Sunsets at the Ledges Trail Overlook in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a hot spot for hikers. Photograph by Tom Jones

Visitors can sleep in what once was employee housing in the company-owned town of Cass, W.Va., where the Cass Scenic Railroad carries passengers to remote wilderness areas. Photograph by Sarah Jaquay

When Northeastern Ohioans’ hectic summer schedules fade, some families crave getting back to the academic-year routine. But some also crave one more autumnal adventure! See some suggestions below of drivable getaways from which you are sure to enjoy this year’s beautiful fall foliage.
Virginia is for Elk Lovers: A little-known state park on the border of Kentucky and Virginia is Breaks Interstate Park. It’s nestled in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains and abounds with natural beauty and myriad recreational possibilities (its nickname is “Grand Canyon of the South”). Whether you’re interested in hiking through dense forests, zip lining across Breaks Canyon, kayaking the Russell Fork Gorge or taking an elk tour, this park has it all. The Eastern elk was declared extinct in 1877 but through consistent and rigorous conservation efforts, the Va. and Ky. herds have been restored and now number in the thousands. Breaks Interstate Park offers elk tours on Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 7, 2023. Or maybe your happy place is just relaxing on one of their lovely cabin balconies overlooking Laurel Lake with your favorite beverage and a good read.
West Virginia is for Forest Celebrations: The tiny town of Elkins, West Virginia has some outsized attractions, including summer music festivals on the campus of Davis & Elkins College (If you’re a fan of American roots music, check out the College’s Augusta Heritage Festival for next summer) plus opportunities for scenic railroad excursions aboard the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. This railroad offers various trips on vintage, steam-driven locomotives from depots in Elkins, Durbin, Cheat Bridge and Cass through December. History buffs may want to overnight at the elegant Graceland Inn on Davis & Elkins’ campus or sleep in one of the restored employee houses in Cass, once a thriving company-owned coal town. But if you want to experience Elkins‘ big seasonal celebration, be there for the annual Mountain State Forest Festival (Sept. 30-Oct. 8, 2023.) It’s right out of a Hallmark movie for witnessing small town local color and flavors. The events include everything from lumberjack competitions to concerts, plus arts & crafts, including quilts and photography. And don’t miss the annual coronation parade where the “Queen of the Forest,” a.k.a. Queen Sylvia, is crowned. Sylvia is derived from the Latin word for forest, silva, that literally means the spirit of the wood. There are lots of sylvan settings to discover throughout Randolph County while enjoying the festival.
Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands is for Luxury Seekers: There’s always something new at Nemacolin Woodlands and this year is no exception. This upscale, eclectic resort situated in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands offers a wide range of accommodations, restaurants and activities from clay shooting and horseback riding to golfing and exceptional fly fishing endorsed by Orvis. This year’s big reveal is the renovation of their Grand Lodge, slated to reopen in September, 2023. Don’t miss touring some of the famous architecture in the vicinity, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s seminal residential commission, Falling Water, and Kentuck Knob.
Northeast Ohio is for Foliage Lovers: Whether you only have an afternoon to explore a trail in this region’s Emerald Necklace, a.k.a. its Metroparks, a few minutes to stroll around one of the parks containing a Shaker Lake, or all day to hike to a remote location in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (what I like to call the “pendant” on the necklace), locals are fortunate to live in an urban area replete with green space that displays its fall plumage as well as any New England hamlet (depending of course, on the weather and time of year.) Popular trails in the CVNP include the spectacular Ledges Trail and Brandywine Falls. They rarely disappoint those seeking a “forest bath” as the Japanese call relaxing in the woods.
Happy autumnal trails wherever they lead.
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