The best time in Cumberland Valley for high color is mid-to late-October.
Start at the Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch (N.W. of Carlisle on Rte 74).
Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch, situated on the Kittatinny Ridge, is a 20-acre hawk-watching site and one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the United States. It’s the best place in the east to see golden eagles, and one of the best spots in Pennsylvania to watch the hawk migration in the fall. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley.
From Waggoner’s Gap head to Colonel Denning State Park. Total: 15.0 mi - about 23 mins
For the sightseer and nature photographer, Colonel Denning is a park of surprises, great beauty and charm. The 273-acre wooded park nestles at the side of a mountain, has a 3.5- acre scenic lake and excellent hiking trails. A strenuous hike on a 2.5-mile trail rises to Flat Rock for a beautiful vista of the Cumberland Valley.
From Colonel Denning State Park turn left on to PA-233 S to Kings Gap Environmental Education Center. Total: 18.2 mi - about 31 mins
While you are climbing the winding mountain road to Kings Gap, stop by the pull offs for fantastic views of the Valley. Cumberland Valley’s largest park features a mountaintop, 32-room, Italian villa-style mansion with beautiful views of the Valley and 16 miles of hiking trails that provide a great opportunity to see the Valley’s changing leaves.
Enjoy the scenic ride through the Michaux State Forest that encompasses more than 85,000 acres in the South Mountain Region of PA. Look for oak species, red maple, black birch and more. Pine Grove Furnace’s 696 acres offer wildlife and nature enthusiasts a variety of activities. Enjoy the trail that investigates the old Furnace Iron Works, hike to the quartzite outcrop at the Pole Steeple Overlook or visit the Appalachian Trail Museum, the only hiking museum in the country. Hop on the Appalachian Trail for a short or long hike. Photographers will want to capture beauty of the orange, yellow and red leaves reflecting along the two lakes. For an authentic trail experience, stay the night at the newly renovated Ironmaster’s Mansion.