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Taking the Scenic Route through Gettysburg’s Beautiful Countryside

By Jim Cheney – As beautiful as the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield is, the true beauty of Adams County, Pa., lies in the countryside that surrounds the historic town.

Despite visiting downtown Gettysburg numerous times, like many visitors, I had never taken the opportunity to really explore the rest of the area.

Earlier this fall, I ventured out on the 36-mile Scenic Valley Tour built by Destination Gettysburg. This tour took me through some of the most beautiful areas of western Adams County. My trip was full of beautiful valleys, full apple orchards, and interesting history, all told to me through the tour brochure. During the trip, there are 29 markers that guide your way and point out interesting sights along the way.

Leaving Downtown Gettysburg at the beginning of the tour, I first passed the Lutheran Theological Seminary, one of the oldest Lutheran seminaries in the United States. It was a pivotal site on the first day of the Civil War battle in 1863, and is home today to the Seminary Ridge Museum. I continued along Seminary Ridge along Confederate Avenue through the Gettysburg National Military Park and passed many of the monuments and locations that I had explored many times in the past. However, since my tour was more about scenery than history, I found a new appreciation for the beauty of the battlefield as I drove from site to siteDSC_3667

I quickly reached the outskirts of the battlefield and took a brief detour to see Sach’s (Covered) Bridge, one of two public covered bridges in Adams County and probably the most historically important bridge in the area. During the battle, this bridge was used by both the Union and Confederate armies, leaving an impact on the bridge that some say never left.

I was immediately immersed afterward in Adams County’s beautiful countryside. Away from the battlefield farmland, apple orchards and rolling hills dominate the landscape. While this scenery is beautiful during any season, it is especially beautiful during autumn.

Not only does autumn bring beautiful colors to the many trees along the route, but it also brings apples to the region’s many orchards. Northwestern Adams County is Apple Country and is the fourth largest apple producer in the United States.

A ride along the Scenic Valley Tour gives visitors a chance to stop at one of the many farm stands on and near the route to buy some of the region’s amazing fruit. During my trip, I stopped at McDannell’s Fruit Farm and Market for some delicious apples and apple cider. They also had a great selection of other fall items like pumpkins and Indian corn.

In addition to the beautiful scenery, I also learned a bit about the history of Adams County during my trip, including the story of Mary Jemison. Mary and her family were captured by a group of Frenchmen and Shawnee Indians in the late 1750s. All except for Mary and a small boy were killed by the Native Americans. Mary was adopted by the tribe and lived with them until her death in 1833. A small statue of Mary Jemison in native clothing sits outside of the beautiful St. Ignatius Loyola Church and is a worthwhile stop along the route.

While the Scenic Valley Tour is only 36 miles long, there any many options to make the tour into an all day, or even multiple day, trip through the countryside of Adams County. With just a short detour, you can visit Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum, Gettysburg’s Historic Round Barn, Jack’s Mountain Covered Bridge, several wineries, and even a tavern George Washington slept in.

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum

Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum

You’ll also visit breathtaking vistas, beautiful creekside roads, vineyards and a few of Gettysburg’s nearby towns including Cashtown, Orrtanna and Biglerville, Pa. – each with a variety of restaurants, stores and their own distinct history.

The next time you’re in Gettysburg, make sure to save some time to get out of town and explore the beautiful scenery and amazing history of western Adams County along the Scenic Valley Tour.

Destination Gettysburg has also established a second driving tour, the Historic Conewago Valley Tour, which bring visitors into neighboring towns of New Oxford and East Berlin, among others.

About the Author: Jim Cheney is the travel blogger and photographer behind UncoveringPA, Pennsylvania’s most-read travel blog. Jim has traveled to every county in Pennsylvania, but loves returning often to Gettysburg. You can read more of his writing on UncoveringPA.com.

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