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The forests of Pennsylvania are quite unique. They are deciduous, meaning that each year the leaves change their color and offer a vivid natural show. As this state is known for its diverse parks and scenic outdoor areas, visiting Pennsylvania during autumn is a wonderful experience. But how about elevating the leaf-peeping a bit, why not opt for a train ride through magical forested terrain? You’ve got a great choice of fall foliage train rides in Pennsylvania, taking you through some of the most picturesque corners of the US. The railways here are among the oldest and most celebrated in the country, and you can also ride the historic carriages adding charm to the journey.
The best times to see fall foliage in Pennsylvania would be the end of September and early to mid-October. October is usually a safe bet if you’d like to see the peak foliage in Keystone State.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway - Jim Thorpe
Step back in time by riding the old diesel train through the Lehigh Gorge. Departing from the historic town of Jim Thorpe, this is one of the most stunning fall foliage train rides in Pennsylvania. The recipe for a romantic autumn journey is simple: the gorgeous river window views, the flaming leaves panoramas, and the feeling of adventure in the air. This 16-mile round trip takes you through the centuries-old tunnels and bridges and offers an unforgettable vintage ride. There are several car options too, the open-air one seems like the best for picture taking, but you’ve also got the Observation Dome Car that is reminiscent of Swiss panoramic trains. The journey usually takes 70 minutes, but with October foliage viewing popularity, it decreases to 45.
Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad - Titusville
A beautiful way to combine fall foliage spotting with learning more about Pennsylvania’s rich oil history, this scenic train ride is among the best in the state. Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad invites you on a 3-hour journey to the heart of the fascinating Oil Creek State Park. A retro train with an open car will lazily take you to the heart of the park, graciously showing the magnificent forest and river vistas. October is a special month here when you’ve got the best opportunity to see the fall foliage. So as you can imagine, the railroad becomes quite busy. Be sure to book your ticket beforehand from October 1 to 16 in order to have a seat. There are no online tickets, so you have to do it the old-fashioned way by phone booking. But it’s definitely worth it, Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad is that piece of elusive old America that allows you to feel the atmosphere of yesteryears. Visit the Drake Well Museum & Park, which showcases the first oil well in the US as well as guides you through petroleum history.
East Broad Top Railroad - Rockhill Furnace
Head to Central Pennsylvania this fall for a scenic train journey that includes a pristine rural landscape of trees, lakes, streams, and stunning ancient mountains. Tucked away in one of its many valleys is the East Broad Top Railroad, a 150-year-old narrow gauge line. The East Broad Top Railroad is located in Rockhill Furnace and is so notable that it’s considered by The Smithsonian to be one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century railroads and industrial complexes in the United States. The railroad offers one-hour train rides in enclosed or open-air passenger cars, or even a real caboose, over a nine-mile round-trip from their historic station to Colgate Grove and back. A perfect destination for train enthusiasts, the railroad also offers guided tours of its intact belt-driven machine shop and roundhouse.
Colebrookdale Railroad - Boyertown
A queen of heritage fall foliage train rides in Pennsylvania, Colebrookdale Railroad is a hidden gem of an experience. They operate various themed excursions using the well-restored old locomotives. It’s not just a scenic train ride here, it’s an immersive journey paired with the gastronomic proposition and splendid wooden carriage interiors. It’s easy to imagine that you’re indeed transported back to Agatha Christie’s times and enjoying a meal on board the Orient Express. Book their special Autumn Splendor Fall Foliage package that is offered in the months of October and November when the forests surrounding Boyertown are exploding in warm colors. An awesome day trip idea for a family, Colebrookdale Railroad takes you on a two-hour round ride with the possibility to select from several deluxe carriages. The first class is the one to choose for the most comfortable journey.
