Laurel Highlands #8 for Fall foliage USA Today

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Laurel Highlands ranks 8th in USA Today’s top-10 fall foliage spots

Shirley McMarlin
   

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TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Fall foliage is seen along Darlington Road in Ligonier Township on Oct. 21, 2019.

Once again, USA Today readers have confirmed what Western Pennsylvanians have always known — the Laurel Highlands is one of the country’s best places for viewing fall foliage.

For the second year in a row, the Laurel Highlands is a Readers’ Choice Winner in the Best Destination for Fall Foliage category in the USA Today 10Best Travel Award Contest, placing eighth overall in voting amid a field of 20 nominees.

The 2021 Top 1o are:

1. White Mountains, N.H.

2. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

3. Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains

4. Gatlinburg, Tenn.

5. Ozark Mountains region, Ark.

6. Taos, N.M.

7. Door County, Wis.

8. Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania

9. Stowe, Vt.

10. Finger Lakes region, N.Y.

The list is mostly a repeat of last year, except in a different order and with Taos replacing Asheville, N.C. The Laurel Highlands and Poconos switched spots in the numerical rankings.

‘Magnificent blanket of color’

“We are extremely honored to have been nominated for a second year and recognized as a top 10 destination by readers of USA Today,” said Ann Nemanic, executive director of GO Laurel Highlands, formerly the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

“Each season in the Laurel Highlands bears its own unique charm,” she said. “When autumn unfurls a magnificent blanket of color along our rolling hills, through our valleys and atop our vistas, it’s a sight everyone in America needs to see.”

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COURTESY OF GO LAUREL HIGHLANDS
Fall foliage seen along the Great Allegheny Passage in Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County.

But where to go to see those sights?

“Our signature Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway is the ultimate leaf-peeping drive as it extends from Seward, in northeastern Westmoreland County, and winds down through rolling farmlands and charming Ligonier, over the mountain ridges into Ohiopyle State Park before concluding in Farmington, Fayette County,” Nemanic said. “Perhaps take a leisurely scenic drive through parts of Somerset County to the charming trail town of Confluence along Route 281 to soak in the rolling farmlands and mountain ridges in the background.

“Another favorite is Route 40 along the southern Laurel Highlands, which winds past Yough River Lake to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, up to the top of the mountain and the Historic Summit Inn for some amazing views before easing down into Uniontown,” she said.

One of the area’s hidden gems for finding fall vistas is the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, Nemanic said. The trail traverses 70 miles along Laurel Mountain from Ohiopyle State Park to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown.

Among Westmoreland County’s more easily accessible and family friendly spots for fall color are Twin Lakes and Cedar Creek parks, she added.

“As we continue to navigate the unpredictability of covid, and mitigation efforts in general, we have the wide open spaces locals and visitors can experience safely,” Nemanic said.

According to the annual Fall Foliage Prediction Map from smokymountains.com, fall colors will be peak in Western Pennsylvania around the week of Oct. 18.

 

The top 10 fall foliage winners were selected by readers via a monthlong online contest that encouraged travelers to vote daily for their favorite place to peep the leaves. The winning destinations were announced Sept. 10 on the 10Best website.

The Laurel Highlands region also holds other USA Today 10Best honors, including one for top Best New Destinations in 2018 for Flight 93 National Memorial’s Tower of Voices and Best Pennsylvania Attractions for Ohiopyle State Park.

The 10Best.com website provides users with original travel content on top attractions and restaurants for destinations in the United States and around the world. The staff includes local travel experts who specialize in the region or city they write about.

For more information on fall in the Laurel Highlands, visit golaurelhighlands.com.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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