People flock from all over to go leaf-peeping in New York once autumn rolls around, making the Hudson Valley and areas farther north sought-after destinations. Your New York fall foliage excursion can be calm and casual, adventurous and heart-pumping, or a little bit of each. Embark on a scenic drive, view the changing trees from above or hike right in the throes of them. No matter the type of experience you choose, you’re bound to see vivid golds, oranges, purples, and reds as you enjoy crisp weather and sip apple cider.
The Best Time to See Fall Foliage in New York
For most of the Hudson Valley and more northern spots (like the Adirondacks), the leaves start changing around mid-September and reach their peak in mid- or late-October. Temperature and rainfall impact how bright autumn leaves get and when they start to turn, but you can estimate the best time to see them when I Love NY releases their New York Fall Foliage Report in September. To guesstimate and plan your trip now, check out the general calendar from NY Fall Foliage for peak times based on the area of New York.
21 Ways to View Fall Foliage in New York
There’s a lot to do in New York during the fall, from apple picking and corn mazes to antique shopping and wine tasting. When you want to get a front-row seat to bright, show-stopping leaves, though, consider these 21 prime outings.
Bear Mountain State Park, an easy drive if you’re staying in Garrison, NY, has the Perkins Memorial Tower at the mountain’s summit. Not only will you see lovely leaves, but you’ll also catch a glimpse of the New York City skyline if it’s a clear day. During your climb up the tower, you’ll see vintage photos and placards with historical info, plus 360-degree views of the foliage.
Less than 30 minutes from Garrison is Trophy Point at West Point. You’ll get a scenic overlook of the Hudson Valley and you’ll also see the Battle Monument, the former site of West Point graduation ceremonies (until class sizes became too large).
3. Kayak Tours
Hudson River Expeditions has a number of kayak tours to choose from, like the Bannerman Castle Loop and the Garrison Landing Tour. There’s also a Paint Tour if you’re so inspired by the fall foliage that you need to get it down on a canvas. Tours are available for all skill levels.
Rock scrambles and waterfront trails are par for the course at Breakneck Ridge, a scenic hike along the Hudson River. It can be dangerous, so it’s best if you have some experience, and always stay on the trail.
For a challenging hike with phenomenal views but a bit more safety, try the red trail at Mount Beacon Park. You can turn back once you reach the lookout or you can continue to the true peak, where there’s a dizzying fire tower that you can climb.
The 500-acre Storm King Art Center in Beacon has excellent leaf-peeping amongst the large-scale sculpture garden.
The Walkway Over the Hudson is a pedestrian bridge that connects Poughkeepsie to Highland and has phenomenal views of the beautiful Hudson River and the trees that line it on either side. Park on the Highland side, which has an easier walk to the river and its views. The Walkway is a great stop if you’re continuing north or west, and you can walk the entire bridge back and forth in under an hour.
The Skytop Tower at Mohonk doesn’t just show off New York leaves, but also six other states in all of their fall foliage glory.
Not far from Mohonk is Minnewaska State Park, with numerous trails whether you want a quick 45-minute hike or you’d like to get purposely lost for half the day. The easiest hike is the one that loops around the lake right near the parking lot – walk in either direction and make sure to stop along the way to take in the views.
10. Black Creek
Black Creek, one of Scenic Hudson’s free-to-visit parks, is well-maintained and fairly easy to hike. Three loops interconnect, making it difficult to get off the right path, and you’ll eventually end up at the riverfront where you’ll want to take a break. You can complete the hike in an hour, under two if you stop along the way, and you’ll be surrounded by colorful woods the entire time.
You and a pal can share a two-seater, sit-down bicycle to go rail biking in the Catskills thanks to Rail Explorers. The eight-mile round trip (don’t worry, there’s electric pedal assistance) will take you along the Esopus Creek and through the wooded Catskill Mountains.
Travel 600 feet above ground at Hunter Mountain, where you can ride one of North America’s longest zip lines with Zipline Canopy Tours. If you dare, look down to glimpse the fall foliage as you whiz by. You can also view the Catskills and their changing leaves by riding the Scenic Skyride at Hunter Mountain.
Kaaterskill Falls is among New York’s highest waterfalls, and there are several nearby hiking trails to choose from with varying difficulties. Just about all of them have beautiful, leaf-heavy Hudson Valley vistas.
The Saratoga Monument is over 150 feet tall and has 190 stairs to climb, but once you reach the top, you’ll look out over the northern Adirondacks, the Taconic Mountains, and the Helderberg Mountains, making the trek totally worth it.
Saratoga Spa State Park has mineral springs and the National Museum of Dance, plus nature trails for biking, running, walking and leaf-gawking. There are also two golf courses on the premises.
16. Mount Utsayantha
For a short, manageable hike with a rewarding view at the end, head to Mount Utsayantha. You’ll be at the peak in just one leisurely mile, and it’s easy enough for your pup to handle, too.
A ride on the Adirondacks Scenic Railroad will take you through forests and the Adirondack foothills, above rivers, and into Adirondack Park.
Whiteface Mountain has one of New York’s highest summits at nearly 5,000 feet. You don’t have to hike it, of course (though you can). Instead, get there by car via the Memorial Highway or take the Cloudsplitter Gondola.
Every October, the Flaming Leaves Festival is held at Whiteface Mountain, two days of folk music, storytellers and a ski jumping competition, not to mention fall foliage.
For a truly unique perspective, take a sunrise or sunset ride on a hot air balloon in the Lake George region with A Beautiful Balloon.
21. Fall Sky Rides
The Bristol Mountain ski resort runs their chair lift even before the first snowflake falls, giving you the option to view New York fall foliage from above with their Fall Sky Rides.
Few places have a prettier change of seasons than New York State, with the Hudson Valley, Catskills and Adirondacks boasting the most intensely colorful leaves of all. If you plan to stay for a few nights, explore our selection of New York Vacation Rentals. And don’t forget to tell us all about your fall foliage experience!
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