks County has a whole 12 covered bridges you can view along the roads that roam from Washington Crossing State Park on the Delaware and around a loop of Buck’s County. Multiple entry points of entry allow for an easily accessible driving tour of these historic structures that will surely add to your fall foliage experience.

Hot Air Balloon Rides: When better way to see the changing trees than from a bird’s eye view? Take a hot air balloon ride over the city or out in the countryside with Lollipop Balloons, Inc. in Chester Springs; or United States Hot Air Balloon Team in St. Peters.

Bike/Running Trails: As you can see in our Guide to Hiking and Biking in Philadelphia, Philly is not lacking in the trails-for-hiking-and-biking department. You can start off right from within the downtown or from outside the city and see the sights of the season while you stretch your legs. Take your pick of landscapes — urban or rural, woods or water — or take advantage of the opportunity Philadelphia gives you to find all of those qualities in one.

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