1. Where to Stay
Launch your leaf-peeping expedition from the Inn at Starlight Lake (from $100), which hugs the eastern edge of the Endless Mountains, encompassing Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties, as well as Bradford and Sullivan Counties to the west. Its fifties heyday is still charmingly apparent in the clapboard façade, ping-pong-outfitted game room, and sleepy, flickering lobby. Fortunately, the rooms have gotten more recent updates, and now feature king-size beds, thick comforters, and private baths.
Relive the family-resort vacations of your youth by challenging the kids to some horseshoes or miniature golf at the Stone Bridge Inn in Union Dale. Many of the rooms (from $95) look out on Elk Mountain—a ski resort in winter; a crazy quilt of red, orange, and gold foliage in autumn—with old-fashioned tie-back curtains framing the views.
If you prefer village over mountain living, book a night in the Rosemont Inn Bed & Breakfast (from $105). This redone Victorian mansion (local gossips say its renovation cost a cool million) is just a block from the village green in Montrose, and the Clock Tower Room in the connected carriage house looks right on the Back to the Future–style courthouse clock.
2. Where to Eat
Before taking in a flick at the old-time Dietrich theater in Tunkhannock, grab a bite across the street at Twigs Restaurant and Café. Unlike its Eisenhower-era competition, the service here is slick, the bartender knows how to make a Key-lime martini, and the menu is sprinkled with phrases like “wasabi pepper” and “mango coulis.”
Green Gables (off Exit 67, I-81; 570-465-3186), looks exactly as it did in photos from the fifties. The cuisine’s about the same too, with homemade tomato sauce, generous portions, and a plate of lasagne and sausage priced to move, for around ten bucks.
As they’ve been for over a half-century, weekend church suppers are a staple in these parts, known for their heaping plates of chicken and biscuits and fabulous homemade pies. The United Methodist Church, at the corner of Jackson and Main Streets in Thompson, has great roast-beef dinners, held the last Saturday of most months, starting at 5 p.m. (Look for the painting of a roast beef on the church lawn.) To find others, check posters at local grocery stores.
3. What to Do
Trace the childhood travels of Hillary Clinton (whose family spent summers at nearby Lake Winola) by fishing on the Susquehanna River and dropping by the Shadowbrook Inn & Resort for ice cream. Shadowbrook, outside of Tunkhannock, began serving its ultrarich ice cream before either Ben or Jerry was born, in a stand fronted by giant cow statues. The stand disappeared for a while but returned this summer and is open through early October.
To test the waters of the Susquehanna, ask for Lance Dunham at L.D. Guide Service, in New Albany. Dunham’s been a fishing guide for 27 years and knows all the likeliest spots for catching the river’s famed smallmouth bass (strictly catch and release) and, later in the fall, walleyes (which you can keep if you like). The gear is supplied, but you need a Pennsylvania fishing license (available online here.) Three-day licenses cost $25.
No surprise here, but the Endless Mountains are a haven for antiques. Marten Creek Switch Shoppe Antiques and Collectibles (Rte. 11, between Hop Bottom and Nicholson; 570-942-4105) is one of the largest stores in the area, and it’s the place to go for primitive cupboards, Depression-era glass, and funky, old tools and farm equipment. Tunkhannock has nearly a dozen antique dealers and shops, four in storefronts on the main street of Tioga. Quality varies (the term “antique” being used loosely), but there’s usually plenty of good stuff to be found.
4. Insider’s Tip
The best fall views can be found at the top of Elk Mountain, which is taller than anything else in several counties. Climb up the black-diamond Seneca Trail for a serious workout, or take the gentler Lenape Trail for an easier climb. (Elk Mountain Ski Resort runs its chairlift during its fall festival, October 13 and 14.) For the less ambitious, drive to Ridge Road in tiny Ararat, park near the Methodist church, and follow the road on foot—the views go on forever.
The real inside scoop, however, is that Susquehanna County, the part of the Endless Mountains closest to New York, offers the last budget real estate within 150 miles of the city. Astrid Glodek of Country Landmarks (570-222-8000) has a good track record for finding second homes or building sites for the New York crowd.
5. An Oddball Day
Just a 45-minute drive south from Susquehanna County is one of the lesser-known parcels of the National Park Service: Steamtown National Historic Site, which gives a powerful sense of the dank, dark, filthy working conditions of the late industrial revolution. After touring a roundhouse and watching mechanics repair the park’s working engines, hop on a steam train for a ride through the autumn countryside (reserve in advance). Alternately, sign up for the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour in McDade Park, where you’ll board a mine car and rattle 360 feet down into the heart of the old 190 Continental Coal Mine. Most tours are led by retired miners, who explain how coal was extracted, tell of the terrible dangers and diseases, and gamely answer the inevitable question about how workers went to the bathroom underground.
6. Related Links
Scroll through the Endless Mountains tourist site for more lodging, dining, and shopping options.
Susquehanna County Online is the rare government site that’s actually useful for visitors—check out the list of 101 things to do in the area.
Learn some history about this often overlooked area at Endless Mountains Heritage.