Field Trip: Autumnal Glory Did you know Pennsylvania had a Grand Canyon?


Each September, variations on the same meme circulate on social media: “UK: We call it ‘autumn,’ from the French word ‘automne’ and the Latin ‘autumnus.’ US: WE CALL IT FALL BECAUSE LEAF FALL DOWN.” It’s meant to convey the relative simplicity of Americans, who, admittedly, do often reduce complexities to easy-access nuggets — a strategy that’s especially useful when dealing with children, puppies and our elected officials. But our new-country naiveté may also work in our favor. It allows us, after all, to take joy in simple pleasures, like the physical manifestations of seasonal change — i.e., the fact that before leaves fall down, leaves change color, in ways that are amazing and exquisite and thoroughly demonstrative of nature’s majesty. And there’s no better place to see such majesty than in Pennsylvania, which has more than 130 tree species and a varied topography that ranges from sea level to more than 3,000 feet in elevation. One of the most frequently visited spots for leaf-spotting is the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which — while certainly less spectacular than its Southwestern counterpart — is absolutely gorgeous in the fall. Part of the Tioga State Forest, located between the towns of Williamsport and Wellsboro and adjacent to two other state forests as well, the PA Grand Canyon area stretches for more than 45 miles, and its Pine Creek Gorge dips to nearly 1,500 feet.

The Four Mile Run falls sits at the base of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

Hiking is one natural way to see the spectacular views there, but bikes work, too: The 65-mile-long Pine Creek Rail Trail was named Pennsylvania’s most beautiful bike path by PennLive. Along with taking in the incredible fall colors, visitors might also spy the area’s abundant wildlife, including bald eagles, river otters, black bear and wild turkey. Fishing, hunting and camping are popular in this part of the Appalachian Plateau, as is horseback riding. Those staying overnight might try the town of Wellsboro, highlighted by the New York Times as a “quaint town with ‘quiet things’ to do.” Its Victorian Main Street, with flickering gaslights, are an especial favorite.

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