I know I’m a little late chiming in with this, seeing how fall foliage days are numbered (and optimal viewing season – especially in the northern states and upper elevations – is pretty much gone and done with).
The colors are still quite vibrant here around the Washington, D.C. area, although a few trees are already bare. I don’t admire fans of fall – your season is always so short and over-reliant on nasty weather not intruding too early. Summer isn’t ruined by a thunderstorm, but the beautiful leaves of fall can easily be blown away by an early snowstorm.
I usually don’t plan travel exclusively for foliage viewing purposes, but pairing a slightly out-of-the-way national park site with late-October weather seemed like an opportunity to take in the colors nonetheless. I pegged Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site on the travel map and a day trip was born!
Hopewell Furnace, in southeast Pennsylvania, is a perfect day trip out of Philadelphia, but it’s easily doable from Baltimore or D.C. (at somewhere around 2 1/2-3 hours one-way from the District). It does make more sense to couple a trip to the Furnace with a journey into Philly as well. Since we had never visited the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site, we decided to make that a stop for later in the afternoon.
Hopewell Furnace preserves and restores the large iron plantation in the Hopewell Woods of Berks County, PA. The plantation is one of the few remaining examples of pre-industrialized iron working communities in the U.S. This particular plantation was quite famous for production of iron stoves (you can read more about the stoves here).
While you may not know or care about the history, the setting of Hopewell Furnace is worth the trip alone, especially in October. The site is abutted against the French Creek State Park and the Schuylkill River winds through just a few miles down the road. Save for a few small towns, you are quite removed from human contact out here.
I was surprised at how much one steps back in time upon entering the town site of Hopewell Furnace. The production facility includes a still-working reconstruction of a water wheel and you really feel like you’re right there, ready to clock in for your shift. Houses and other buildings dot the area, and you really get a sense what life was like here back in the mid 19th century.
The trip to Hopewell Furnace was also my 100th national park site visit! However, with 401 units in the park system, the afternoon drive to the Edgar Allen Poe house in Philly would bump me over the 25% threshold. The Poe house is interesting for its famous dweller, who spent time here and in numerous houses throughout Philly. Outside of the fact that Poe resided here for a few months, the rooms remain empty and the house is left as-is. There is a short video and a few museum displays, but all-in-all, there isn’t too much to see here. It’s a little bit outside the main tourist drag around Independence Hall, but not too far away that you couldn’t combine a trip here with everything else. You only need about 20-30 minutes. Just don’t let the kitty in the basement scare ya…
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site: nps.gov
Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site: nps.gov