With daily temperatures falling and sunlight on the wane, the trees and bushes throughout Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pa., are getting dressed in their finest gold, crimson and auburn tones, spectacularly displayed against azure autumnal skies.
There may be no time on the calendar that has the county looking better and more inviting.
Before the stiff winds of early winter arrive to send the leaves scattering, make plans to see this yearly display up close and personal by leaving the car behind.
The following are suggested ways to enjoy the fall leaves without driving:
On Two Wheels: With nearly 60 miles of trails in Montgomery County, Pa., October is prime time to pedal through our impressive pathways. Two of the standouts are the Perkiomen Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail. On the former, cyclists can enjoy the sight of a flurry of brilliant maple leaves landing gently on the flowing Perkiomen Creek. On the latter, the wide vistas of Valley Forge National Historical Park - from its open grassland to its hilly rises - are transformed into real-time picture postcards of fall beauty.
From the Air: On this list of car-free leaf-watching recommendations, one does indeed involve gas. It's in the propane tanks that fills the canopy high overhead the baskets of the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team. Once the envelope has been filled and heated, though, things turn decidedly low-tech. Liftoff is a gentle rise, and soon the entire landscape spreads out, enabling breathtaking views for miles. Float over the glassy surfaces of wandering waterways. Glide by parks and forests and enjoy the kaleidoscope of treetops. Back on the ground, each flight ends with a champagne toast. Here's to the spectacular scenery. Call 800.763.5987 for details.
In a Festive Trolley: The Encampment Store at Valley Forge National Historical Park is the start of an adventurous tour on a festive trolley. This outing has just as much to offer fall foliage fans as it does to history buffs. The tour includes the impressive scenery and the moving story of our nation's quest for independence. Through October 26, tours are available weekends at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Check the park's website for tour hours for November.
From the Water: Viewing a tree line that hugs a waterway in the fall doubles the spectacle, as the leaves are reflected in the calm, glassy surfaces, interrupted only by, perhaps, the landing of a flock of migrating geese. Paddle your own kayak or canoe on any of our picturesque passages and enjoy the panorama. Boating is encouraged at Green Lane Park, Evansburg State Park, the Perkiomen Creek and, Pennsylvania's 2014 River of the Year, the Schuylkill. All are accessible by launches throughout the county. If you ply the currents of the Schuylkill River, conclude your float with a visit to the River of Revolutions Interpretive Center in Pottstown.
On Horseback: Red Buffalo Ranch provides guided trail rides on horseback through the 3,500 acres of Evansburg State Park. Trails are custom chosen to suit riders of all experience levels, but all routes feature the sound of hooves clip-clopping through crunchy fallen leaves. The ranch is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 610.489.9707.
At High Speed: It may be difficult to appreciate gold-tinged poplar leaves when they speed by in a blur, but there's no denying the thrill of ziplining in autumn. The canopy tours at Spring Mountain Adventures send visitors flying through the forest alongside a 535-foot mountain, with challenging obstacles along the way to really bump up the cardio. There's more than one option for high-energy autumn appreciation; the terrain can also be descended on a mountain bike. Tour hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to dusk. Reservations are a must; call 610.287.7900, ext. 100.
On Foot: Here's a recipe for a fallish fantasy: Take 12,000 plants, trees and flowers, dress them up in their autumnal best and spread them out over 92 acres of historic ground. Connect them with winding pathways and top with a cool, sunny afternoon, and the result is the Morris Arboretum. A birds-eye view of fall can be enjoyed at the new "Out on a Limb" experience, which raises the game on leaf watching 50 feet off the ground. The grounds are open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends until 5 p.m.
From a Golf Cart: Duffers who lose a shot in a pile of reddish-brown oak leaves may not cheer the change in seasons, but despite the effect on a score, the colorful view from a golf cart is a pleasantry unavailable any other time of year. The layout of Raven's Claw Golf Club and Turtle Creek Golf Course are particularly recommendable from the viewpoint of autumn's awe; the fairways and greens are nestled among lush groves of trees that turn fiery in the October sun. For a shorter round, make the "drive" to Mermaid Golf Club for nine-holes of beauty. And for a full weekend of fall golf, the ACE Conference Center and Hotel offers play-and-stay possibilities.
From the Height of an Impressive Vantage Point: The tower at Glencairn Museum rises seven stories above the Bryn Athyn Historic District, and on a clear day, the Philadelphia skyline is visible in the distance. In between are miles and miles of trees in their best fall dress, turning the landscape into a patchwork quilt of vibrant hues. The tower is included only on guided tours, Tuesdays through Fridays at 2:30 p.m.; weekends at 1:00, 2:30 and 3:00 p.m.; or by appointment. Call 267.502.2993 for reservations.
From the Comfort of a Rocking Chair: The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove features a little-known respite: a row of comfortable rocking chairs on the porch of the homestead. For a true experience in unplugging, visitors can grab one and sit in the warmth of the fall sun, viewing the trees that line the Perkiomen Creek as it burbles along. Time it just right, and the onset of dusk becomes breathtaking. The grounds are open from 7 a.m. to dark on every day but Monday.
By Rail. The Secret Valley describes the former industrial railway between Boyertown and Pottstown, which was once crucial to the bygone iron industry. Now, however, its charms and beauty have been revived by the Colebrookdale Railroad, which offers scenic weekend train rides through a feast-for-the-eyes landscape. Friday excursions add a festive bonfire and the gooey goodness of hand-toasted s'mores. Departures are from the Boyertown Rail Yard, 43 Chestnut Street, and advance tickets can be purchased online, a recommendation worth noting, as several rides have already sold out.
The best way to enjoy our local foliage this time of year is to spend the weekend. That way, you can, for example, combine a refreshing bike ride on Saturday with a round of golf on Sunday. Or enjoy Valley Forge National Historical Park, retreat to a comfy room, and spend the following day in the Bryn Athyn Historic District.
Whatever your plans for exploring Montgomery County this fall, we can suggest a hotel that fits both your itinerary and your budget. For a unique dining experience while you're out and about, the menu at Famous George's Pizza Pasta and More is both casual and delicious.