Written by Danielle Taylor | Header photo by Bill Stein
With five counties, thousands of miles of roads, and more than a million acres of woodland to explore here, the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region is truly a land of endless adventure, and autumn is one of the very best times for a visit. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a fan of the arts, a history buff, or someone who just wants to have fun no matter what you’re doing, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained while you’re visiting this area. We’ve identified 10 of the top adventures you can enjoy here this season and some of the spectacular places where they can be found. Today, check out the first five of 10 great options for fall adventure, and tune back in next week for Part Two!
All five counties in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region go all out for Halloween, and you can join in on tons of fun events. Tonight, kids can enjoy Family Fun Night with trunk or treat, pumpkin carving, crafts, door prizes, and firetrucks at the Country Pride Restaurant/TA Truck Stop in Brookville. Each kid will get their own pumpkin and sugar cookie to decorate.
Paul’s Pumpkin Patch in Fairmount City is open Wednesdays through Sundays until October 28, and anytime you visit, you can pick your own pumpkin, go for a hayride, navigate through a corn maze, watch the Frogtown Flinger launch a pumpkin 200 feet, meet the animals at the barnyard zoo, and more. On October 19, 26, and 27, go for a special “not too scary” hayride with an exciting storyteller. Call ahead to reserve your seats!
Get your fright on at the Haunted Barn in Brookville October 19, 20, 26, and 27, and join in on the Halloween Party at Sigel Hotel on October 26. In southern Clarion County, the New Bethlehem Veterans for Foreign Wars hall holds its annual pumpkin chunkin at 1 p.m. on October 27.
Sinnemahoning State Park will hold its annual All Hallows Eve Celebration from 4-9 p.m. on October 27, and for just $10 per carload, all of your Halloween hooligans can enjoy kids’ crafts, games, hay rides, a bonfire, a haunted trail, and more. The next day, visit the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette for Halloween Activity Day, where your youngsters can trick or treat through educational stations and participate in a costume parade. Round out your Halloween experience on October 31 at the Cathedral by Candlelight walk in Cook Forest State Park, where you’ll traverse the depths of the Forest Cathedral with a historical character from the past.
Check Out the Wildlife
Each autumn, peace returns to Elk Country as the rut comes to an end, and the thousand or so elk that roam freely here begin to congregate in large herds for the winter. You can learn more about these stately creatures this weekend at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. On Saturday, join a staff member on the trails at the Elk Country Visitor Center for the Elk Walk and Talk, and on Sunday, learn All About Antlers. Elk are most active at dawn and dusk, so plan an overnight stay to maximize your chances of seeing the most elk possible.
Hunters will also love fall in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors. Go for a fully guided whitetail hunt through December at the Foremost Trophy Hunting Ranch, or explore some of the many public lands found here for your quarry. The region boasts strong populations of whitetail deer, wild turkey, black bear, and small game with plenty of public hunting opportunities.
If you explore Sinnemahoning Creek, the Clarion River, or the Allegheny River during your visit here, look up: Bald eagles and osprey fly overhead along all three rippling waterways. Don’t forget to check the banks as well, as river otters and other intriguing creatures can often be seen here along the water’s edge.
In southern Jefferson County, Punxsutawney Phil has created a name for himself as an infallible weather prognosticator and makes international headlines each Groundhog Day. During the year, he lives in his burrow at the Punxsutawney Library and can often be found there with his wife, Phyllis.
Step Back in Time
Many of the towns here feature historic districts, historical societies, and/or museums that showcase the intriguing backstories of these communities, and history enthusiasts will love digging into the area’s past.
This weekend, check out several opportunities to dive into history. The Coolspring Power Museum in southern Jefferson County holds its annual Fall Expo and Swap Meet from Thursday through Saturday, and gearheads can find the world’s largest collection of historically significant internal combustion engines there, many of which will be in operation. On Friday night, check out artifacts from World War II at the Emporium Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, where a WWII historian will delve into the experiences of the men who fought and showcase some of what they used and carried as they risked their lives.
Next Saturday evening, join a historical-based walking tour in Brookville and discover strange but true eerie happenings in this charming town. Lighted lantern tours will be led by Jefferson County History Center guides to various venues along Main Street and adjacent dark, spooky alleyways. Come back to Brookville from November 30-December 2 for Victorian Christmas, when costumed historical figures will bring forth Christmas cheer just as people did more than a century ago.
Go for a Run
The crisp air and cool temperatures of autumn create perfect running conditions, and several local races take advantage of the seasonal conditions. In Cameron County, the rugged Sinnemahone Trail Run on October 20 offers competitors route options of 12 kilometers, 25 kilometers, and 50 kilometers through the Elk State Forest. Three less-intimidating races follow on October 27: The Brookville YMCA Color Run on the Redbank Valley Trail, which has distances of two miles, five kilometers, 10 kilometers, and a half marathon; Phil’s Trick or Trot, a five-kilometer race and 2.2-kilometer fun run around Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney; and the Heavenly Gaits Trick or Treat Trot, a five-kilometer run/walk in Knox that benefits the Heavenly Gaits Therapeutic Riding Center.
On October 28, the St. Marys High School cross-country team will hold the Zombie Chase Race, a five-kilometer run/walk and kids’ fun run, as a fundraiser. In November, kick off Thanksgiving morning at Lisa’s Ladybugs Turkey Trot, a five-kilometer run or one-mile walk in Punxsutawney that raises funds for families struggling with cancer.
Find Your Escape
As Halloween approaches, several temporary escape rooms have popped up in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region, and you have only a few more days to take advantage this season. Visit the Elk County Council of the Arts Gallery in Ridgway to investigate a sudden death and a series of mysterious events, potentially the work of a tortured, restless spirit. At the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette, biologist Molly Werner has gone missing, and it’s your job to solve the mystery.
The Jefferson County History Center’s escape room leans on local legends and lore for its narrative, which recalls Confederate gold hidden by Brookville’s only Rebel soldier, who is buried in Old Brookville Cemetery. He was part of Jefferson Davis’ unit detailed to hide Confederate valuables from encroaching Union forces in 1865, and the gold bars have never been found. Maybe you’ll be lucky!
In Cook Forest, Kalyumet Fore Fun debuted their virtual reality escape room earlier this year, in which players solve clues to free themselves from a mysterious mansion. Kalyumet closes for the season on Sunday, so you still have a few more days to try the VR experience this year. If you miss out, mark your calendar for the spring!
Stay tuned to our event calendar for updates! For tips on more exciting things to do and places to go throughout the always intriguing Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region, check out VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197.