An Outdoor Lover’s Guide to Leaf Peeping in and Near Philly

The best place to see fall foliage in Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania, and nearby New Jersey this autumn.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art | Photo credit: R. Rabena, photo courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA® / VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
Philadelphia Museum of Art | Photo credit: R. Rabena, photo courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA® / VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Whether you call it a day out in nature, taking in fall’s beauty, or leaf peeping, the great outdoors are at their greatest when the leaves change hues. And even in a season with plenty of cozy pleasures, taking in the shades of autumn is at the top of our list.

The opportunities to see the beautiful fall scenery from mid-October to early November in and around Philadelphia abound both in Pennsylvania and across the Delaware in nearby New Jersey. Hop in a car, grab a bicycle, or lace up a pair of hiking boots—and consider grabbing a camera with a telephoto lens—because these are some not-to-be-missed locations for the most beautiful fall views.

The Fernery at Morris Arboretum & Gardens
The Fernery at Morris Arboretum & Gardens | Photo credit: Paul W. Meyer, photo courtesy of Morris Arboretum & Gardens

Fall foliage in Philly

Wissahickon Valley, Northwest
Since driving is forbidden on Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Park, plan to explore by foot—or bike or horse (just watch where you step!)—through this 7-mile trail that’s beginner-friendly if you stay along the river banks. While gazing up at the miles of treelines with beautiful changing leaves, break out the binoculars for a National Audubon Society Important Birding Area within the park: Wissahickon Gorge. Make sure to hit the Henry Avenue Bridge within the park, too, for some of the most spectacular foliage views.
Nearby activities: The Valley Green Inn located on the trail for lunch at the 1850s inn that’s the sole remaining roadhouse on the drive that used to have many. Grab an after-hike beer at Wissahahicken Brewing Co and bites from one of the local food trucks that frequent the brewery.

Chestnut Hill, Northwest
If you want to experience the changing foliage of trees not easily found elsewhere, start here. With a large collection of trees, some dating back to the late 1800s, Morris Arboretum & Gardens has maples, dogwoods, and oaks, of course. But it also has Weeping European beech, one of the largest Katsura-trees in the country, a Dawn-redwood, and other “great” trees that are beautiful in the fall. There are 92 acres in all at the arboretum so plan to spend the day strolling through the gardens.
Nearby activities: Explore the Woodmere Art Museum with its focus on local artists and stop for baked goods at the esteemed Baker Street Bread.

Museum District, Center City
This one-mile stretch between Center City’s City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art is worth a stroll any time of year, but in the fall, this tree-lined avenue is at its most beautiful. It’s best done on foot to take in all the colors and also all the outdoor, public art along the way. Don’t miss walking all the way behind the art museum to get a glimpse of the banks of the Schuylkill River and all the beauty there.
Nearby activities: Outside of Paris, no other museum has as many pieces by Auguste Rodin as the Rodin Museum. For collections of African sculptures and works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gogh, head to The Barnes Foundation. And for any first-timers, there’s always the Rocky statue and steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a selfie.

Adjacent to Philadelphia International Airport, Southwest
Located by the Philadelphia International Airport is a wildlife refuge with more than 10 miles of trails. In the fall, the trees turn beautiful shades, and one of the best places to take it all in is along the boardwalk that goes over one of the waterways. Another excellent way to view it all? From a canoe or kayak on the tidal Darby Creek.
Nearby activities: See one of the world’s greatest collections of racing sports cars at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. Fort Mifflin features one of the only intact Revolutionary War battlefields and the only fort in Philadelphia.

Town of West Chester
Town of West Chester | Photo credit: J. Fusco, photo courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Fall foliage across Pennsylvania

New Hope
The observation deck of the 1931 Bowman’s Tower in Washington Crossing Historic Park offers a view of the fall foliage that’s stunning. To gain access to the 360° view that’s visible up to 14 miles, purchase tickets and walk the 125 steps up to the deck.
Nearby activities: The park itself has other draws including a historic village, gardens, a soldier’s cemetery, and a visitor’s center with historic exhibits.New Hope’s walkable trendy arts, restaurant, and shopping district is just a few miles up the road andNew Hope Winery offers tastings, live music, and more.
By car from Philadelphia: About 40 minutes

Kennett Square
No list of where to view fall foliage in the Philly region would be complete with Longwood Gardens. Similar to Morris Arboretum, there are trees on the property that you won’t easily find elsewhere such as the Japanese stewartia with their signature hues of orange and peach. Most days, Longwood hosts spotlight walks and in the fall, the beautiful colors are sure to be bursting during the walks.
Nearby activities: Immerse yourself in all things mushroom (Kennett Square dubs itself the “Mushroom Capital of the World”) at the free Mushroom Museum at The Woodlands at Phillips; Downtown West Chester has plenty of shops, dining, and history to explore.
By car from Philadelphia: About 1 hour

This state park in Bucks County has several easy walking trails to view the changing leaves, but the most awe-inspiring is at the top of the High Rocks vista with its stunning view of the horseshoe bend in Tohickon Creek Gorge and the forest that surrounds it. There are two ways to get to High Rocks: hike or climb the 150-foot sheer rock face, which is an option for experienced rock climbers.
Nearby activities: For covered bridge lovers, the 1874 Loux Covered Bridge is a must-visit. Hewn Spirits uses local grains to distill its spirits and is a local favorite.
By car from Philadelphia: About 1 hour and 15 minutes

Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe | PT Hamilton/Shutterstock

Jim Thorpe
There’s almost no bad place to view the changing leaves in the Pocono Mountains, but Jim Thorpe may be one of the best. The town hosts a Fall Foliage Festival every weekend in October with train rides on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, kids’ activities, ghost tours, and more.
Nearby Activities: Take in more nature at Lehigh Gorge State Park. Learn about the coal mining history of the region at the No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum. Dine at Stone Row Pub & Eatery, known for being friendly to most dietary restrictions.
By car from Philadelphia: About 2 hours

New Freedom
The Northern Central Railway passes through the history-rich hills and fields of Southern York County. Sit back and relax in passenger cars that are replicas of the trains that traveled along the Northern Central during the Civil War. The railway offers 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2.5 hour, or 3 hour Fall Foliage Excursions on either a steam engine or diesel engine.
Nearby Activities: Dine (and stay) at the historic Glen Rock Mill Inn. For a live concert or show, head to the Pullo Center in York.
By car from Philadelphia: About 2 hours and 15 minutes

Fall foliage in New Jersey

View the foliage in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania on this peninsula on the Jersey side at the confluence of the Rancocas Creek and Delaware River. The park has several overlook areas perfectly positioned to capture the views surrounding the park and all of the flora as the seasons change.
Nearby activities: Funzilla offers family fun with free-roam virtual reality, laser tag, obstacle courses, and more. Dine at Sweet Water Restaurant Bar & Grill where the burgers are considered some of the best in South Jersey.
By car from Philadelphia: About 30 minutes

Camp in the park or visit just for the day to view all the beautiful changing trees in this state park. View the foliage from the 15 miles of hiking trails or from the water on Parvin Lake in a canoe or kayak. The park is on the edge of New Jersey’s famed Pine Barrens but contains plenty of trees that aren’t pine including dogwood, laurel, holly, and magnolia.
Nearby activities: Delsea Drive-In offers films through the end of October and often into November. Stroll Landis Ave in Vineland with one mile of entertainment, shopping, and dining. For pints, head to Glasstown Brewing.
By car from Philadelphia: About 50 minutes

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Robin Shreeves is a Thrillist contributor.