Rockhill Trolley Museum - Rockhill
Fancy something different and interactive for fall foliage viewing in Pennsylvania? Why not pay a visit to the museum of old trolleys? Sporting strong Americana vibes and offering a healthy dose of old-school nostalgia, Rockhill Trolley Museum is a fulfilling visit for families and all vintage machine enthusiasts. Fall sees the museum organizing special thematic trolley rides to witness the forests in their flaming glory. October 8 is the day of the Fall Spectacular event when all the operational cars will be serving the excited visitors. If that day doesn’t suit your plans, there are also regularly organized trolley rides throughout October, so you’re guaranteed to have your exceptional retro experience. Be sure to tour their fleet of old trolleys and try to conduct one on a Run-A-Trolley ride.
Northern Central Railway of York - New Freedom
The past is very much alive once you’re boarding one of the thoroughly restored carriages of the Northern Central Railway of York. And they are very serious about providing the passengers with amazing views and an entertaining time during the journey. Kids will love thematic Halloween rides and the mock train robbery experience. Of course, there are fall foliage rides too. You can choose among three routes (taking one, two and a half, and three and a half hours to finish). We suggest going with the longest one to the Howard Tunnel. That would be your quintessential journey into the Pennsylvania fall. As for the locomotives, it’s either a charming replica of a steamer or a mid-20 century diesel train. The excursion aboard provides an insight into the history of the railway and the important events that took place here.
Strasburg Railroad - Lancaster County
The prize for the most entertaining scenic railway in the state goes to Strasburg Railroad. Not only is it the oldest continuously operating railroad in North America, but it’s also a kind of retro amusement park carried by the original steam locomotives. Overall, a fantastic day trip idea for a family. Offering various thematic rides, giving diverse train class options, and operating the wonderful 100-years-old train cars, it’s an ultimate Pennsylvania rail experience during autumn. There is a special Halloween program for children as well as the full-scale Thomas the Tank Engine, the train ride with a cabaret on board, and a Murder Mystery trip. October and November are the months when all this train fun is accompanied by the fall foliage so book your ride and enjoy the vintage railroad entertainment to the fullest.
West Chester Railroad - West Chester
An easy day trip from Philadelphia, West Chester Railroad is a boutique heritage railway that offers a good old fall foliage train ride. Their special Fall Foliage Express takes you to the village of Glen Mills and back. During the ride, the autumn beauty of Chester Creek Valley unfolds as you slowly proceed through the forested terrain with leaves waving their last goodbye before falling to the ground. It’s an ideal pick for slow travel. There’s nothing particularly jaw-dropping about West Chester Railroad, but that’s exactly the point of this contemplative fall foliage train ride. If you’re looking for some interesting pre-Halloween ideas, check out their thematic Halloween Special ride.
Everett Railroad - Hollidaysburg
Founded in the distant 1852, the Everett Railroad has seen several closures and rebirths. In 2015 it reopened to the cheer of Pennsylvania heritage train lovers. Today people come here for the steam locomotives, family fun, and lots of cool thematic rides that are sure to get you and your kids happy. Fall hits are Autumn Adventure (taking place on October 7 and 10) and The Pumpkin Patch Train (organized on various dates in October). Hurry up to book your place as tickets go away like hot potatoes, locals know the amusing deal, and tourists similarly fall to this railway’s old-school charms. Apart from these two autumn-themed activities, you’ve got a plethora of different rides, so there’s something for everyone.
The Duquesne Incline - Pittsburgh
Quite an original entry for this list, the Duquesne Incline is not technically a train ride but an old funicular. We’ve decided to include it too for those who’d like to feel a little bit of vintage charm without leaving Pittsburgh. It’s one of the numerous historic “inclines” of Pennsylvania, the narrow-gauge funiculars that were firstly used for cargo transportation up the steep slopes around industrial areas and later started moving people. With the 1877-constructed Duquesne Incline, you have a chance to see Pittsburgh’s fall foliage in all of its golden glory as well as enjoy fantastic panoramas of the Downtown and the confluence of three rivers.