Situated in the Allegheny Mountains, Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands play host to a foliage extravaganza. Set on the state’s highest elevation, with thousands of acres of preserved state forests, parks and game land, the region provides plenty of unobstructed views of striking scenery.
Drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Colors peak: Late September to early October
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright built some of his most iconic homes, including Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, in the Laurel Highlands. Another, the Duncan House, was brought here from Illinois, along with three other signature return-to-nature-style homes designed by his apprentices, Peter Berndtson and John Rattenbury. Polymath Park Resort offers visitors an opportunity to stay in one of these accommodations. Each house can sleep up to six guests.
$249-$399. 187 Evergreen Lane, Acme, (877) 833-7829.
Sunset at the Historic Summit Inn
Luminaries like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison stayed at the Historic Summit Inn, built in 1907 atop 1,200 acres of Chestnut Ridge, with its breathtaking panoramic views. Amenities include a mountaintop nine-hole golf course (no weekday greens fee for guests), a heated indoor pool, and several on-site restaurants.
Pets welcome. Rooms $130-$165, studios $205. 101 Skyline Drive, Farmington, (724) 438-8594.
Enjoy elegant cuisine in a woodsy-chic atmosphere at Treetops Restaurant at Polymath Park. Filet flambéed tableside and in-house smoked salmon are two menu highlights.
Chase the evening chill with a seat in front of the fireplace at Mae’s Dining Room at the Summit Inn. The specialty is the crab cake, which can even be found Benedict style on the breakfast menu. Also try the sinfully rich chicken potpie.
Breakfast $8.25-$13.95, dinner $15.95-$36.95.
Get off to a warm and delicious start with the apple-dumpling pancakes ($5.99) at Brady’s Restaurant.
3242 Route 31 W, Acme, (724) 423-4566.
A popular après-adventure gathering spot is Falls City Restaurant & Pub, which features over 50 microbrews and tasty wraps.
112 Garrett St., Ohiopyle, (724) 329-3000.
1. Get a completely different view of the foliage while soaring through it at 25 miles up on two levels of zip line at Laurel Highlands River Tours & Outdoor Center. Before zipping, navigate several challenging elements, including swing planks and a tightrope walk.
$20-$34 weekdays, $24-$44 weekends. 4 Sherman St., Ohiopyle, (800) 472-3846.
2. Fort Necessity National Battlefield is the site of George Washington’s first military action and the first battleground of the French and Indian War in 1754. Follow that with a visit to Mount Washington Tavern—once a stop on the National Road and now a museum—to learn what it was like to travel by stagecoach.
$5. 1 Washington Pkwy., Farmington, (724) 329-5512.
3. Its location atop a waterfall made Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater a sensation when it was built between 1935 and 1939. It still is today. Guided tours $27.
1491 Mill Run Road, Mill Run, (724) 329-8501.
4. Wright enthusiasts will also want to visit another of his creations, Kentuck Knob, which, like all of his works, beautifully integrates design and nature. Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, it also has an extensive sculpture garden.
Guided tours $23. 723 Kentuck Road, Chalk Hill, (724) 329-1901.
5. Descend 1,700 feet below ground level to explore the three-mile Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania’s largest cave.
$12. 200 Caverns Park Road, Farmington, (800) 515-4150.
6. Mountaintop views accompany a glass of wine beautifully. Savor the highest summit east of the Rockies at Christian W. Klay Winery, which holds free tastings. Then tour the recently opened Ridge Runner Distillery on the property. The Apple Pie and Peach Pie moonshines offer unique sips.
412 Fayette Springs Road, Chalk Hill, (724) 439-3424.
7. The Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway (Routes 711 and 381) passes through picturesque small towns and Ohiopyle State Park, over rolling hillsides, and past farms and waterfalls, all with a clear view of the season’s brilliant colors.