Welcome to the Keystone State, where the journey is as breathtaking as the destination. With its diverse landscapes and rich history, Pennsylvania beckons road trip enthusiasts to explore its most scenic routes. While the world may conjure images of Pennsylvania's iconic bridges and rolling hills, the real-time offerings for those who traverse its roads are nothing short of spectacular. Pennsylvania's road trips are a testament to the state's remarkable diversity. Imagine winding through the Brandywine Valley Byway, where art, nature, and history converge, providing a blend of cultural attractions and natural beauty. Or perhaps you prefer a nautical adventure along the Coastal Great Lakes Seaway Trail, where you can immerse yourself in maritime history while reveling in the serene vistas of Lake Erie's shores. So, fasten your seatbelts, prepare for an adventure like no other, and discover the most scenic road trips that Pennsylvania has to offer.
Pennsylvania Route 6
Buckle up to explore Pennsylvania Route 6, often referred to as the "Grand Army of the Republic Highway." This historic route stretches across 400 miles, connecting the bustling metropolis of Philadelphia in the east to the serene shores of Lake Erie in the west, and running further into Ohio. Beginning in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love, this scenic drive takes you through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania's farm country. Along the way, you can stop at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, where the first successful commercial oil well was drilled in 1859. As you continue your journey, you will wind through charming towns like Wellsboro, known for its gas-lit streets and picturesque downtown. You will drive through dense forests, pass by serene lakes, and cross the Allegheny National Forest. Wildlife enthusiasts can keep an eye out for black bears, white-tailed deer, and bald eagles soaring overhead. As you reach the western terminus at Erie, indulge in some beach time at Presque Isle State Park, which offers sandy shores along Lake Erie.
Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway
The 68-mile Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, starting in Seward and winding its way to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, is a nature lover's dream come true. Your adventure begins in the charming town of Ligonier, where you can explore Fort Ligonier, a meticulously restored fort that takes you back to the days of the French and Indian War. As you venture deeper into the byway, the beauty of the Laurel Highlands unfolds. You can stop at Laurel Hill State Park for a tranquil hike around Laurel Hill Lake, or if visiting in winter, enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Just south of Donegal, Fallingwater, designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is a masterpiece of modern architecture nestled amidst the woods. Continue your journey to Ohiopyle State Park, an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. You can raft the exhilarating Youghiogheny River, hike the Ferncliff Peninsula, or witness the natural wonder of Cucumber Falls.
Elk Scenic Drive
If you have ever yearned to witness the grandeur of North America's largest land mammal in its natural habitat, the Elk Scenic Drive is your front-row seat to nature's majestic 127-mile parade. Your journey commences in the charming village of Benezette, where the Elk Country Visitor Center, where interactive exhibits, wildlife trails, and a chance to spot elk from the center's viewing blinds make for an educational and exciting start. As you follow the winding roads, keep your eyes peeled for elk. They often graze near the roadway, especially during the early morning and late evening. The nearby Winslow Hill Viewing Area offers panoramic vistas and is a prime spot for elk-watching. If you are an avid hiker, explore the nearby Quehanna Wild Area for remote trails and serene solitude. You can also visit the nearby town of St. Marys and tour the Straub Brewery, one of the oldest breweries in the United States.
West Branch Susquehanna River Scenic Byway
West Branch Susquehanna River Scenic Byway, a 172-mile route from Cherry Tree to Karthaus, unveils the river's mesmerizing narrative. Kickstart your adventure in Cherry Tree, where the quaint Riverside Park sets the scene. Follow the river's meanders through the charming town of Clearfield, home to the Clearfield County Historical Society, where you can dive into the area's coal-mining history. Continuing on, you can discover Lock Haven, a hidden gem boasting the Piper Aviation Museum, celebrating the legacy of William T. Piper, the "Henry Ford of Aviation," including iconic planes like the Piper J-3 Cub. As you hit the road, the West Branch Susquehanna River will be your constant companion, offering idyllic views and opportunities for riverside picnics and fishing.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is an iconic 360-mile journey from Irwin to Bristol that's more than just a highway—it's a scenic delight. Starting your expedition in the charming town of Irwin, you should check out the historic Overholt Distillery Museum, a tribute to the area's whiskey-making heritage. You can learn about the Overholt family's role in shaping American whiskey and indulge in a tasting experience. As you merge onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Pittsburgh, the adventure unfolds. This route is a testament to engineering marvels, with tunnels and viaducts that showcase the state's infrastructure ingenuity. The Allegheny Mountain Tunnel is one such wonder, a dark and dramatic passage through the mountains. Drive further east to Bucks County, where the Mercer Museum in Doylestown captivates with its eclectic collection of artifacts. Conclude your journey in Bristol, a historic town along the Delaware River, where you can take a leisurely stroll along the Bristol Wharf and savor the view.
