Leaf-peeping opportunities beckon in all directions

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Leaves already are starting to turn in the Allegheny National Forest, where fall colors are expected to peak early because of the region's hot spring that arrived earlier-than-usual.

While the lasting drought may dull the foliage in some parts of the state, colors in the national forest will be vibrant since Northwestern Pennsylvania experienced typical rainfall, said Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau.

"It's going to be good color, but going to be early," she said. "Traditionally, we're usually the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October. It's coming right now."

One of the relatively new attractions to see nearby is the Kinzua Sky Walk, which opened last September in Kinzua Bridge State Park in Mount Jewett, McKean County.

The Kinzua Viaduct, which was constructed in 1882 and was once the longest and tallest railroad structure in the world at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high, was partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources moved forward with a $4.3 million project to build a pedestrian skywalk, where visitors can stroll 600 feet out on the remaining support towers. There they can peer miles out into the Kinzua Gorge as well as through a glass-bottomed observation deck at the end of the walkway.

Picnicking and trails also are available.

Entrance to the park and skywalk are free. Since the pedestrian bridge reopened after the winter on March 7, a traffic counter on the structure has shown that nearly 100,000 people have walked along its path this year, said Mitch Stickle, manager of the state park.

Kinzua State Park is a little more than a 3-hour drive from Downtown Pittsburgh.

For details on the Kinzua Sky Walk or tourism in McKean County, call the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau at 1-800-473-9370 or visit its website at www. visitANF.com.

Fall also is a nice time to explore Somerset County's 10 historic covered bridges.

The Somerset Chamber of Commerce offers a 175-mile "Somerset County Covered Bridge -- And More! -- Tour," starting with Walter's Mill Bridge at the Somerset Historical Center and concluding with Barronvale Bridge in the western part of the county.

The tour includes a stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek Township, the Quecreek Mine Rescue site and Great Allegheny passage.

There also are several autumn festivals scheduled over the next couple of months.

Copies of the covered bridge tour are available from the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce by calling 1-814-445-6431 or emailing info@somersetcountychamber.com. For details and events listings: www.somersetpa.net.

McHenry, Md., home of Deep Creek Lake, celebrates the fall season Oct. 10-14 with its 45th annual Autumn Glory Festival.

There will be two large parades, concerts, band competitions, art exhibits, antique and craft shows and of course, lots of food.

For a full schedule of events and other details, go to www.visitdeepcreek.com or call the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce at 1-888-387-5237.


Virginia Linn: vlinn@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1662.


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