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Fall Road Trips Just Hours from Pittsburgh

Take a train ride along scenic fall foliage in West Virginia

Lisa Cunningham Sep 12, 2018 6:00 AM
Lisa Cunningham
On board the Potomac Eagle

There’s no better time than fall for a road trip. The weather isn’t too hot or cold. School’s back in session, which means fewer folks crowding roads and kids screaming at rest stops. And when leaves start to change, that trip along picturesque highways can be just as enjoyable as a destination. 

Just a few hours from the city, there are plenty of spots to soak in autumn temps and scenery.

Some of the region’s prettiest fall foliage can be found in the hills of wild and wonderful West Virginia. Head three hours southeast to the small town of Romney for a ride on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad (potomaceagle.info). The three-hour train ride takes you alongside the beautiful Potomac River. Bring binoculars — there’s a chance to spot a bald eagle during the trip.

Order tickets soon; coach ($50 for adults) sell out quickly, but it’s worth it to splurge on a dining car if the rest of the train is full. For $110, get a full meal with the ride. Pricy? A bit. But the menu isn’t too shabby — selections include prime rib and stuffed eggplant parmesan, and all meals include salad and dessert.

Like kitschy motels? Step back in time and stay at the Koolwink Motel (koolwink.com), three miles from the Potomac for $77 a night. With chairs set up outside each room, and a cute logo winking at the entrance, this vintage motel feels immediately welcoming. It’s so quaint, in fact, reservations are only accepted by phone: 304-822-3595. 

For a more traditional tourist spot, head two and a half hours to West Virginia’s Berkley Springs (berkleysprings.com). Fall’s a great time to stroll through this charming downtown. There is an excess of cute shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Also, the spas are open year-round for anyone seeking extra relaxation.

Instead of staying in a hotel, go down the road to one of the cabins in Cacapon State Park. (Search “cabins” for all of West Virginia’s state parks at wvstateparks.com.) There are fireplaces if it gets chilly at night, and it’s a great time of year to hit the hiking trails in the morning.

Think covered bridges are pretty during the summer? Imagine them surrounded by mother nature’s fall colors.

Mark your calendar for Sat., Oct. 13, and head just over two hours northwest to Ashtabula County, Ohio (visitashtabulacounty.com) for its annual Covered Bridge Festival. A self-guided scenic driving tour of 19 bridges includes music and refreshments. Have a few days off during the week? Visit the bridges anytime this season — download a free PDF map of the bridges on its website.

Fall isn’t the time most people head to the beach. Still, Geneva On the Lake — Ohio’s first summer resort — offers year-round rentals of many cabins. Stay by the lake after touring the scenic bridges (search airbnb.com for availabilities). Most tourist attractions along the main drag will be closed, but you can still throw on a hoodie and take a romantic stroll on the sand. 

For more road trips, pick up your City Paper every Wednesday.