Pine Creek Gorge
You would find yourself on a breathtaking 47-mile voyage through Pennsylvania's very own Grand Canyon along Pine Creek Gorge, connecting Ansonia and Jersey Shore. Commencing your drive in Ansonia, you can explore Leonard Harrison State Park, offering the first jaw-dropping vista of the gorge. You can descend into the canyon to visit Colton Point State Park, equally mesmerizing with its overlooks. As you drive southward, make a pit stop in Wellsboro, a charming town known for its gas-lit streets and the historic Penn Wells Hotel. You can fuel up on local cuisine at the Wellsboro Diner before resuming your journey. As you approach the Jersey Shore, don't miss the striking Tiadaghton State Forest, a lesser-known wonder, perfect for hiking and birdwatching.
Brandywine Valley Byway
The beautiful 12-mile stretch drive of Brandywine Valley Byway commences in Chadds Ford and winds its way through the lush landscapes of southeastern Pennsylvania, culminating in the historic city of Wilmington, Delaware. You can start by visiting the Brandywine River Museum of Art, nestled along the banks of the Brandywine River in Chadds Ford. Here, you can marvel at the extensive collection of American art, including works by renowned artists such as Andrew Wyeth. Then, Kennett Square's Longwood Gardens, an enchanting horticultural wonderland where meticulously landscaped gardens and conservatories await, would be your next step. En route, you will pass by the enchanting village of Centerville, boasting beautifully preserved 18th-century structures and quaint shops that harken back to a bygone era. As you approach Wilmington, the Nemours Estate offers a glimpse into the Gilded Age. You can admire the opulent mansion, stroll through the exquisite gardens, and take in the grandeur of the estate's reflecting pool.
Coastal Great Lakes Seaway Trail
You will be part of a nautical adventure like no other on the Coastal Great Lakes Seaway Trail. The Erie Maritime Museum, your first stop, presents the opportunity to discover the USS Niagara, a faithful reconstruction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship from the War of 1812. As you follow the byway, the shores of Lake Erie unveil their beauty. Presque Isle State Park, a natural gem in Erie, offers sandy beaches, hiking trails, and opportunities for birdwatching. In the North East, visit the Lake Shore Railway Museum to explore vintage trains and relive the golden age of rail travel. A hidden wonder along the route is the North East Marina, where you can rent a kayak and paddle the tranquil waters of Lake Erie.
The captivating drive of Gettysburg Loop begins in the historic town of Gettysburg and takes you through the hallowed ground of the Civil War's most iconic battlefield. You can begin the historical voyage at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, where interactive exhibits and the film "A New Birth of Freedom" set the stage for your exploration. You can drive along the park's winding roads, stopping at iconic landmarks like Little Round Top and Devil's Den, where fierce battles raged during the Civil War. You also have the chance to walk around the Gettysburg National Cemetery, the final resting place for soldiers from both sides of the conflict, and visit the David Wills House, where President Lincoln put the finishing touches on his Gettysburg Address.
As you make your way on the National Road, your first stop in Pennsylvania is Uniontown, a charming town steeped in history. Stop by the Fayette County Courthouse, an architectural gem with a towering clock tower. Nearby, you will find the quirky Searights Tollhouse, a testament to early toll road history. The drive offers glimpses of Pennsylvania's countryside, with rolling hills and idyllic farms. At Fort Necessity National Battlefield, you can step onto the hallowed ground where a young George Washington made his mark during the French and Indian War. Continuing west, you will pass through Washington, PA, home to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, where vintage streetcars come to life, before finally reaching West Alexander.
Bucktail Scenic Byway
The Bucktail Scenic Byway is a route that traverses the rugged beauty of the Pennsylvania Wilds beginning in Lock Haven, where the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum offers insight into the region's transportation history. The drive takes you through dense forests and provides stunning views of the Sinnemahoning Creek and the Elk State Forest. Driving ahead on your journey, you will enter the rugged embrace of the Sproul State Forest, a lesser-known wonder where you will find solace in the dense woodlands. Keep an eye out for wildlife; this forest is home to deer, bears, and even the elusive bobcat. Upon reaching Renovo, the Bucktail Scenic Byway welcomes you to explore the nearby Elk State Forest, where the crown jewel of the route awaits—the opportunity to witness Pennsylvania's majestic elk herd in its natural habitat.
In the land of steel and history, these scenic road trips call you to explore the Keystone State's rich heritage, natural wonders, and cultural treasures. From the historic journey along the National Road, where you can step back in time and delve into the industrial history of the nation, to the wild and untamed wilderness of the Bucktail Scenic Byway, where elk roam freely amidst pristine forests, each route offers a unique adventure. So, whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply someone seeking a scenic adventure, get ready for road-tripping.