Today's guest blogger is Heather Manning who lives in Bethlehem, PA with her partner and their sons, Lucas and Miles. Together they hike, paddle, run, swim, visit farms, and attend festivals throughout the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley area. Her blog originally appeared on Kids Outdoors Philadelphia, a free online community from the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Autumn is time for visiting pumpkin patches, drinking warm apple cider, and viewing the beautiful fall foliage. Living in the Lehigh Valley, there are so many prime locations nearby to view the leaves changing into vibrant autumn colors and so many seasonal events going on that it was tough to choose only a few to highlight, but here are my top 7 picks.
1. Tyler Arboretum
Tyler Arboretum, located in Delaware County, is one of the oldest and largest arboreta in the northeastern United States. The 650-acre property offers 17 miles of hiking trails and is open 362 days a year (they only close on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day). From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 19 and 20, the arboretum is hosting a family autumn festival with delicious food, make-your-own-scarecrow activities, a moon bounce, a hay wagon tour, and other children’s activities. Their website details more event information, including parking and special entrance fees.
2. Valley Forge Historic National Park
If you live in the Philadelphia area and haven’t been to Valley Forge (or even if you have), put it on your list for must-see fall foliage. Valley Forge Historic National Park offers 19.5 miles of trails for hiking and biking on its 3,500 acres. We enjoy the trails in the summer, but there are also guided walking tours and living history demonstrations throughout the fall. The scenery at Valley Forge Historic National Park is breathtaking and there are many different vantage points to see the fall foliage. The Visitor Center at the park is open daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. (Editor's Note: As of October 1st, Valley Forge is impacted by the government shutdown and is closed.)
3. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Located in Kempton, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (see this recent post) is one of the very best places in the area to watch the annual autumn migration of hawks, falcons, and eagles between August 15 and December 15. During this time, an estimated 18,000 raptors migrate over the area. Each day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., you can join a staff member or volunteer biologist stationed at the North Lookout to help you identify migrating birds as they pass overhead. In addition to bird watching, the views from the top of the mountain are gorgeous. This is a trip that would be appropriate for families with younger children as long as you keep a watchful eye on little ones, as there are some steep, rocky areas with high lookout points. Be sure to bring your binoculars!
4. Pulpit Rock
Pulpit Rock, which is located in Hamburg and part of the Appalachian Trail, is well worth the challenging hike. I would only recommend this trip for parents who are comfortable taking their children on a more difficult hike. It is approximately 5 miles round-trip, but there are a few tricky spots that may be too much for little ones who are not steady on their feet or used to hiking up steep, rocky inclines. If this hike sounds appropriate for your family, you will not regret taking it! Our family makes the trip at least once a year, and views from the top of Pulpit Rock are spectacular, particularly in autumn.
5. Open Gate Farm Tour
On October 12 and 13, 19 different farms in Northampton County open their doors to the public so that you can learn about farming, green houses, dairies, agriculture, and more. There is no charge at any of the participating farms. Doors are open both days between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. This event is sponsored by the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Northampton County.
6. Bake Oven Knob
Bake Oven Knob, which is in northern Lehigh County, is a great place to go if you are looking for a shorter hike and still want to find some amazing views. Not only will you see beautiful scenery at the top of Blue Mountain, but at this time of year, you may see some migrating hawks as well.
7. Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens is made up of 1,050 acres of gardens and exhibits in Kennett Square. These gardens are not just for adults to enjoy. Children will enjoy the Canopy Cathedral, a giant treehouse, an indoor children’s garden, a wall made up entirely of green plants, water-lily displays, a children’s corner, and much more. From September 28 until October 31, the Children’s Corner features a pumpkin playground with hundreds of pumpkins of all types for little ones to play with and pick up. From now until January 12, 2014, the 13th annual model Garden Railway exhibit is on display, highlighting custom G-scale model trains that offer all sorts of special features.
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